A creative writing podcast featuring stories, writing tips, and author interviews to help listeners write their own tales. Hosted by Catherine Austen. 45 minutes.
Author Interview with Amelinda Bérubé
Amelinda Bérubé, author or spooky YA novels The Dark beneath the Ice and Here There are Monsters, shares her favourite plot twists, books and characters, her interest in unreliable narrators, and her love of the Canadian landscapes that inspire her stories. 20 minutes. All ages.
A full transcript is available at CabinTales.ca.
[1:10] Interview with Amelinda Bérubé
CA: Do you have advice to young writers on how to begin?
AB: I think my best advice would be just get going…. And when you are looking for that place to come in…you want to get as close as you can to… the point where everything changes…
[2:45] CA: Do you have a favorite plot twist, either from your own work or from another work of fiction?
AB: My favorite thing that I’ve come across lately is a book called Rules for Vanishing. …
[3:25] CA: And do you have any favorite techniques or something you could recommend to young writers for building tension?
AB: One thing that I would recommend is look at a scary movie… what steps does it take to move from everyday life into this really heightened state of suspense?
[4:45] CA: Do you have a favorite first line?
AB: … the opening paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House is just …] perfection. …
[5:00] CA: How do you feel about endings where the good guy loses, or sad endings?
AB: … Here There are Monsters does not end happily. …. you can end in defeat, you can end in bittersweet or sad feelings, but you have to end with your character having a way out of the woods. … You can't just grind somebody into the dirt and leave them there.
[6:20] CA: Do you find yourself editing yourself while drafting or do you do a full draft and then go back and revise?
AB: Mostly it's just a free for all when I first write. … I feel like I'm a much better rewriter than I am a writer. ... And I found owning that kind of liberating. … you don't have to like it; you just have to do it.
[8:20] CA: Do you have a favorite point of view to write from?
AB: … For YA… I find I fall pretty naturally into a first-person present… especially for something spooky, what it really highlights is how subjective the experience is. …
[9:00] CA: Have you ever written an unreliable narrator? …
AB: I feel like in a way, all first-person narrators are unreliable.… I don't think anybody clearly knows their own motivations … that's one of the things that I think fiction is all about, is sort of like exploring all the murky false consciousness that is involved in being a person.
[10:40] CA: Have you ever written about siblings?
AB: … Here There are Monsters is … about sisters who kind of have a toxic relationship… And I have another book that I'm working on that also goes into that territory. …
[11:20] CA: And monsters, you’ve written about monsters.
AB: Oh yes. … I find that monsters are a good way to talk about… the things that are really scary about people. They’re sort of funhouse mirrors … they reflect back to us the things that we can't really talk about in ourselves.
[12:00] CA: Did you tell stories around a campfire as a kid or have another off the cuff storytelling experience?
AB: … I've never been an off-the-cuff sort of person. …
[12:45] CA: Do you ever write short stories?
AB: I've written exactly 1 short story since high school. …
[13:25] CA: And do you have a favorite scary story? …
AB: … I really do love The Haunting of Hill House. … It's kind of surprising how scary it is, given the scary elements. …But I'd also talk about… Rules for Vanishing. …. And there's a Frances Hardinge book called Cuckoo Song which is really more of a dark fantasy than it is horror, but it's so scary. …
[15:00] CA: And do you like scary movies too?
AB: I find as I get older, I'm too chicken for them. …
[16:25] CA: Do you have a
Author Interview with Monique Polak
An interview with Monique Polak, author of 29 books for young people and teacher of English and Humanities at Marianopolis College in Montreal. Hear about her attraction to delinquent characters, her commitment to work through good writing days and bad ones, and her ability to recognize a promising story idea by the tingling in her arms. 20 minutes. All ages.
A full transcript is available at CabinTales.ca.
[1:20] Interview with Monique Polak
MP: I keep a journal. Every single morning…. if I hear a story or someone tells me something that I think is like beautiful or meaningful, my arms tingle. … when you're looking for stories they come to you. You notice them. And it's kind of a magic, wonderful thing. …
[2:50] CA: When you're drafting, do you think of your audience and the impact you want and do you choose your words carefully? Or just let it flow?
