Today Katie W Stewart, author of Treespeaker, is my guest. Katie is an author of fantasy fiction for all ages. Born in England, she has lived most of her life in Australia and now lives on a farm in Western Australia. In her non-writing life she works as a Library Assistant and IT Support person at a small school. She is also the mother of three children aged 8-18. In her spare time, she reads (her favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Joanne Harris and Juliet Marillier), illustrates books, paints pet portraits and plays celtic harp and guitar (as well as writing, of course).
Creation of a Novel
by Katie Stewart
One of the questions I’m often asked as an author is, “How did you come to write ‘Treespeaker’?” The answer has many parts, starting with how I came to write at all.
I always loved writing at school, but I also loved art. For me, writing took a lot of effort, especially in the days before computers. Drawing came naturally. So after I left school I concentrated on my art and, apart from a few poems, did very little writing. I loved reading and read prolifically in all genres, though my favourite was fantasy, from the day I read Ursula Le Guin’s ‘Wizard of Earthsea’. Stories of my own rumbled around in my head, but I either drew pictures of them or ignored them altogether. Then, twelve years ago, we adopted our second son. After three years of adoption paperwork, having to get things done to a certain timetable, I missed the angst. So I took a writing course, diligently returning assignments on time. Though I’d thought I’d concentrate on picture books, I found that I really loved the novel writing section of the course.
About the same time, something happened in my life that left me with a lot to come to terms with. What it was doesn’t matter here, but it left me with the sense of needing to go in search of something, without any real idea of why I needed to go or even what it really was that I was looking for – a theme that is central to Treespeaker.
A little after that, I had a dream. In the dream there was a gigantic tree. People lived in the tree and it provided everything they needed, including all their food. This idea, too, floated around my brain for quite a while, gradually morphing into a tribe living near a tree that is a symbol of their balance with the forest.
Now I had a vague plot and a vague setting. One day, watching TV with my children, I came across an actor I hadn’t seen before. He was small, but had a strong face and a deep, gravelly voice. Suddenly my plot had a character. The story grew from there. Once I’d found an incentive for my main character, Jakan, to go on his journey, I was able to start writing.
This may all seem a strange way of going about things, but for me this is always how it works; threads of ideas draw together from myriad sources to form a whole. Some things, like the environmental theme, took me by surprise. Even my past as an Archaeology student came into play in this book. Who would have thought when I chose to do a Major thesis on Mesolithic Britain (a strange choice for an Australian Archaeology student) that I would use the information I gained to create a new ‘world’ so many years later?
So from a painful life experience, a dream, a TV program and past education came ‘Treespeaker’
Saving his people means leaving the forest. Leaving the forest means death.
Jakan, Treespeaker of the Fifth Tribe of Arrakesh, knows from the visions he received at the SpringSpeak, that the stranger who has just arrived in his village is not the innocent, interested visitor he claims to be. As the villagers succumb to the mind-bending sorcery of the man, Jakan becomes more and more desperate to be rid of him. But when he accuses the stranger of an act of sacrilege, events take a sinister turn and it is Jakan himself who is expelled from the forest.
Sent on a journey across the treeless land outside the forest, Jakan finds himself fighting for survival – for his people and himself. Somehow he must find a man he hasn’t seen for twenty years, but as a Treespeaker —bound in spirit to the forest — his life hangs by a tenuous thread which grows ever thinner.
Meanwhile, his son, Dovan, must find the strength to carry out the new role he has been given while his father is away, for who knows if the Treespeaker will ever return?
This is not a book about good versus evil. It is a book about belonging, balance and belief. It’s an adult fantasy, but suitable for anyone 12+.