Carrie King is the author of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, an adventure the whole family will enjoy full of talking animals and jumping in time. As an adult I enjoyed reading this book and will be keeping it around to read to my children if/when I have them. There is also a picture book of the same title which is filled with gorgeous pictures Carrie has illustrated.
A big thank you to Carrie and also to the team at Bothy Books, in particular Martyn, for inviting me to read, review and interview; it has been a great experience.
And now, drum roll please, here is an interview with author Carrie King.
THE LIFE IN THE WOOD WITH JONI-PIP QUESTIONS
“The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip” is set during the Second World War, why did you decide on this particular time to base the story?
It was my Mother’s era, she was studying and training to be a Nurse and she talked about it a great deal. She told me how ‘during the War’, there was this amazing solidarity among the people of Britain, where everyone helped everyone. I grew up in the Sixties, so the War was just a memory then but I loved listening to her talking about the things she got up to! Even though it was the worst conflict ever in British History, it sounded as if, in places, it was the best concord ever in British History. She said that harmony disappeared not long after the War ended and as ridiculous as it sounded, she missed it!
There are many different points in time occurring simultaneously, loads going on in each JIT (jump in time) and much to keep track of. How did you go about writing this book, was it with the whole story in mind or each separate JIT and then putting it all together at the end?
What a brilliant question, Mandy! I always remember my Nanny, the woman my parents paid to take care of me and my brother, saying that I kept her running ‘round and round in circles’! So, from when I was a little girl, I always associated ‘life’ with things that go round and round. The very first ‘fancy’ sewing stitch that my mother taught me was ‘chain stitch’, where each stitch looped together and was formed from the one before. I had this fascination with circles and loops and I remember what joy sewing ‘chain stitch’ gave me because it was so easy to make a circle, which seemed to have no beginning and no end. Also it made circles (well loops, in my case), within a circle. It has always remained my favourite stitch to this day. There is something wonderful about making the last stitch part of the next stitch and making the next stitch from the last stitch. Mother used to say, ‘Make each stitch as perfect as you can as each stitch is individual but together they link up and form a chain and you want the whole chain to look beautiful.’
Incorporating my love of circles within circles, I wanted to write a ‘travelling in time’ story with a difference. I so wanted my characters to be able to change the Past, so I made each JIT into a separate entity, a separate circle but they would all link together to make a chain! I am not too keen on ‘predictable books’, so I love making my readers go round and round in circles, getting their grey matter working, challenging their memory storage. One reviewer called Joni-Pip, ‘mind-stretching’: what a great description! I am honoured, as that is exactly what I set out to do: stretch minds!
Funnily enough on another interview on another Australian website, I was asked the question below about the Circles:
‘There’s often mention of time-lines in fiction, what made you think of time-circles?’
I wrote Joni-Pip with the whole story in mind, although, as with all writers, I was thrilled when new threads emerged unexpectedly! It seems I never change, as I still keep people, like my Nanny, running ‘round and round in circles’!
I love the names of places in the book, for example, The Windy Woods, Knotty Knook. Are these places you dreamed of when you were younger or something you created as an adult? Are they based on real places?
Windy Woods is the name I have made up for a real place we stay at in Sherwood Forest. I love alliteration, so I use it liberally in Joni-Pip. My sister used to live in a beautiful Elizabethan (yes, it is 400 years old), Cottage, so Knotty Knook is based on that (the cottage’s real name is Holly Trees). Hideaway Cottage is the real name of the home belonging to some very dear friends of mine. I never ever had to dream of places, Mandy because I lived in such a beautiful part of England. I thought all the world was as beautiful as my woods, my caves and my hills!
Just a little note, I was born in the village of Sharpenhoe, Bedfordshire, England and ‘The Clappers’ (referred to and visited many times in Joni-Pip), is the real name given to the trees on the top of this hill just a few yards from my house. This picture I drew as I sat on a blanket with my daughter and her baby Becky-Paige, who is now 12! So important are The Clappers to my family that my sister, who sadly died recently, has asked in her Will for her ashes to be brought back from New Zealand, where she lived, to England, to be scattered on the top of this hill. My brothers and sisters and I are going to The Clappers to do precisely that this Saturday, 10th April.