MP: A combination of the two, probably a little more towards letting it flow. …
[3:30] CA: Do you have that favorite POV to write from?
MP: I I I…. I do love being in somebody else's head. … I've noticed that a lot of the characters I like to write about are “bad” kids. … I like to think that I'm open even to opposing points of view… it fascinates me.
[5:50] CA: Do you know the ending of your story when you begin?
MP: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. … the happy ending, like Walt Disney, that doesn't work anymore. But growth works. Growth is what we all want….
[6:30] CA: Do you do character outlines or…?
MP: … I do a lot of interviews … But I don't really do what you're talking about. And maybe I should. … it's that feeling that I'm not good enough, that it's not as good as I want it to be, that I didn't get to the point where I wanted to go, I honestly think that's what keeps me at it. … I'm pretty hard on myself…. But I think I have a good sense of story. And I think I have a good heart… I'm very interested in emotions and I love exploring that in stories.
[8:20] CA: Do you have any advice that you would give to young writers who are stuck in the middle of a story?
MP: Yeah, just do it. Quit complaining and do it. Or continue complaining and do it. .. do it and be proud that you're doing it. … The only reason that I made it in this field is because I didn't give up. I had a lot of struggles at the beginning…. But if you want it enough, and if you work at it enough, you'll get it. … All I wanted was one book. …. And now I have 29 published... That's because I suffered. And I suffered for all 29.…
[10:00] CA: Do you work do you work on one project at a time?
MP: My preference is to work on one at a time…. Two fiction projects might be hard for me, though I have done that. … I've been a full-time teacher for 34 years. … My time is very tight when I'm teaching. I have to kind of fight for my writing time. But I do. …
[10:40] CA: And you write for that age group, then you also write for younger kids. Is there a different frame of mind for you when you write for different ages?
MP: Yes and no. … surprisingly more no than yes. I just tell my story. …
[11:35] CA: Do you read your work out loud?
MP: Yes, all the time. …
[12:00] CA: Did you tell stories around a campfire as a kid, or at bedtime or…?
MP: Yes. First of all I listened to stories… I brake for stories. … If I'm allowed, I listen overtly. Otherwise I listen on the sly. When I was a kid, … I would hide under the dining room table… listening to the … grown-up stories that I wasn't allowed to be listening to. … my mother was an amazing storyteller. …. It's like kind of power you have when you tell a story.
… when I went to camp, I told them I was a Princess … And I made my bunkmates do everything for me … then I actually wrote a book, Princess Angelica: Camp Catastrophe. But she gets into
Author Interview with Tim Wynne-Jones
An interview with Tim Wynne-Jones, author of 35 books for all ages, including novels, picture books, and short story collections, including most recently War at the Snow White Motel and The Starlight Claim, which is a finalist for the 2021 White Pine Award. Hear about his love of islands and adventures, his aversion to unnecessary back-stories, and his childhood experience of telling stories around the dinner table. 25 minutes. All ages.
A full transcript is available at CabinTales.ca.
[1:25] Interview with Tim Wynne-Jones
CA: There are some writers who do all sorts of exercises and they feel like they have to know everything about their character’s past…
TWJ: It really is like being at a party. You start talking to somebody. … And then suddenly they start telling you their life story. And the first thing you're going to do is start edging back towards the guacamole…
[4:05] CA: And then with setting, if you're using a real place do you like gather maps and work out your setting?
TWJ: Yeah…. In a made-up landscape, for instance in The Emperor of Any Place -- that's an imagined landscape – well, I had to do tons of research on what kind of flora and fauna there is in that part of the Pacific Ocean. … I love that kind of research. … And I love maps. … I’ve always loved making up islands and making treasure islands. …
[6:10] CA: Do you have any favorite words?
