Q&A with Lou Kuenzler


Welcome back to our author Q&As! We’re welcoming Lou Kuenzler, author of the Shrinking Violet, Princess Disgrace, and Bella Broomstick series. Today Lou’s joining us on the Scholastic Blog to talk about her brand new book My Family and Other Ghosts

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How did you come up with the idea for My Family and Other Ghosts?
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I have always loved spooky stories and the idea for this one came into my head when I thought what fun it might be if people could meet up with ghostly relatives they have never known. I had a very clear image in my head of the misty figure of Grandpa Digby knocking on a window to attract the twins’ attention. Almost at once, I decided that the window should be eighteen stories up in the sky – and the story began to take shape. At that stage, however, I had no real idea what Grandpa wanted from his grandchildren or how Ivy and Ash might respond to his (very) unexpected arrival. As I wrote the first few chapters, a fun – and slightly spooky – process began to take place as the characters let me know what they were after. This was unusual for me as I normally have more of a plan in mind before I leap in. Grange Grave and its spooky inhabitants just sort of materialised before me. It was a really fun, character-driven way to write.

When it comes to adventures would you say you’re more like Ivy or Ash?
I am a pretty good mix of both the twins when it comes to being adventurous. Like Ash, I am real worrier and am not very physically brave (I don’t like small dark spaces or things which scuttle, for instance). But I am a bit like Ivy too, because the idea of adventure excites me and, once I am actually on my way, I can be quite impulsive and easily carried away. I would definitely like to visit Grave Grange for real – as long as I had someone as brave as Ivy and as loyal as Misty, the ghost hound, alongside me.

What was your favourite childhood book?
I had lots of favourite books as a child – including Black Beauty and The Railway Children which I have recently re-visited to write modern versions for contemporary readers. But what struck me when I was writing My Family and Other Ghosts was how many of the stories I really enjoyed when I was young feature fantastic grandparents in the plots. Who could forget Charlie’s four brilliant and elderly relatives (especially the irrepressible Grandpa Joe) in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory or Heidi’s influence on her stern but loving Grandfather in the classic Swiss novel? I think grandparents make great characters in kid’s stories because they are there to protect and look out for the children they love, but are often a little more relaxed – and sometimes a lot cheekier and more fun – than parents might be. This makes the grandparent/grandchild relationship a really fun one to explore.

What advice do you have for young writers who want to write their own stories?
Like anything that you want to be good at, writing takes practice. If you kick a football, play a guitar or do cartwheels every day, you will get better and better. Writing is no different. Putting words on paper is important – but it is also important to try and think like a writer. Remember sad, funny or scary things which might have happened to you and try to capture those feelings the next time you write. You do not need to recount an event exactly as it happened – but do try and use the feeling to make your stories come alive. For instance, if you see a spider scuttle away down a plughole and it makes you shudder – that is not necessarily exciting enough to write a story about. But, if you capture that fluttery sense of panic the next time your fictional hero encounters a seven-headed sea monster, the adventure will feel more real to your reader and leap off the page. The more we understand how your character feels, the more we will care about what happens to them. This is a great skill to develop.

What message would you most like readers to take away from My Family and Other Ghosts?
Obviously, as the title suggests, the idea of family is very important in this story. And, as it turns out, Ash and Ivy’s family (both living and ghostly) is pretty strange. But, then again, aren’t we all? And isn’t that a wonderful thing! Think how boring life would be if every family was exactly the same… where would be the stories is that?

Buy the book

Lou Kuenzler grew up on a sheep farm in Devon. Since then, Lou has worked as a theatre director and drama teacher. Lou now lives in London with her family, two cats and a dog. She teaches adults and children how to write stories and is lucky enough to write her own books too. Lou has written children’s rhymes, plays and novels as well as stories for CBeebies TV

For more insights into Lou’s world, head over to her Twitter or Website.

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