Good Morning Readers. Today I am featuring the Priorhouse Interview with blogger and author Annika Perry.
Hello Yvette and thank you so much for the invitation to take part in one of your interviews! It’s a joy to be here! The tagline to my website sums me up in a few words:
‘A writer influenced by her Swedish heritage and Yorkshire upbringing.’
It is this dual background that is the foundation of not only my writing but also my life.
A LIITLE BACKGROUND ABOUT ANNIKA:
At the age of six, I found myself transported from Gothenburg and the beauty of the islands off the West Coast of Sweden to a small English village nestled in the glorious and dramatic Yorkshire Dales!
A teacher at primary school spotted my love of words and passion for writing and nurtured my interest for over a year. Since then my passion for writing has never faltered although my route to publication proved circuitous.
After gaining my BA Honours Degree in German Language and Literature from the University of Leeds, I started working as a journalist. Later I changed my career and gained a position as Administration Manager for a busy timber import company.
A career break to raise my son ensured I finally had the time to concentrate fully on my writing and initially a writing course gave me encouragement and direction. Winning First Prize in a Writing Magazine’s Short Story Competition was a fantastic surprise and joy. Furthermore, I was short-listed for an Ink Tears Short Story Competition the same year.
A Confidence boost….
Both of these gave me a huge confidence boost and with further encouragement from my tutor, I set out to write my first novel and started my blog to connect with like-minded people! A whole new community, a new world opened up to me and with the encouragement of friends on WordPress I set out to publish.
My first venture into publishing was “The Storyteller Speaks”; a collection of short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. Published in January 2018 “The Storyteller Speaks” has received over twenty-five glowing reviews on Amazon.
My second published book was “Oskar’s Quest”, a beautifully illustrated children’s book with a story of adventure and courage.
I am overjoyed and proud to now call myself a full-time writer, blogger, and book reviewer.
PRIORHOUSE: Thanks for the background information, Annika. Now let’s talk about your first book, The Storyteller Speaks. I remember some of the buzz in the blogosphere when you released this book back in 2018.
Link to “The Storyteller Speaks” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37544434-the-storyteller-speaks/
Here are some blurbs about The Storyteller Speaks:
It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?
In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation.
The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.
One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.
Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.
PRIORHOUSE: Can you tell us about your children’s book Oskar’s Quest? The process of creating it and any challenges?
ANNIKA: “Oskar’s Quest” is a picture book for children aged 3 – 6 years old and it tells the story of Oskar, a lonely blue bird, who is afraid of adventures. Yet one day he finds himself on a mysterious island called Roda which needs his help. Bella, the red bell-flower, is ailing and in tears explains to Oskar how the whole island is mourning the loss of Maya, a special golden songbird. Maya was swept up and away by the dark cloud Drang. To his own surprise, Oskar volunteers to find Maya and he sets out on a most unexpected and magnificent quest, along the way Oskar finds not only Maya but also courage, friendship and wisdom.
ANNIKA: Technically “Oskar’s Quest” was a work in progress (WIP) for over 15 years!
PRIORHOUSE: What? 15 years? That really says a lot and reminds us that some ideas might need to simmer on a back burner for a while. My step-daughter and I have a book idea (about a cloud) from the 1990s and it continues to simmer. So your timeline offers hope to authors who might be sitting on an idea for a while – we can take heart!
ANNIKA: I was first inspired to create Oskar’s story for my son for bedtime when he was very young. A few years later I wrote a rough draft and kept it safe, always trusting “Oskar’s Quest” would find a wider audience one day.
Once I came to prepare the book for publication editing was a challenge, albeit a rewarding one! The story was twice the final length at over 2000 words — far too long for a children’s book. Furthermore, it was rough around the edges. I thoroughly enjoyed editing and revising the story, making it a sharper and more engaging read.
Another challenge with writing for children is that the author is actually writing for an audience of two (the adult reader and the child) and the writer needs to capture the interest of both unconditionally. Both need to LOVE the book. I speak from the experience of reading hundreds of books to my son when he was young — there has to be that spark and magic which make both eager to return to the book!
PRIORHOUSE: I know what you mean- my spouse and I read hundreds of books to our children too. We still know some of the lines by heart. The early books were Sandra Boynton board books and then picture books like Old Henry and Stone Soup. The children’s books we loved most tugged at our heart and our children also loved them (you are so right – the books must appeal to both parent and child) – and we especially enjoyed books with great images. That reminds me about Gabrielle Vickery’s wonderful art in Oskar’s Quest.
ANNIKA: It took some searching before a local children’s author recommended Gabrielle. This was Gabrielle’s first foray into children’s illustrations and a huge first for us both. Communication and patience were key! She did a remarkable job of tapping into my descriptions of Oskar to create the final beautiful bird – full of character and emotion! It was time-consuming and at times a little frustrating for us both but following countless emails and sketches, Oskar appeared as if by magic and I cannot imagine him any other way! Once the first three pages were completed with Roda, Bella, and Maya the rest of the book and illustrations took flight!