TWJ: Just a million…. I mostly live for capital S Story. … But sometimes you find a book that is so beautifully written that the story … doesn't have to do an awful lot. …
[7:50] CA: Do you have a favorite plot twist?
TWJ: Tamar by Mal Peet… sent a chill up my back … like ‘Oh my God of course! Why didn't I see that?’
[8:30] CA: Are any of your stories based on your own childhood?
TWJ: The Rex Zero trilogy is definitely based on my childhood in Ottawa in the Cold War. … And my short stories. … use an element from my childhood. …
[9:05] CA: You write for children and for young adults and adults. Do you think of your audience while you write?
TWJ: … Sometimes I feel like I'm writing a scene for one person… And a lot of the time I'm just trying to write for myself… I can't target a book at an age group. I don't even like that term because it means like you’re trying to shoot them …
[11:10] CA: And you said sometimes you write just for yourself…
TWJ: …There are periods when I don't have anything that I have to say. …The wonderful writer Annie Dillard has a quote about this … just leave it alone; the well is empty; it will fill from below, by groundwater. … Do something else. … I've been writing a lot of songs lately and I’ve really been loving it. …But when I'm in the middle of the book, the joy of being a writer, I think, really, is when you get through that first horrible difficult draft… I've done all the hard slogging. And now it's going to be equally hard but in a much more interesting and exciting way. And then, then I love being a writer, for that second draft. That's just heaven.
[14:20] CA: How much time do you typically spend revising versus drafting?
TWJ: Well, a lot. …
[15:00] CA: I remember hearing you speak once, and you had been working on a book and then someone advised you, ‘You have to kill the father….
TWJ: … my editor, god bless her. … and she didn't need to say it more than once before I realized exactly what I'd done -- I was protecting the boy…The father would step in front of the boy in every scene … I had to kill this perfectly lovely father so that the boy was face to face with his antagonist. …
[16:50] CA: … You have to have faith that… life will replenish your ideas and your stories …
TWJ: Yeah…. in the Annie Dillard quote … she says … if you’re writing and you have an idea for a scene that
Author Interview with Karen Krossing
An interview with children’s and YA author Karen Krossing, novelist and short story writer whose first picture book is coming out this fall. Karen has been an editor, a writing coach, and a creative writing instructor. Listen to her thoughts on sad endings, unforeseen plot twists, and writer’s block. 20 minutes. All ages.
A full transcript is available at CabinTales.ca.
[1:20] Interview with Karen Krossing
CA: Do you typically know the ending of your story at the beginning?
KK: … I know the major twists in the story but I don't like to work out the details. … I'm aware of the sort of bones of the story, the structure of the story, and what's needed …
[3:10] CA: Do you have a favorite plot twist from your own work or others?
KK: … I love when … the characters tell me a plot twist that I didn't know. …
[4:00] CA: Do you have any advice that you would give to young writers stuck in the middle of a story?
KK: I have so many ideas about how to overcome writer’s block. … reread what you’ve already written … talk with a friend about why you're stuck. … write outside of the story. …Asking the characters what happens next and where they want to go… get feedback from trusted friends or other writers … take a writing class or listen to a podcast about writing… try the put-it-in-the-drawer method. … And my final bit of advice is to set a daily writing goal. …
[8:00] CA: How do you feel about sad endings or endings where the good guy loses?
KK: I love them. …. If I see my characters coping with loss and disappointment and sadness, then maybe that will help me when I feel those things too.
[9:00] CA:. Are any of your stories based on your own childhood?
KK: …. The one that's most closely based on my childhood, I would say, is my collection of link short stories, Take the Stairs. .. I have been writing more stories recently that go more into my childhood -- the monster in the closet story. …
[11:20] CA: Do you have a favorite point of view to write from?
KK: … I like first person because it's so immediate…. But my other favorite is third person close, … so you can, as a writer, observe that main character and give insights that maybe they don't quite see or understand themselves. …I like present tense for its immediacy, but past can … give that place where you can observe or reflect.
[13:35] CA: Have you ever written a story about a transformation?