Joni-Pip and her friends have quite the adventure but along the way they learn many life lessons. Which lesson do you think is most important for readers to take away with them and why?
That love and friendship are more important than rubies. Sadly today, through constant bombardment from advertising and The Media, so much emphasis is put on acquiring material possessions, power and money. Yet how futile is that? How shallow is that? Nothing can buy a hug from someone who loves you: nothing can buy the look of love from someone who loves you: nothing can buy a smile, a grin or even a gentle arm around a shoulder from someone who loves you. I hope in Joni-Pip, it comes over that everything that is truly valuable, priceless even, is free and right in front of you, if you only take the time to look!
I have read this book as an adult and really enjoyed it but I understand it is aimed towards the younger generation. What age group do you think this book would be most suitable for?
Good question and while it is true, I wrote it for my Great Niece Joni-Pip (she is now 15), I will quote a Circleite (the name given to fans of The Circles Trilogy, of which Joni-Pip is Book One), Mandy Innes, she is 39 and she says in one newspaper:
‘I am afraid Carrie King, the Author, is absolutely wrong, Joni-Pip is not just for children, it is for everyone aged 9-99 and they will get hooked, just as I did and they won’t be able to put it down if they are still children at heart!’
The age range of the Circleites is from 4-88.
So, Mandy I don’t think it is best suited for any particular age group, it simply suits those who are still ‘children at heart’ (I think I wrote that in the Foreword of Joni-Pip).
Who is your favourite character in “The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip” and why?
Mandy, that is like asking me to favour one of my children! The characters in Joni-Pip are like my children, they are all so real to me. In saying that, I have a special love for Poppy. I think it is her innocence, her vulnerability and yet her sensitivity to others’ needs, coupled with her constant and hilarious malapropisms (sorry, I forget I write her scripts), that makes me especially fond of her. I love Ethelred-Ted’s love for her, too: it reminds me of my granddaughter, Paige’s love for her little sister, Beth.
Are any of the characters based on real people and how did you come up with their names?
Alex is based on my brother Richard Alexander: Archimedes Spindlethrop is based on my brother David. Poppy is based on my daughter’s friend (who is like my adopted daughter), Holly: Hetty is based on my oldest daughter, Rebekah (she was ‘born grown up’, my husband and I used to say): Father is based on an imaginary American Father I had when I was a little girl. (My own father was a very busy business man and we rarely saw him, so I invented one who actually spent time with us)! Mother is based on my own lovely mother. Joni-Pip is based on my great niece Joni-Philipa: Becky-Paige is based on my granddaughter Rebekah-Paige (we call her Paige), Elle-Sahara is based on my granddaughter Elle-Sahara (we call her Elle) and Beth Garador is based on my granddaughter Beth.
How did I come up with the names? Many of them are the names of real people and the others are simply made up…..that is such a fun thing to do!
Will we be seeing any characters from “The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip” in any future novels?
I started Joni-Pip for my great niece, Joni-Philipa when she was three and so, for the most part, I write and have written to please her. She has insisted I keep Ethelred-Ted in Book Two, along with Poppy, Nuttingham and Hetty. So they will be making some appearances. However, Joni-Pip is two years older in Book Two; she is now 14, so the main characters are Joni-Pip, of course and her two older cousins, Steve and Craig. All the characters in Book One, will turn up sometime or other in Book Two.
I love the TV show “Lost” and as I was reading “The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip” I thought the idea of several orbits connecting at a point in time and otherwise each in their own separate world could explain a little of how things happen in the show. Are you a fan of “Lost”? If so do you think the time travel in your book could be an answer to the secret of the island?
What a question! My children are avid fans of ‘Lost’ but I think I only saw some of the first series (I watch very little television), so I am not qualified to comment. Sounds like a good secret to me, though!
Would you change anything about the story now if given the chance?
