- Book titles: The Silver Strand (Book 1 in the Mastermind Academy series) and Heaven and Hound-Rise of the Alpha (Book 1 in the Heaven and Hound series).
- Genre: middle grade fantasies for 9-12 year olds.
- Synopsis: Ever since her strand sprouted, it’s been nothing but trouble: bleeding pink dust and sparking like a firecracker. Refusing to be known as the girl with the freaky, grandma hair, she wishes it never grew and the hair withers and tarnishes.
The only problem is, the strand is Isabelle's source of magic, and she can transform particles of energy into matter. It's also her ticket into Mastermind Academy, a secret school inside the hollow earth. Five days remain before the strand drains her magic and life, forcing Isabelle into a deal with two trickster Masterminds to save it. But what she doesn't count on is that there is more at stake than just her life.
- Publish date: Sep 2013
- Publisher: Indicated Publications and Promotions
Author interview with LJ Clarkson.
Welcome LJ. What made you choose this genre?
I write children’s fantasy because I love the possibility of magic, magical creatures and the endless imagination that can be explored in fantasy. I write for children between the ages of 9 and 12 because I’m an 11 year old trapped in an adult’s body. Seriously. I love silly and quirky things and I’m a real goofball. I laugh at my own jokes and am quite happy entertaining myself.
That is such a fun age group. Good for you.
The Silver Strand is based on the time I found my first grey hair and I thought it would be really cool to have a story about a girl who’s magical powers are connected to a silver strand of hair. But then she gets embarrassed by it and wishes it away, not knowing the strand is magical. And I wanted to see just what she would do to save it.
Which is your favourite character and why?
Ooohh toss up here. I have two. My first is Boldrick, the man trapped in the body of a cat from The Silver Strand. He’s this posh, well to do, good mannered English chap from the 17th century, who insists on doing the right thing. But he is such a clutz, which for a cat is really ironic and hilarious. He is definitely the character I torture the most. Poor kitty.
My second is Gaybreeal from Heaven and Hound. What can I say? She is deliciously evil and through her I can explore my dark and sinister side. I can do things I would never get away with (not that I would want to poison hellhounds with ratbait lace chicken wings! Just to clarify). She was so mean and so much fun to write.
They both sound like a lot of fun, both for you and your readers.
Have you used any real people in your characters?
Most definitely. I find inspiration for my characters in myself, my coworkers, family, friends and even pets. I like to give my character’s quirks based on someone as it gives my characters more depth. For example, my mother is a neat freak, and goes bananas over a crease on her bed, so she inspired Isabelle’s mother in The Silver Strand. The two rascally hellhounds in Heaven and Hound were based on the personalities of my dogs. Having studied and worked in Environmental Engineering, I have a soft side for protecting and caring for the environment, so Esme from The Silver Strand is a more exaggerated tree-hugging and risk taking version of me. Her partner in crime, Boldrick, is a stickler for doing the right thing, much like my dad. Gaybreeal from Heaven and Hound is a nasty version of a co-worker who always lied and tried to get others in trouble for their mistakes, but who deep down, is the scared little girl wanting to be loved.
How did you go about developing your cover artwork?
Because a cover is my first introduction to a reader and it’s an opportunity to draw them into my story, I don’t want to take a chance on my shabby illustrating skills (think cavemen stick figures!). So I hire a graphic designer to create a cover based off a brief with details about what the characters look like and what I imagine the cover to look like.
For my cover of The Silver Strand, I hired award-winning designer Dawne from Dusk to Dawne. She created an amazing front cover showing the back of the main character Isabelle wearing her mother’s Mastermind Academy cape with the school’s logo (a lightning bolt and the letters M weaved A melded together). Although the cover is intriguing, and it has received heaps of praise for it, it is too dark, especially when printed. The gloominess portrays a horror genre when it is a light hearted and funny middle grade fantasy. As such, I’m in the process of redesigning the cover with my Heaven and Hound illustrator Dennis Martynets, which will also coincide with the release of TSS’s sequel in the next few months. I’m excited to see what Dennis creates.
What is your favourite quote?
Change your thoughts and you change your world.
Norman Vincent Peale
This is such a brilliant quote because everything is reflected by our thoughts. As writers we craft a character’s emotions by how they see the world. If they’re angry, the world is dark and grey. If they’re happy, the world is colourful and bright. As the character develops in a story, their thoughts change, reflecting growth. The way they see the world changes too—and that’s when magic happens (an LJ sage moment).
Tough choice! I would be over the moon if someone like Stephen Fry read my audiobooks. He did a fantastic job on the Harry Potter series. Or even Sir Ian McKellan of Gandalf fame from Lord of the Rings would be amazing.
What’s your dream job and do you think you’ll do it one day?
I’d love to be teaching classes of children in creative writing. I think it would be a blast interacting with the kids, getting new inspiration for characters, talking to them about what the like and dislike, helping them formulate a story, inspiring them to read and write and showing them there is a story in everything and everyone.
That would be awesome. I hope your dream comes true.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
I like to read although I don’t get enough time to. Watching various TV series is an addiction. I’m such a writing geek I assess the character development, the plot, and I shout out every time there is a great cliffhanger ending or shock twist I didn’t see coming. If I made more time I’d do pilates. Celebrating achievements with a goody dance is a must!. Getting out in nature and taking the dogs for a walk is nice for a break from writing…just not in winter! But I shouldn’t’ complain because Australian winters are not as cold compared to those in the northern hemisphere.
What’s your experience of the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network?
For authors and writers, it’s a great place to network, share information on the genre, writing, publishing and promotion. The group is incredibly supportive, banding together to promote each other through interviews, sales and cross promotion. I’d recommend the group to any author writing sci-fi or fantasy that is pg13 rated.
Thanks for dropping by LJ. It's great to learn more about you and I love to support Australian authors. Best wishes for your writing.
Please connect with LJ Clarkson and her books with the below links
Website: www.mastermindacademy.net and www.authorresourcesdatabase.com
Amazon: Heaven and Hound
- Fantasy Sci-Fi Network:
The Fantasy & Sci-Fi Network is a collection of authors, bloggers, and reviewers who are passionate about finding and creating quality fantasy/sci-fi books which are also teen safe (G, PG, or PG-13 rated). The FSF Network believes it is possible to create fantastic works of fantasy and science fiction without resorting to graphic violence, explicitly harsh language, or sex.
- FSFN website: http://fsfnet.com/
- Twitter hashtag: #FSFNet