Interview with Kristin Butcher

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Interview with Kristin Butcher

Posted on July 8 by Kristin Butcher
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Kristin Butcher, author of Truths I Learned From Sam, sits down with us to tell us about her most recent book, which character she's most attached to, what her new project is along with a couple of other things!

Caitlyn: Tell us about your book.

Kristin: My book is titled Truths I Learned from Sam. It is a YA novel set in British Columbia's ruggedly beautiful Cariboo country during the summer. Always open to new experiences, seventeen-year-old Dani would normally welcome a six-week change of scenery, but not this time. Dani's mother is getting married -- for the fifth time -- and while she jets around Europe with her newest husband, Dani is forced to stay with an uncle she didn't even know she had. The summer has disaster written all over it, so Dani is pleasantly surprised when her uncle, Sam, turns out to be a wise-cracking, baseball-loving, book-addicted, bronco-bustin' cowboy, who also knows his way around a kitchen. He is such a fascinating character that Dani's misgivings evaporate and the two hit it off right away. Things get even better when Sam sets Dani up with riding lessons at a local ranch, where she finds college student, Micah and romance. But as her time with Sam winds down, Dani inadvertently makes a discovery that turns her dream summer into a nightmare.

Caitlyn: In your own work, which character are you most attached to and why?

Kristin: For me, stories are all about character. Certainly plot is important, but if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to be affected by it, does it matter? Consequently I tend to use plot as a vehicle for showing my characters' strengths, weaknesses, and growth. Generally, my characters come to me much as if they had knocked on my front door. I don't create them; they are who they are. The characters in Truths I Learned from Sam are no different, except that in my mind, when I picture Sam, I see the actor, Sam Elliott. When Sam speaks, I hear Sam Elliott's voice (think Dodge Ram commercials, people). And, of course, Sam Elliott plays the ultimate cowboy in so many of his movies, that he was the perfect model for my character. I didn't set out to clone my character after him; it just happened. If Sam Elliott ever reads this novel, I hope he is flattered that he inspired such a compelling character.

Caitlyn: What's the best advice you've ever received as a writer?

Kristin: I've picked up lots of extraordinary words of wisdom along the writing road, and heeding them has definitely helped me hone my skills, but one nugget that really made me understand the power of words wasn't even passed along as writing advice. It was something my grade two teacher said after she had punished me. It was the Friday spelling test, and the student in front of me had turned to borrow my eraser. The teacher immediately chastised us, and being highly principled and moral -- even at age seven -- I indignantly told her that we weren't cheating. That response earned me a trip to the hall. When the teacher came to retrieve me afterwards, I again insisted that we hadn't been cheating. "You aren't in trouble for what you said," the teacher told me, "but for how you said it." And that's when I became addicted to words and what they can do. As a writer, I know I'm not going to come up with a story that has never been told before, but if I can tell it in a way that reaches people's hearts and makes them think, then I've achieved something.

Caitlyn: Describe the most memorable response you've received from a reader.

Kristin: When I present at schools, I allow time at the end for students to ask me questions about my books or writing in general. The questions are usually pretty standard. "Where do you get your ideas?" "How long does it take to write a book?" "Which of your books is your favourite?" Those sorts of things. But every now and then, I get asked something for which I don't have a stock answer. Anyway, on this particular day, a young man asked me, "What is your biggest regret in life?" Whoa! Here was a question worth thinking about, but when you are standing in front of 150 kids, think-time is not a luxury you have. I could only hope that I could think as I talked. So I said, "I don't have any regrets. That's not to say that I've always made wise choices and that everything has turned out wonderful. I haven't and life hasn't. But I think of life as a journey, and right now I'm exactly where I want to be. I don't think I could have gotten here without experiencing all the things that have gone before -- even the bad stuff. So I can honestly say I have no regrets." I'm not sure I had ever thought about my life that way before -- I tend to look forward, not behind -- so I'm thankful to that boy for making me peek through a window I might otherwise never have noticed. It helped me understand myself better.

Caitlyn: What is your new project?

Kristin: I'm rubbing my hands together and grinning like a cheshire cat. New projects are always so exciting. The thing is I seldom have just one. Firstly, I'm working on what I hope will be a sequel to Truths I Learned from Sam. It's called In Search of Sam, and because I don't want to give away any of the story from Truths before it hits the bookstores (that will be March 2nd!), I can't tell you anything about the sequel. Just cross your fingers that Dundurn wants to publish it. I'm also working on an historical, murder mystery fantasy called The Sentinel of Mabry Moor. I'm not quite halfway done, but it is so different from anything I've written before, that I am having a blast writing it. Of course, I have a million other stories too in various stages of completion, so I'm definitely going to stay busy.

Kristin Butcher

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Kristin Butcher

Kristin Butcher is the author of twenty books for children. She has been shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award, the CLA Children's Book of the Year, the Red Cedar Award, the IODE Violet Downey Book Award, and the Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award, among others. Kristin lives in Campbell River, British Columbia.