At first, I felt I was hampered that I was commanded to keep Ethelred-Ted, Hetty, Poppy and Nuttingham in the adventure story (they were originally just for the Picture Book, I started writing for Joni-Pip when she was three), and a few times I have been tempted to transform them into human characters but I have been shouted down by so many Circleites (fans of Joni-Pip), that now I don’t think I would change anything about the story.
How long did it take you to write “The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip”?
A question I dread! I started writing, well in actual fact, I started drawing the illustrations in….wait for it….December 1997 ….Joni-Pip was three and Becky-Paige was four weeks old. I took a long time over the illustrations: using coloured pencils is very time consuming! Two years later, I still hadn’t finished them, when tragically my husband was killed in an accident in 2000 and I stopped doing everything and anything, until around 2003. Even then I couldn’t write or draw in England. I suppose I properly got down to writing again in 2005. All in all, it spanned ten years!!! Joni-Pip and Becky-Paige, being two characters in Joni-Pip, often come on Book Signings and sign as many books as I do. Here they are with me on one of the first Book Events in Sharpenhoe, the village where I was born. This picture is taken immediately below The Clappers! Framed copies of my illustrations line the walls in this fabulous Italian Bar & Restaurant. Joni is now 15 and Paige is now 12!
Which book did you enjoy writing most, the text edition or the picture book?
I think the Joni-Pip Picture Book was just fun and easy to write and I loved doing it.
I think the Joni-Pip Adventure Novel was just fun and easy to write and I loved doing it.
I hope that answers your question satisfactorily, Mandy! Obviously, however, writing 340 pages is much more a graft than writing 32 pages but, as writers do, I lived within and beside the characters and I was so much a part of the Plot that I had a jolly good, or should I say, ‘spiffing’ time along the way!
You have wonderful illustrations in the picture book, how long did it take you to draw these up and which is your favourite?
Thank you so much, Mandy!
Just recently I received these words from International Artist and Designer, Marta Munoz (she is an official designer of The Tate Gallery Cards)…….
‘Carrie King’s drawings for Joni-Pip are simply delightful, magical, honest and from the heart. For me this is what illustration is all about, absolutely timeless work. As a family we will treasure this book forever!’
…….which absolutely thrilled me! Ms Munoz came to a Book Signing in Hastings (yes, where the Battle was fought in 1066). I had no idea who she was and when she saw the Joni-Pip Picture Book, she picked it up and went into almost raptures as she turned each page. I could hardly believe it! She even asked if she could buy an original!!! She bought both the Text-only and The Picture Book. That has truly been one of my most memorable memories of The Picture Book. Some of the Illustrations took me three months each to complete. I have this annoying addiction to detail and I love putting extra features in so that the Observer can keep finding new little aspects. Teacher, Caroline Dixon, is married to a BBC Presenter and among the many lovely things she said about the Picture Book were these:-
‘The children loved the illustrations and we had fun trying to find parts of the story in them such as the white horse on page six, which was tricky but made the children feel included. They also liked spotting the characters. My room really enjoy poems and are starting to recognise rhyme and alliteration in books and so the names Carrie King chose for places like ‘Berry Bush’ stood out for them and were easy to remember when talking about the book at the end. Charlie and Owen particularly loved the ‘song of the river’ and asked me to read it over and over while they bobbed along!’ (I included that last bit as I love it)
Here is my favourite illustration (I think)…..
When did you first begin to write with the hopes of getting published?
I never thought of getting published. I just wrote out of love for my great niece, Joni-Pip.
Where is your favourite place to write?
This has to be at my lovely Mobile Home, by the river in Bedfordshire, England. I live in my house in Buckingham-shire from November to April and then the other months I spend in My Sanctuary, as I call it, in the pretty village of Felmersham. It is peaceful, tranquil and just a perfect haven for writing. Sometimes I really can’t believe that I am so blessed to live here. It is utter freedom!
What are you reading now and how are you liking it?
I am reading Arizona wants Me by L & D Broughton and The Twain shall Meet by j. guevara (yes, his name is always spelt in small case) and I am enjoying both books. I have had to get my head around the colloquial American language in both of them and I think I sometimes misunderstand certain words but they are both great stories.
