Monday, January 28, 2013

'Kiwi in Cat City' and Writing for Kids by Vickie Johnstone

 Please extend a welcome to author Vickie Johnstone. For today's stop on the Raining Cats & Dogs book tour, she is here to tell us more about the book and writing for kids. Thanks for stopping by!
Kiwi in Cat City is a story for middle-grade readers, which I wrote in 2002. The heroine, a black cat called Kiwi, is based on a cat I used to have. I’ve always been a bit animal mad. As a kid, one of my best-est buddies was a black cat called Mitzi and we used to ‘chat’ a lot. Well, we did get her when I was about six! In my book, I made Kiwi magical and able to communicate with two children, Amy (aged 12) and James (aged 9), so fulfilling my dream from childhood!

After magically turning Amy and James into kittens, Kiwi takes them to visit her other home of Cat City – a world full of cats who talk, work, have parties, drive around in catcars and live like us. Kiwi introduces the kittens to her friend, Inspector Furrball, the head of the Cat Squad, and they help to investigate a catnapping. I grew up watching Top Cat and Scoobey-Doo, so I guess they were my inspiration!

Although I wrote Kiwi in Cat City in 2002, I didn’t show it to anyone except one publisher, who rejected it, and so I forgot about it. Around Christmas 2011, I discovered kindle self-publishing. Finally, the book was out there, waiting to be read and no longer trapped in a dusty drawer. I met a lot of writers online and, newly inspired, I wrote ten more books. The Kiwi Series has six books now and I hope to write more. The characters go on adventures different worlds, such as the UnderPaw beneath Cat City, the Land of Giant Mice, a haunted house, Father Christmas’ home, the watery Isle of the Serpent and back in time to Ancient Egypt. I love the characters in these books and writing them is like watching a cartoon rolling in my head – I just had to do all the voices myself!

What I love about writing for youngsters is the escapism and freedom of creating fantasy worlds, and throwing in some magic because we all love to believe in things that are out of this world – things that maybe could happen if you wish hard enough. I try to make the language simple to understand, without dumbing it down. Kids are intelligent after all, and learning new words is good. I think they see things that we don’t see. I try to create pictures and build up descriptions, but not too detailed. I try to create a movie with words.

Most of my characters are animals. As a child I loved to read books with creatures in them, like Fantastic Mr Fox and The Three Bears. Growing up, we had a kind of miniature zoo at home and I used to talk to all the animals. My dad bred budgies and I thought I could communicate with them by winking. In writing these Kiwi books, I’m remembering more things from my childhood and recalling all the things I thought were marvellous – talking animals, visiting new worlds, being able to turn into animals, using magic – and, of course, good has to win over evil, because nothing really bad can happen.

The children, Amy and James, are central characters. They’re both good-natured and curious. They like learning new things, discovering new places and meeting new characters – and they are open-minded, even when meeting an octopus or a tiny crab. They’re not judgemental, they don’t approve of bullying and they treat everyone equally. They’re also brave, intelligent and resourceful. On top of that, they love their cat, Kiwi, and treat her on the same level as a person. In the books, the animals have the same rights as humans and wish to be treated with respect.

I think that learning is important. We all learn things as we grow up, and often we learn through making mistakes. We learn what is good and what is bad, and we learn how to trust in ourselves – some characters in the books go through this experience. Good deeds are rewarded and bad ones are not.

I haven’t had many reviews from young readers, but I really treasure them. It’s wonderful to hear what they think. It almost feels like they’ve read the book with me or stepped into it, running with Kiwi and turning into a kitten to go on an adventure. Then I’m reminded of being nine again and escaping into a novel, tucked up in bed.

All in all, I love writing for children. Kids are savvy and open to new things. They are the new generation of discoverers, eager to embark on their own journeys. And some will grow up to write stories that remind them of their childhood dreams.

Kiwi in Cat City

Book blurb:

One dark night, Amy cannot sleep and she looks out of the window into the garden to see her cat, Kiwi, transfixed by the moon, which is glowing brightly like a cat's claw. Waking her brother, James, Amy suggests they follow Kiwi to see where she goes... whether it involves a hunt for mice or something else. Little do they know that, with a flick of her tail, Kiwi is going to magically change them into kittens and lead them on the adventure of their lives to a land they never knew existed in their wildest dreams. In the blue-lit world of Cat City, the budding detectives help Inspector Furrball to solve the mystery of the missing catizens and find out what happened to Madame Purrfect.

For children aged 9+, teens and adults. This book is the first in the Kiwi Series. So far, there are six books.

Buy links:  
Ebook price: $.99/77p

Paperback price: $7.50/£4.86

Author bio:

Vickie Johnstone lives in London, UK, where she works as a freelance sub-editor on magazines and an editor on indie books. She has a thing about fluffy cats and also loves reading, writing, films, the sea, rock music, art, nature, Milky Bar, Baileys and travelling.

Vickie has self-published the following books:

Kaleidoscope (poetry); Travelling Light(poetry); Life’s Rhythms (haiku); 3 Heads & a Tail (comedy); Kiwi in Cat City (magical cat series for middle grade readers); Kiwi and the Missing Magic; Kiwi and the Living Nightmare; Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle; Kiwi in the Realm of Ra; Kiwi’s Christmas Tail; Day of the Living Pizza (comedy detective series for middle grade readers), and Dayof the Pesky Shadow. The Kiwi Series has illustrations by Nikki McBroom.

Author links:

Twitter: @vickiejohnstone 

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  1. Thank you for hosting Vickie today, Andrea, and thank you for supporting us both with this tour.

  2. Great post, Vickie.

    I admire anyone that can write for children. I would find it too difficult.

  3. Thank you so much for hosting me! Purrs :)