Today we introduce a new Friday feature — Alphabet Soup will be featuring a book creator every Friday who will answer one question. And then they will ask one question of the next Friday’s visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)
We’re thrilled to have Kathryn Apel visiting for our first ever Pass the Book Baton! Kathryn writes poetry, picture books, novels and verse novels. You might know some of her books from the photo below.
Kathryn starts our interview series, so we asked Joseph to give her an interview question. (Joseph is 12, and is one of our Top Reads team members. He has reviewed Kathryn’s verse novels for Alphabet Soup.)
Q. I really enjoyed Bully on the Bus and On Track, both verse novels. But you’ve written other books, too. Why did you decide to write those two books as verse novels?
A. Verse novels very often deal with issues that have a lot of heart. They have humour and laughter too, but I think the raw emotions are key. I really wanted to try writing a verse novel, and chose a topic that would interest sporty kids. My first attempt was a verse novel about training, with threads of sibling rivalry and self-doubt. But I didn’t get far before I panicked. In fact, I’d only written 139 words! (I think I was feeling that self-doubt!)
I put it away to think about (or forget about) and went back to polishing a manuscript about bullying. It was a chapter book I’d written for younger readers. But then I had feedback from a critique-buddy, and realised the chapter book I was writing was really the verse novel I wanted to write. I sat down straight away, and started working Bully on the Bus into a verse novel. At first, I thought I’d flick between verse and prose (poetry and paragraphs) … but once I started, the prose sounded clunky and heavy, whereas the verse was lighter and so much better. It all needed to be written in verse.
Bully on the Bus was accepted … and published … and I was still writing that verse novel about training; On Track. I thought it was going to tell Toby’s story. I didn’t realise that his older brother Shaun also had a story to tell. Being a verse novel made it easier to feel the emotions from both sides — and to switch between the two brothers.
My heart soars when I’m writing verse novels. Maybe because I’m writing about topics that are important? That can make a difference in someone’s life? Or maybe because they’re just so very beautiful to write … and read. Though I do often get teary when writing them … and reading them — even my own. It’s also fun to slip in short and snappy little jokes, and the verse novel format enables that.
Writing a novel — without the verse — scares me. It seems so enormous! But writing a verse novel, I can write short, complete pieces, individual poems that slowly, carefully, bit by bit, build to tell the story.
I remember when you reviewed Bully on the Bus, Joseph, you said you would like to read more verse novels and maybe write one, too. I’m wondering how you’ve got on with that. Don’t worry if you haven’t written much yet — ideas grow once you’ve made the start.
And now Kathryn can pass the book baton to our next visitor. (Actually two visitors at once — Joshua Button and Robyn Wells who are the author-illustrators behind Steve Goes to Carnival.)
My question for Joshua Button & Robyn Wells: I read that you collaborate for hours over the kitchen table. Can you describe your process — and how you came to form this wonderful working partnership?
Visit Kathryn Apel’s website: https://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/ to find out more about her and her books. (You can also read Joseph’s reviews of her verse novels Bully on the Bus and On Track here on Alphabet Soup.)