How many books would you read in a year?
Not too many (I am so not like you, Mandy, you stagger me, the amount of books you read). I am so busy with Book Signings and Author Days, Library Visits and Talks to give to Readers Groups and Writers Groups, not to mention Joni-Pip Events, Radio Interviews and Newspaper Interviews…..and of course I have two books to write, to complete The Circles Trilogy! As well as that, I have my three children and three grandchildren…..I love doing the School Run for them!
What kind of books did you enjoy reading when you were younger?
Enid Blyton Books: Adventure, Historical and Mystery Stories: Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Children of The New Forest: I loved all of those with a passion!
What do you do in your spare time when you aren’t writing?
Excuse me, Mandy, what is this word ‘spare’? I am not familiar with it!
While I live in my Mobile Home, I try to swim in the river every day (that’s from May to November … pretty chilly at times). I love it! I spend my time, if I am swimming alone, going over the writing of the day and if I swim with Joni, we always discuss new threads to the story. Many a new idea has come from these most pleasurable ‘river times’. I count myself as so blessed to have the river to myself so much. It’s more difficult in the Summer Holidays as we are inundated with the local school children. They are not supposed to swim there because it is private land but they do and all of them constantly ask me if they can be characters in Joni-Pip!
I go away a lot on Book Signings and I stay in hotels with my writer friend, Lily Clark and in the evenings we love to dance. I remember being asked to jive with The British Jive Champion…that was awesome…..I had never danced with him before but he was such a brilliant ‘lead’ he made it so easy for me…what an adrenalin rush ….I had to sit out the next couple of dances to recover! Anyway, Girls love to dance and I am no exception. When I walk into the Ballroom of one hotel where I wrote quite a lot of Joni-Pip and I had a Book Signing, the band immediately start playing ‘Amarillo’, as I love dancing to that (and looning around to it, like comedian Peter Kay)! Recently, there was a 60’s Music Festival at this hotel and I was asked to do a Write Up on the Event (it was published in a Music Magazine)….that was brilliant writing about Bands of the 60’s that were favourites of my older brothers and sisters. The Bands were called The Dreamers (of Freddie and the Dreamers), Eddison Lighthouse, Herman’s Hermits, The Cufflinks, The New Mindbenders, The Mersey Beats, The Tremeloes, Union Gap and The Fortunes. (I had never heard of some of them but they were all great musicians)! Apparently they were all very popular in The UK and around the world 40+ years ago! It was so great dancing to them!
Who would you most like to meet (dead or alive) and why?
Of course that would have to be Jesus, as no man or woman has ever affected Mankind as he did. Why our very dating system in the Western World pivots around him. He spoke about love and caring for one another. I always think if all humans adhered to his adage to love God with all our might and to love our neighbour as ourselves, then practically all of the World’s Woes would be in the Past!
Who/what is your favourite:
Author? Sorry I have three Johns I love equally: John Grisham, John Wyndham and John Le Carré (must be something in the name)! A Geo-Physicist friend of mine says they are all intellectual writers……whatever that means……oh, and I also adore R.J. Ellory.
Book? The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (I am reading it in the photograph on the back of my book)!
Genre to read? I find it totally impossible to choose just one, Mandy. I love Historical Romances, Science Fiction, Thrillers (I love Alistair MacLean Books), Murder Mysteries, Children’s Classics……any Classics….on and on I go!
‘The best revenge is massive success!’ Frank Sinatra.
(How poignant is that for all writers: especially after receiving bad reviews)!
Movie? Oh, how can I choose? OK…..The Pianist.
Film Star? Sir Ian McKellen, he is just sensational. I think because he is a total Thespian being a classically trained Shakespearean Actor, his work is simply saturated in passion and energy. He just radiates all the time, as he truly lives his characters. Check him out as Sir Lee Teabing in The Da Vinci Code. He is a Master and I believe the best role player in Cinema today.
Just as a ‘by the way’ thing, I sent him a hardback copy of Joni-Pip and The Joni-Pip Picture Book and I told him how honoured I would be if he ever was to play Archimedes Spindlethrop in Joni-Pip, The Movie and he wrote back a lovely letter thanking me for my ‘beautiful books’. The nerve of some writers!