Another challenge was publishing coloured pictures and incorporating the text. Although it would have been easier to have text boxes I was adamant that this was not right for “Oskar’s Quest”. I am forever grateful for David Cronin’s expertise in preparing the illustrations and text for publication!
My squeal of absolute joy as I saw the paperback book for the first time reverberated around the district, I’m sure! I hope all readers will find it a welcoming, vibrant, intriguing book!
One fun, and more unusual fact about “Oskar’s Quest,” is that it is available in German! It was exciting to work with a translator and within a week the final copy “Oskar’s Abenteuer” was ready! It was a great help that I speak German and Marion and I savoured our lengthy linguistic conversations, focussing on what seem easy words in English but tricker to find just the right alternative in German for eg. ‘PLIP PLOP’, ‘Eeeek’ and ‘BOOM’!
PRIORHOUSE: What other works do you have in progress?
ANNIKA: The current global pandemic has impacted people in very different ways. This is true of people within the creative arts as well and I have read many articles, essays, and posts about how writers have coped during this stressful and worrying time. Some flourished in their creativity during the enforced stay-at-home orders. Others, myself included, felt overwhelmed and creativity was smothered with fear from the situation, family and friends.
Therefore, my writing projects were put on hold and I am glad to now finally be working again on projects. Current endeavors:
- In the process of editing another one of my children’s stories and look forward to finding an illustrator for this soon.
- My first full-length novel, “Island Girl”, is never far from my heart and mind — the editing is taking much longer than anticipated but I look forward to publishing this in due course.
- Finally, my love of short stories has never left me and I continue to write these with abandon!
PRIORHOUSE: How often do you write and how would you describe your muse?
I wonder if all writers feel that they never write enough, never spend enough time on it?! At least I do! As I wrote the first draft of my novel, I spent 3-4 hours a morning writing in longhand! It worked perfectly. Then in the afternoon I would often type up the work. Most of my fiction work is written in this way.
My muse is all around me! I truly believe, it is a matter of me being open to the world, letting troubles slide away and letting in the power of creativity. If an idea will not develop I find it best to step back, take time away — without a guilty conscience! For me, walking loosens the bands of restraint.
PRIORHOUSE: I am glad you mentioned walking and how it loosens any restraint and refreshes you. In your most recent blog post, Reflections (here), you noted that one of your top-ten posts was ‘Duality of Walks’ (#8), which featured both a real-life local walk as well as that of the virtual walk as part of a global challenge. You also shared a quote worth sharing again here:
PRIORHOUSE: How are your books doing right now? Any promos or recent reviews?
ANNIKA: In recent months I’ve been overwhelmed with a plethora of wonderful and thoughtful reviews. These are always heartwarming and terrific boost for a book (and its author). I’m deeply touched that so many ‘get’ the book, have fallen for Oskar, a character very precious to me and people are thoroughly captivated by the story and illustrations.
Here are some links, starting with the latest review from D L Finn.
- 19th September 2021: https://dlfinnauthor.com/2021/09/19/september-book-reviews-part-3-teagangeneviene-writingcommunity-bookreviews-whattoread/ ‘I purchased “Oskar’s Quest” as a gift for my youngest granddaughter’s upcoming birthday and wanted to read and review it before wrapping it up. It is a charming story about a young bird, Oskar, who fearfully veers off from his group of birds hunting for dragons. He finds a sad little island where a cloud has taken the songbird. I love how the little bird finds his courage in a search for the songbird. This story teaches not only to push past fears but to understand each other. The illustrations are colorful and bring the story to life. I enjoyed this tale and can’t wait to share it with my granddaughter soon.’
- 10th September 2021 https://worddreams.wordpress.com/2021/09/10/oskars-quest-a-riot-of-imagery-and-words/
- 26th August 2021 https://mythsofthemirror.com/2021/08/26/august-book-reviews-part-1/
- 11th August 2021 https://theshowersofblessings.com/2021/08/11/book-review-oskars-quest-by-annika-perry/
- 22nd July 2021 https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2021/07/22/bookreviews-children-oskars-quest-and-pawfect-pet-poets/
- Many reviews are featured on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49070760-oskar-s-quest/
ANNIKA: Note about the timing of Oskar’s Quest. – The launch coincided with the 2020 lockdown here in the UK. At the time,I was starting to begin promotions of the book within primary schools which unfortunately have been delayed. I look forward to the opportunity to read and share Oskar’s Quest with the intended audience very soon. There is nothing quite as rewarding as personal book readings, especially within a school setting.
PRIORHOUSE: Do you have any tips for writers? Or tips for “living life to the full”?
ANNIKA: A couple of years ago I gave ‘an inspiring author’ talk to a group of creative writing students and I think my tips to them as writers and readers are as pertinent as ever … I doubt I will sum up the gift of writings, its trials, the importance of reading any better than I did then. I hope sharing this again now can shine a light and provide a little guidance for all writers.
