Friday night as I wandered through the autograph party at SCBWI-LA, an Australian woman offered to tell my fortune with runestones. The accent gave her away. And I’m a sucker for an accent. Especially when it involves my fortune.
Turns out she knew a thing or two about runestones, because the woman was Anna Ciddor, and Anna doesn’t write a word without plenty of research.
So tell me, what are runestones and how were they used?
Runes were the letters of the Viking alphabet. Vikings didn't have paper and pencils so runes had to be carved into stone, or bone, or wood. In Viking times, people believed that runes had magic powers. There was a love rune, a rune to make you strong, a rune to protect you, and so on. If a rune was carved the wrong way, it could make something bad happen. Runestones could also be used for fortune-telling. On my Viking Magic website, www.viking-magic.com, you can find out more about runestones, and even have your fortune told with runes.
The first book of your Viking Magic series is called Runestone. Do the stones play an important role in following stories?
Vikings believed in witches and little folk and all sorts of magic powers, and I make use of lots of these beliefs in the different books. As the name implies, runestones play an important part in book 1 of the Viking Magic trilogy but other forms of Viking magic and adventure are more important in the other stories. For example, Vikings believed that some people had the power to conjure live animals out of bits of twigs and leaves, and this is a main part of Wolfspell.
I know you visited Ireland when you were working on Night of the Fifth Moon. Did you take a trip to Norway for the Viking Magic Series?
No, I found enough information from books and on the internet to enable me to write the Viking Magic series, but after they were finished I did have the chance to visit Norway and it was very exciting to see real Viking ships and the Norwegian forests and fjords that I had written about in the stories.
Besides traveling, what is your favorite type of research?
I am constantly astounded by and grateful for the information that is available on the internet. Although you do have to be careful what sites you use, I love to look on official museum and library sites where I can access original ancient documents or see objects from museum collections. I am an absolute research fanatic. It is like being a detective, hunting and hunting for tiny scraps of clues.
How many years did you teach math? At what point did you give up your day job to write and illustrate exclusively?
As a child I loved writing and drawing as well as playing schools with my two younger sisters, but I never thought of doing something creative as a career. I always planned to be a teacher. I taught math for just over two years, and then stopped when my first child, Daniel, was born. Elissa followed just 14 months later and while I was staying at home looking after two small children and reading them picture story books, I was inspired to have a go at using my creative talents and getting a book published. I gave myself 6 months to give this experiment a chance, and luckily just as the 6 months was about to be up I landed my first publishing contract. I have been a full-time writer and illustrator ever since.
Okay, can I just say that I’m jealous?! Six months is incredibly fast! And you’ve published an astounding number of books since you started writing in 1989. How is that even possible?
With my first publishing contract, the publisher asked me to have the book written and illustrated in 3 months. I had no idea at the time what an unusually tight schedule this was, so I worked like an absolute maniac, while being a full-time mum as well. My children posed for all the artwork. Somehow, I managed it, and I think that taught me to work fast! My first 50 books were non-fiction books, many of them quite short, so this helped. Since I changed to writing novels a few years ago, I have become one of the world's slowest writers. For example, Runestone took 2 years to write.
I know when we talked in L.A. you said you were trying to find an American publisher. I didn’t realize what a challenge that would be. Have you made any progress? Do you have an agent?
Yes, there is some interest in my latest novel. I am very excited but I can't say more at this stage, though of course I am hoping this will lead to an American publication.
Well good luck! Although it sounds like you’ve already got plenty of that on your side :D
What are you working on now?
I have just finished a YA novel set in France during the First World War and that is the one I am offering to publishers at the moment. However, although it is 'finished', I am sure it will need lots of editing work so I don't want to start on anything new till it actually goes off to print. When I am writing a novel, I prefer to stay immersed and emotionally involved in that one project. In the meantime, I am doing all those cleaning and tidying chores around the house that I put off for two years while I wrote the novel...
Since 1989 Anna Ciddor has written and illustrated more than 55 books. Her books are beloved among Australian children and have been shortlisted for numerous national awards including Children’s Choice Book Awards and WA Young Readers’ Book Awards. Runestone and Night of the Fifth Moon were both chosen as Notable Books by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. A few of her titles are available in the U.S. through Amazon.
If you’d like to be entered to win an autographed copy of Runestone, book one in the Viking Magic series, tell me in the comments. As always, followers get an extra entry. A name will be selected Monday, November 9, using the Random Name Generator. Entries must be received by midnight (PST) on November 8 to qualify.
You can learn more about Anna by visiting her website: http://www.annaciddor.com