TV show? BBC One’s Larkrise to Candleford. Brilliant, purely brilliant!
Holiday destination? Bermuda: I just love the pink sand, the azure sea and the ‘terribly British’ culture!
Animal? My cat Brewster, who sleeps on my bed (he is the only man in my life)!
Here is Brewster with my youngest daughter, Hannah. He is a huge (just look at the size of his paws), gorgeous and very fluffy Persian Cream. He makes me laugh when I am working at home. He sits on the table beside my laptop and occasionally stretches out his paw and types in a letter or two, just to add a bit of feline flavour! I adore him.
Band? Take That: they just keep on improving with age!
Song? ‘Heart of Mine’, by Peter Salett: I sent him an e-mail once (among 35,000 other people), telling him how much his song meant to me and would you believe it, he replied! If ever Joni-Pip is made into a Movie, I will insist this song he wrote be included in the Sound Track! (I can dream)! Here is his great e-mail:
Thank you so much for your inspiring and emotional email.
As I’m sure you know, when you create something from your heart you never know what winding paths it will take. It is so touching to hear that my song moved you, across the ocean.
And then of course your email brought tears to my eyes.
I wish you great success with your book, and in all of your endeavors.
All the best, Peter Salett
Meal to cook? Hmmmm. For Starters I love to prepare sliced cantaloupe melon with strawberries and Greek yoghurt. Main Course: Grilled Scottish Salmon, with lemon and black pepper, served with a jacket potato and loads of green salad; complemented with a really good Sancerre white wine. Dessert: Eton Mess (which is similar to a crunched up Raspberry Pavlova). To finish I love a cheese board with savoury biscuits, followed by Fresh Columbian Coffee. Coming round then, Mandy?
Drink? I love fresh grape juice, diluted with still spring water and heated very gently so it tastes similar to mulled wine! I am drinking some right now!!!
And last but not least, what one question would you ask yourself in an interview and what would the answer be?
Q: What has gladdened you most about your writing and what has saddened you most about your writing?
A: There is nothing more joyous, to me, than hearing complete strangers say how much they enjoy the work I do; after all, most writers write to be read and want readers to be right (forgive the pun), in tune with their work! Another thing that thrills me is hearing others read Joni-Pip out loud. I was on BBC Radio last year and Howard Hughes, who was interviewing me, simply picked up a copy of Joni-Pip, opened it randomly and started reading. I was dumbstruck (a rarity for me, believe me); just exceedingly happy: he sounded amazing, he has such a fabulous voice. Later that morning I had a Book Signing in Waterstone’s Book Shop and a lady came in and said, ‘I had to buy Joni-Pip after hearing just a couple of paragraphs!” Pretty cool, eh?
I was ecstatic when I received the most amazing review in The American Chronicle of March 2010. In it Joni-Pip was described as ‘Beyond Excellent!’ and likened to Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn and Treasure Island. Could I be more honoured? Also The Midwest Book Review called Joni-Pip a ‘Remarkable Book’….pretty amazing methinks….
What saddens me? The fact that my beautiful husband only ever saw some of the illustrations I did and never saw the finished books, causes me such sorrow. I remember he once said to me, after I had finished two or three pictures, ‘I can really see Ethelred-Teds for sale on the shelves in Toy Shops one day!’ That hasn’t happened yet but copies of Joni-Pip Books are! In saying that, at one school I visited, I was presented with a felt Ethelred-Ted, one of the Mums had made. He is really special. I love him!
That’s about it!
Thank you so much, Mandy, it has been a pleasure answering your insightful questions, even though it has been during a particularly trying time of my life and I thank you for your kindness in patiently awaiting their arrival!
Very best wishes in all you do,
(Buckinghamshire, England, 9th April 2010)
Thank you again, Carrie, for participating in this interview!
Click here to go to Carrie’s profile on my website where you will find links to the blurb of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, my review of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, Carrie’s website, her Goodreads profile and a link to purchase The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip.