Interview with Vickie Johnstone Author of the Kiwi in Cat City
Today we would like to welcome Vickie Johnstone to YAPC! She is going to tell us about her Kiwi series and her book Kiwi in Cat City which is one of the books in the series. If this looks like something you would be interested in reading, use the buy links to go grab a copy!
YAPC: Try to describe your book in one sentence.
Vickie: A magical, black feline called Kiwi takes her human best pals, Amy and James, on an adventure to Cat City to help Inspector Furrball investigate a catnapping.
YAPC: Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
Vickie: I once visited Alaska and loved it. I stayed in a hostel in a place called Homer. It made me laugh when I saw it on the map cos of The Simpsons, but it’s beautiful. It’s sort of a long spit with sand on each side and just one long road from the mainland down to the bottom. There are some shops and I remember eating scrummy Pollack sticks in a fish place there. We sat outside in the sun. There was a competition thing for fishermen, with a cartoon fish and a measure – they’d stand there with their biggest catch of the day to get their picture taken! I loved it there. You could sit on the sand and look out across the clear sea to see these hazy blue mountains in the distance. I’d probably like to live there. I also visited Talkeetna, which had a random, quirky Moose Dropping Festival at the time, where you pick a dried dropping with a number on, and they’re all dropped from the air on to a target. The closest number wins! Denali National Park is awesome. If I remember rightly, it would take six hours to walk across it. Bears, moose, wolves and caribou wander there, wild. You can camp there too. I saw black bears, a wolf and a beautiful caribou. I went home moose-less, but it was an amazing trip. Totally different toLondon, where I live. I hope one day to go back.
YAPC: What’s your current guilty pleasure?
Vickie: Watching Buffy kick some vampire butt while eating Milky Bar chocolate.
YAPC: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Vickie: Yes, since I was a kid. I always had my nose in a book and when I wasn’t reading, I was daydreaming. My head was always in the clouds and imagining things. I used to think that books could come true. That one day I’d be wandering through the woods and if I was very lucky I’d find the giant tree from The Faraway Tree and meet Moonface in his round house! Sigh! I remember writing a story in Junior School. The class was reading Miss Pepperpot and our homework was to write something similar. I wrote one starring my classmates and the teacher read it out. Maybe the buzz started there.
YAPC: What do you love about writing?
Vickie: I like creating things. I also used to paint and draw, and I love visiting galleries and watching films. I just love arty things. With writing, I love that you can make something. You can build worlds, invent characters and create whatever you like. The story can go wherever you want it to go and the characters can do whatever you want them to. Sometimes, when I was younger, I would read a book and hate the ending, especially if my fave someone got bumped off! If you’re writing yourself, you can make the ending how you like. They can all live happily ever after if you want. I like the fact that you can just go wild with your imagination. It’s unstoppable really. There are no barriers. Total freedom. The icing on the cake is when someone actually reads one of my books and the greatest thing is if they enjoy it.
YAPC: What was your favourite scene?
Vickie: My favourite scene in Kiwi in Cat City is when Amy and James decide to follow their cat one night. All of a sudden, Kiwi turns round and asks them why they are following her. They are so shocked that she can speak that they are lost for words. That’s my fave bit. When I was a kid, I always wished I could have a conversation with my pets. We always had cats and I used to talk to them! Let’s face it, I still do, and still wish they would answer back! I want to ask my cat why she sleeps so much and if all that fur is hot?!
YAPC: Where do you get your inspiration?
Vickie: I’m inspired by all sorts of things. The Kiwi Series is based on a cat I used to have called Kiwi. I wrote Kiwi in Cat City in 2002, when she was still alive, and I’ve been writing the follow-ups in the series since 2011. The first book began as a poem and then I thought I’d write a book with Kiwi as a strong, but cheeky heroine. As it got bigger, it became a whole city full of cats, all doing their own thing. I’ve just finished the fifth book. I recently wrote a story called Day of the Living Pizza. Inspiration came because it was written for an anthology of stories and poems to raise money for children’s charities. We initially created the book, The Gage Project, for an author friend’s son, Gage, who was about to have a scary operation. We wanted to give him something fun and enjoyable to read while he recovered. Gage likes zombie films, pizza and metal music, so I wrote a story about all three things. I also write poetry, and everything inspires me for those. I write them quite quickly and they’re like a trickle of thoughts. I make up characters, imagine them in situations or feeling something, or I write about nature, animals, the sea, thoughts, life, philosophy. The other day there was a full moon, so that inspired something. Inspiration is all around.
YAPC: Do you have an all time favorite book?
Vickie: I have two: Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.
I think Roald Dahl is amazing and I love his books. He managed to write for both kids and adults, and he weaves terrific tales, full of imagination and unpredictable things. I loveElizabethand Darcy – two of my fave characters – and the background of the rights/hardship of women in a man’s world.
YAPC: How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?
Vickie: I think it’s important. I’d love to have a big fan base, but my books aren’t well known. I have some pages on FB for my books – one for the Kiwi Series, a general author page and one for my poetry. If people comment, I’ll respond. I think it’s important to reply to people. If someone has read a book of mine and liked it, that’s terrific. I read all of my reviews – if I get a bad one, I take it on the chin. If I get a good one then the sun is shining all day! I also read and review books by other writers. I use twitter and would chat to readers on there. I also have a website for my Kiwi books. I’m trying to make it more interactive so that readers can get in touch about the series there. I’m also running a competition there for anyone who’d like to see their pet become a guest star in one of my books. I just put my friend’s son’s pet hamster in one!
YAPC: If you could visit any place in the world or a place created by a book, where would you visit?
Vickie: I’d go to Narnia. I want to meet Aslan and Mr Tumnus as he’s cool. I’d head there in the winter, but I’d be dodging that evil Snow Queen, no matter how much Turkish Delight she has. I think the characters in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are amazing. Lewis Carroll paints an amazing world and I think he influenced many other writers too. I also want to meet the little sword-fighting mouse! He’s a cheeky one.
YAPC: How many more books can we expect in this series?
Vickie: I’m not sure. I’ll keep writing them until I run out of ideas. I love the characters and thinking up new kitties. I’ve just finished book five, which is set in Ancient Egypt, called Kiwi in the Realm of Ra. I had to do some research for it, but a lot of the stuff I remembered from school. I loved history and it was my fave time. I enjoyed reading all about the pyramids, the gods and goddesses, their clothes and beliefs, etc. So different and cool.
Other Books in the Kiwi Cat Series (Ages 10 and up):
Kiwi and the Missing Magic
Kiwi and the Living Nightmare
Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle
Coming soon: Kiwi in the Realm of Ra
Other MG/YA works:
Day of the Living Pizza (for age 10 up)
3 Heads & A Tail (for age 16 up)
Kaleidoscope – poetry
Life’s Rhythms – haiku
Travelling Light – free poetry
About the Author: Hi, I live in London and I have been writing since I was small. In March, I published a collection of 119 poems, called Kaleidoscope, via Amazon Kindle Publishing, and in April I published a book for children called Kiwi in Cat City.
I work as a sub editor on business magazines, enjoying the delights of mining, geodrilling and tunnelling.
Good luck to everyone with your writing and happy reading.
Where to Find Her and Her Books:
Where to Buy:
Kiwi in Cat City
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.
Sample Illustration by Nikki McBroom