For those of you who don’t already know this, I adore Karen Foxlee’s debut middle grade novel, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. Furthermore, I cannot express how thrilled I was to be able to interview Karen and that I’m able to share her answers here at The Hiding Spot. Please take the time to read my review of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy as well… I’ve done my best to capture how absolutely wonderful this novel is and I can only hope I’ve done it justice! A big thank you to Karen Foxlee for taking the time to answer my questions!
Karen Foxlee is an Australian writer. She is the author of two young adult novels: “The Anatomy of Wings” and “The Midnight Dress”. Her first middle grade novel “Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy” is to be published in January, 2014. She lives and writes in Queensland, Australia.
OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY is your first MG novel, as your first two published novels were YA. Did you set out to write a MG novel or did Ophelia’s story simply feel right as MG?
OPHELIA was written during a break from writing my second YA novel THE MIDNIGHT DRESS. I was struggling with that one and just wanted to go away and have some fun. I started with the small idea of a boy locked away in a museum room and it grew from there. In the beginning I wasn’t sure at all what age group it was for. I was only really interested in finding out why the boy was there and what his story was – solving the puzzle of the story for myself. Many drafts later, Ophelia arrived, and all the pieces started falling into place. I guess somewhere around then I started to have the first inklings that it was a children’s book.
I adored Ophelia’s exploratory trips through the museum because we were treated to descriptions of the various rooms and curiosities. Did you base Ophelia’s museum on real-life museum trips or is the museum (and its curiosities) entirely from your imagination?
I’ve always loved museums and the older the better. I went to the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia once. It’s vast and a bit run down and the little old guards watch you like hawks (and sometimes knit). So there is a little of the Hermitage in my museum. Most of it is from my imagination though and mixture of different places I have been. Oh, I loved thinking about that museum! I love making characters but I’ve never grown up a huge building! That’s how it felt. I gradually got to know that museum in my mind and through my writing; all its twists and turns and staircases and elevators and glittering galleries and murky corridors. I loved thinking about the exhibits too. Nearly all of those strange collections are things that I’ve loved, or read about, or wondered about, or seen.
Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?
I always felt very comfortable slipping into the boy’s voice when he tells his story. And when Ophelia appeared in later drafts to find the boy, well, I just knew everything was going to be okay. She took over from there. I loved her immediately. The hardest scenes were the ones between Ophelia and her mother. The sad parts. I would get very emotional and have to go and lie down and have a good cry.
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?
The title wasn’t there from the beginning because Ophelia wasn’t there from the beginning. As soon as she arrived I chose that name. I worried about if it was too simple but now it feels like there could never ever have been another title.
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?
Wow. So many, too many, each in different ways. Fairy-tales as a child introduced me to the emotional punch of literature, to magic, to story-telling. I loved the adventure stories of my childhood. THE FAMOUS FIVE (Enid Blyton)! Kids running around the country side solving mysteries. What could be more exciting? The big journey stories of Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ– the excitement of turning those pages. Too many grown-up books to name. But in particular I remember reading Arundhati Roy’s THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS and thinking: imagine being able to create something so perfect and so beautiful! After reading that book I decided I wanted to keep trying and trying to learn how to write the best books I could.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?
I have always worked as a registered nurse since I was eighteen years old and still do today. Nursing made me the person I am so I guess in that way it has shaped my writing. I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many amazing people through nursing and hearing and witnessing so many wonderful stories. The stories of people’s lives I mean. Everyone has a story.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
The first that springs to mind is Chandelier. I’ve always had a thing for that word! It is just so lovely to look at and sounds exactly like the object I see in my mind, a glittering waterfall of glass and light.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
I am an experienced day-dreamer. I schedule day-dreams into my writing day. I day dream about my characters and my stories, about myself, about the future, about the past. I’d say that is where I escape and let go. My stories are born out of those day-dreams.
More about OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY
Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, her sister, Alice, and their father, the world’s leading expert on swords, leave home for a foreign city where it always snows. Ophelia’s father has been hired to curate a museum exhibit and, while exploring the museum, a confusing, drafty place full of curiosities, Ophelia discovers an abandoned room. Within the room is a small door. On the other side of the door, is a boy. As you might expect, this is no ordinary boy, but a Marvelous Boy, the prisoner of the sinister Snow Queen. The Queen has kept him prisoner for near 300 years and he’s been waiting for Ophelia. Only she can help him defeat the Queen… and time is running out. Scientifically-minded Ophelia must look within herself – and to the memory of mother – to find the magic she holds within herself. A gorgeous retelling of The Snow Queen and an unforgettable story about friendship, love, and grief, OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY is sure to be loved by readers of all ages.
— Excerpt from The Hiding Spot review