KK: … every main character transforms in some way
CA: Have you ever written about a parasite?
KK: No but that sounds fun. …
CA: And what about a split personality?
KK: … not a split personality but a many faceted personality…
[14:40] CA: Did you tell stories around the campfire as a kid?
KK: I feel like it was the listener, not the teller around the campfire. …
[15:40] CA: Do you have any favorite scary movies?
KK: One that really creeps me out is Coraline…. Those button eyes – they’re terrifying. …
[16:00] CA: Do you have any phobias? Well, closets…
KK: … Right now I feel like my phobia is germs…I don't have phobias then. I have large fears…. going to the dark places in our own lives brings great story material.
[17:10] CA: Do you collect anything?
KK: … ideas, dreams, passions, wishes, hopes. …
[17:40] CA: And you don't happen to be the 7th daughter of a 7th daughter?
KK: But I wish I was because that would feel really special, maybe magical. …
[18:00] CA: And for the last thing, I’m going to say a few words. This is not a psychiatric evaluation. And you just say the first thing that comes into your head. …
CA:. And that's it. You passed. …. Thank you so much…
[19:00] Karen Krossing introduces herself
KK: I’m Karen Krossing. I'm an author for kids and teens. I write short stories, novels, picture books. I write because I'm fa
Author Interview with Amanda West Lewis
An interview with Amanda West Lewis, author of three novels and four non-fiction books for young people, andexecutive director of a theatre school. A 20-minute continuous segment not yet heard on Cabin Tales in which Amanda shares her preference for third-person point of view, her phobia of scary stories, and her love of Alice in Wonderland. All ages.
A full transcript of this episode is available at CabinTales.ca.
[1:20] Interview with Amanda West Lewis
CA: Do you read your work out loud when you're writing?
AWL: … All the time. … scene by scene, chapter by chapter. …
[1:40] CA: While you're writing, do you choose words consciously to suit your genre or the impact you want on your reader? …How much do you think about the actual words as opposed to the story?
AWL: Words are enormously important to me…. I am conscious of the different colour of each book and what kind of language I will use for a particular genre. In the first, second, third, and fourth draft, I tend to be too conscious of the words. …
[3:00] CA: Do you have any favorite words?
AWL: Langourous is a gorgeous word….
[3:45] CA: How much time do you spend revising compared to drafting or planning? …
AWL: … 90%....
[4:15] CA: How do you feel about comeuppance tales or just desserts?
AWL: One feels enormously satisfied when a villain gets their comeuppance. … the real story for me is always the protagonist that you have empathy for, who is on the wrong path… and they become redeemed. … Comeuppance is… straight out villain gets melted. … That's enormously satisfying. But it's kind of a cheap thrill.
[5:35] CA: Do you have any feelings about sad endings?
AWL: Life is filled with sadness. … I think a sad story is necessary …We're all going to be dead. And the more we can bring that into the conversation, the better. …
[7:45] CA: Do you have a favorite point of view to write from?
AWL: I gravitate toward third person because I really do enjoy what you can say on the outside of that. … I love that the reader can learn more about the protagonist than the protagonist knows about themselves. … That said, I just finished a book… in first person. … I had to be there and see it rather than show it. …
[10:00] CA: Have you ever written a monster story?
AWL: No … Other than writing a story that’s set in Hitler's Germany. …
CA: Have you ever written a story about a curse?
AWL: … No, … people trying to invoke curses now and then…
CA: Have you ever written an outhouse scene?
AWL: My new book has an outhouse scene in it that I'm quite proud of … And I thought it was so wonderfully random that you would ask that question…
[11:25] CA: Did you tell stories around the campfire as a kid?
AWL: Yes … very important. Especially as night comes on and … the world outside you disappears and the light only lights what's important….
[12:10] CA: Do you have a favorite scary story?
AWL: ... Dracula scared the crap out of me. … But there's a lot of contemporary scary stories I can't read. … At some point as a child I got too scared, and so I don't want to go there. So Dracula is about as far as I can go. …
[13:00] CA: And do you have any phobias?
