Meet Kathryn Apel, author of On Track (UQP)
Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Kathryn. Where are you based?
I’m based in Queensland – most often in the Gladstone/Bundaberg Region.
What’s your background in books?
I haven’t always been a writer – but I’ve always been a reader!
As a teacher, books have always been an integral part of rich classroom units. Everything is linked to a book! This then carried over to my parenting – sharing that love of literature and literacy with my kids, and learning so much from their interpretations and engagement.
Thank-you! I always think of the title as the ultimate short story. Ideally, it captures the reader’s attention, but also encapsulates the story in a nutshell.
A major theme of the story is the boys’ sporting pursuits, both on track and in the field. Both boys also struggle with self-worth and identity – as sibling rivalry clouds their perceptions of self. So they’re getting on track in pursuit of their sporting goals and in their interactions with each other.
How did you make brothers, Toby and Shaun’s voices distinct from each other?
Initially it helped to model their voices off kids I have known, who shared similar personalities. That way I got the right inflection of confidence/uncertainty. Before long, Toby and Shaun started to speak for themselves, because I know them so well. (Especially after 6 years of ‘writing’ (or not) the story.)
What sort of children would you like to see reading this book?
Because of the dual narratives – and the two very different perspectives – I think the story actually speaks to different people in different ways. And I like that – because it’s very much about empathy and understanding differences.
The verse novel structure also tends to reach two completely opposite ends of the reading spectrum. It engages/enables struggling readers, because the whitespace and alignment removes clutter from the read. But also extends/enriches able readers, because of the literary devices employed.
Of course, being a sporty book, I’m hoping that sporty kids will also enjoy the read!
Your adult characters are very supportive. How did you craft them?
I’ve been blessed by knowing some very beautiful people; who value kids, and invest time and heart into helping them achieve their best – at their individual levels. I hope that’s come through in the book. They’ve inspired many of the characters.
Sometimes I think, being a parent and a teacher, you encounter/experience both sides. That doesn’t mean you always agree with everything – but you have an insight into why some decisions (and mistakes) happen.
Why have you used the verse novel form?
This is actually the first verse novel I started to write, after falling in love with the verse novel format. (Bully on the Bus just snuck in … and out … in the middle.)
To be honest, I actively set out to write a verse novel, to play with the form and see if I could do it. I chased down an idea that I thought would fit the format, and the story developed from there. I hadn’t realised the theme (training/sports) would grow to encompass so much (self-worth/sibling rivalry/acceptance) – or that the story would grow so long!
The beauty of verse novels is that, because they’re mostly written in first person, and because they’re almost distilled words and emotions, you step right into the characters’ shoes. Their heartaches become your tears, their insecurities become your introspections, and their achievements become your joy.
The first verse novel I read was an epiphany. The more I read them … the more I write them … the more I talk about them … the more I love them!
What I’ve had published is;
a verse novel (Bully on the Bus).
a rhyming picture book (This is the Mud)
a chapter book (Fencing with Fear)
I’ve also written a squillion other picture books – and have two other verse novels that are works-in-progress.
All the best with your book and thanks very much, Kathryn.
Great questions, Joy. Thanks so much for inviting me onto the blog.
And here’s a link to the book trailer http://youtu.be/rkJsFSCT1Ec