Annika’s Advice for Writers:
- Throw yourself into writing and relish the experience! Find the magic within you and share it! Write from your heart! This may be easier said than done, if like me, your head tends to rule. Don’t disregard your mind but just don’t overthink.
- Once you’ve finished a piece, and this can be tough, put it aside for a while. Returning to it with fresh eyes will be key to the next stage; editing. Here engage that brain, tap into your creativity, look out for ways to improve your writing. Perhaps you’re ‘telling’ too much instead of ‘showing’? Not only is it more enjoyable for the writer to show through their writing, it will lift your story.
- Never underestimate the effectiveness of dialogue to carry a story forward, to show emotions, even description. It’s striking when you can have a sequence of speech without the ‘he said’/‘she said’. Try to avoid always using adverbs with these; the anger etc should come out in the language where possible.
- Never be afraid of feedback of your work; after all we learn through constructive criticism. Start to read your written work with a critical eye when necessary.
- Play around with your writing. Writing outside one’s comfort zone is a great way to bring new life into your work. Try another unusual genre. Shift your words around — explore new vocabulary and if writing fantasy, maybe even make up a few new words of your own! Use different tenses, viewpoints. I felt a sense of liberation writing from a male viewpoint in some of my stories and enjoyed the welcome sense of rush and urgency to stories written in the present tense.
- When not writing, read lots! Not just in one genre but across the board. It’s a wonderful way to learn. See what works well, and also look out for writing that falters, flatlines … learn from other’s mistakes.
- When you start a new piece of writing, remember that this is your first and rough draft. If you wait to write down the best version of your work you may never start at all as you will feel inhibited before even writing a word.
- Write with your Ideal Reader in mind — recall your own emotions and feelings when you are swept away by a story. There is nothing quite like escaping into another world; when the present real-world fades to that of the fiction. My dream has been to recreate that experience for all my readers — and hopefully I have. Make your characters three-dimensional, so real that neither you nor the reader wants to leave them!
- Through the nitty-gritty of writing, the joy and power of creating worlds, characters, stories should never be underestimated. As Neil Gaiman says: ‘(they/short stories) are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.’
Annika’s Advice for Living Life to the Full:
My one major lesson for living life to the full is to NOT let fear gain the upper hand! Fear is a powerful emotion that will want to invade your heart, your mind, and spirit. Fear wants to erode away your ability to live life with absolute joy and excitement. When my son was young, I always reminded him of Winnie the Pooh’s wisdom:
‘You are braver than you believe,
stronger than you seem,
And smarter than you think.’
I don’t think my son realised I was saying the words as much to myself as to reassure him! Even when we’ve battled fear, doubt and self-worth can rear their ugly heads. If this takes hold one’s life can again be held back. ‘If you argue for your limitations they are yours,’ wrote Richard Bach in his life-changing ‘Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah’; rather see, feel, experience the wonder of the world from the smallest detail to the vast fabric of existence. Along the way never lose sight of your dreams, the magic that lives within you can become a reality. Remember that ‘you’re never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true.’ Again, a quote by Richard Bach and one I try to follow through my life! I hope you and your readers feel its inspiring energy as well
PRIORHOUSE: Annika, Pooh’s timeless wisdom always brings a smile. One of my favorite quotes about fear, which was recently on an old episode of The Twilight Zone, is “Perfect love casts out fear.” Also, I really like the Richard Bach quotes you shared.
PRIORHOUSE: Can you give us an interesting fun fact about you?
ANNIKA: Once I interviewed an alien!
Daleks, created for the famous British science fiction series Dr. Who in 1963, are still frightening children nearly sixty years later. In the late 1970s, my friends and I would hide behind the sofa to watch the series, screaming in fun terror every time a Dalek appeared on the screen. Years later I happened upon a Dalek on the seafront in Hastings. As a reporter, I could not help but try, with some trepidation, to interview the alien. It did not go well! Alas, their vocabulary does not seem to have developed beyond their one-word catch-phrase of ‘EXTERMINATE!”
PRIORHOUSE: What’s something you are really good at that few people know about?
My LOVE of languages is not generally known by most people and I’m fluent in three languages (English, Swedish, German). I’ve also learnt three others to a high standard (French, Spanish, Russian) and I’m currently completing a Portuguese language course. Furthermore, I’ve had the pleasure and delight of travelling to twenty countries including the US, the Caribbean, The Gambia and within Europe. Some I’ve visited many times, and look forward to expanding this list!
ANNIKA: Many thanks again, Yvette, for the opportunity to appear on your blog! Your searching and in-depth questions have given me time to re-evaluate myself as a writer and more thought to the craft and life overall!
PRIORHOUSE: It was my pleasure and thanks for being so flexible and easy to work with. Here are some links if anyone wants to connect with Annika Perry.
- Author Website / Blog: https://annikaperry.com/
- Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Annika-Perry/e/B0789NNWFX/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/55576285-annika-perry
Thanks for joining us with this author interview. If you have any questions or comments, we would love your feedback.
Also, wishing everyone a Happy New Year.
Welcome to 2022!