AWL: Scary stories. … that's my phobia, even more than the elevators.
[14:00] CA: … Do you collect anything?
AWL: I have an Alice collection. … different editions. …and some Alice pieces as well… I don't collect anything else other than books …and fountain pens….
[15:00] CA: Have you ever done any theatre around Alice?
AWL: Yes. … one of my favourites. … I've also done a production of Wind in the Willows and Great Expectations, which I adored doing with kids because these are good stories. …
[17:00] CA: And that you don't happen to be the 7th daughter of a 7th daughter?
AWL: … I'm an only ch
Author Interview with Lori Weber
An interview with Lori Weber, Montreal author of ten YA books including Lightning Lou, Yellow Mini, and Deep Girls. Interview snippets not heard on the Cabin Tales podcast, edited into a 15-minute continuous segment in which Lori shares her love of fictional settings, her aversion to moral messages in fiction, and her unease around squirrels in her own yard. All ages.
A full transcript is available at CabinTales.ca.
[1:15] Interview with Lori Weber
CA: When you're creating a story… do you do any exercises to help build your story world?
LW: … I will consult maps…use a lot of photographs… research real places… Setting can contain so much important symbolism in a story...
[3:00] CA: Are any of your stories based on your own childhood or youth?
LW: …Absolutely…. Bits and pieces modified, expanded, completely changed. …Sooner or later you run out of autobiographical traumatic things that happened to you as a teen….The emotions have been real even if the events have not been real….
[4:30] CA: Do you know the end of your story when you begin?
LW: I think sometimes I have a general idea of what might happen at the end…I know some writers really have a strong sense of that final scene. I don't have that when I start…
[5:15] CA: How do you feel about comeuppance tales?
LW: … I'm not big on morality to begin with in a book. … I'm okay if there's no big punishment that’s being meted out …I was once accused of having comeuppance for a character … And that really bothered me, really really bothered me that somebody would see it that way.
[7:00] CA: And how do you feel about sad endings, for youth?
LW: I think I’m okay with them. … as long as there's some kernel of hope or …some learning or something for the characters to latch onto and to grow with… That's what literature does… It takes characters through a lot of darkness. … I'm not big on the Hollywood ending…
[8:55] CA: Do you read your own work out loud when you're revising ever?
LW: At some points I might. I did a lot with Yellow Mini because it's poetry. … I advise my students to do that…I should follow my own advice maybe.
[9:20] CA: And do you have a favorite point of view to write from?
LW: Most of my work has been in first person, present tense.... Lightning Lou is my first third-person creation. … I find third … way more challenging than first person…. It’s almost like you're dealing with two characters: the narrator and the main character…
[10:30] CA: And have you ever written a monster story?
LW: Human monsters, maybe. No….
[11:00] CA: Did you tell stories around the campfire as a kid?
LW: … I had a real urban inner-city upbringing. …. We were a huge gang of kids on the street, and we played in the back lanes. … there was a ton of storytelling going on. It just wasn't around a campfire…
[11:45] CA: And I'm not sure if you have a favorite scary story?
LW: I find dystopias with a taste of reality…extremely scary. …
[12:30] CA: And do you have any phobias
LW: I’m mildly phobic about squirrels darting around me when I'm outside. … I don't love heights. And I regret that sometimes when I travel…
CA: And have you used that fear in any of your work?
LW: … I should start. … I'm going to create a character who can't walk across a bridge.
[13:45] CA: Do you collect anything?
LW: I used to collect salt and pepper shakers….
[14:14] CA: I'm going to say a word, and you say whatever comes into your head, okay?
CA: And that's it. That's all I’ve got….Thanks, Lori. Bye.
[15:25] Lori Weber introduces herself
LW: My name is Lori Weber and I live in Dorval, Quebec, which is a suburb of Montreal. And I'm the author of ten books for young readers. And I'm a recently retired teacher.
[15:50] Find out more about Lori Weber