Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Interview + Giveaway with Caroline Stellings, author of The Scratch on the Ming Vase

Earlier in the month I reviewed a book called The Scratch on the Ming Vase, written by Caroline Stellings. Well, today I have her on the blog to share more about herself and the books she’s written. There is also a giveaway provided by the publishing company. Welcome, Caroline!

Tell us a little about yourself and the books you’ve written.

First of all, thanks to Erika for inviting me to her wonderful web site. As a somewhat reclusive artist, who lives in the woods, and has limited access to the Internet, it is especially great for me to be able to take part.

It was twenty years ago when I was working on a Ph.D. that I decided to escape academia and become a writer/illustrator instead. I began by learning to paint wildlife in watercolour, and had just started selling my work, when I got myself a terrific new dog -- a Schipperke-- which means "little Captain" in Flemish. I wanted to do picture books about him sailing the world. After writing and illustrating six such books, I was finally published, and spent many more years creating books for young children. I am a huge fan of Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter, and I have tried to reflect their work in my own.

Along the way, I wanted to try a middle grade story, and wrote "The Contest" about a Native girl (Mohawk) from Hamilton who enters an Anne of Green Gables lookalike contest. When this book was published by Second Story press, and won a gold medal in New York City, I figured maybe I ought to think more about writing longer books.

As a young person, I loved Nancy Drew, so mystery stories had been floating around in the back of my mind for years. But I knew that if I was to write a mystery, it would need to be something different, with a twist. So I made my heroine Chinese - - born in China, left on the side of the road because she was a girl, then adopted by super-rich hotel owners. This way, she can travel the world but not be just another snobby rich girl. "The Scratch on the Ming Vase" is the first of the Nicki Haddon mystery series. In this one, she is recruited by CSIS and the FBI to work in intelligence.

What will your next book be about?

The next Nicki Haddon book is "The Secret of the Golden Flower" and it takes Nicki (a.k.a. Fu Yin) to London to train as a spy. Of course, she gets caught up in a mystery - - in this case, she discovers that an evil florist is smuggling large amounts of heroin in shipments of poppy pods. Nicki’s kung fu skills are called upon once again, when she is trapped in an ancient moated castle in the Channel Islands.

I’ve always loved comedy, too. My favourite book in the world is Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I. So the other new book I have coming out is "The Manager" which is a funny story about a young woman that becomes a boxing manager in Cape Breton in 1979. Johnny Carson has a cameo. 

What is the first line of the first book in your bookcase?

Grab your magnifying glass, because this is a mystery story.

The first line is from "Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her" -- a marvelous nonfiction book by Melanie Rehak about the history of the series, and the real authors of Nancy Drew -- Mildred Wirt and Harriet Stratemeyer. I read it for inspiration; Mildred Wirt managed to write about ten books a year!

If you could live in any time period (other than the current one) which one would you choose? 

I was born in the 1960’s and that’s the era for me! My only problem would be deciding between living in Mayberry, where I could have supper with Aunt Bea and Andy, or residing near Uncle Bill’s Park Avenue apartment in New York, where I could hang around Cissy and listen to her records of the Velvet Vultures. Maybe Mr. French would serve us some Charlotte Russe on the terrace. I guess I could choose something in the middle: living next door to the Baxters and having brownies in Hazel’s kitchen sounds good.

Do you have a favourite line or two from one of your book(s)? What is it? 

Although "The Scratch on the Ming Vase" is a contemporary spy story, the prologue takes place in 1901, in Honolulu. My favourite lines are the first two:

On a balmy night in the middle of August, an assassin skims through the darkened streets of Chinatown. The claptrap restaurants and laundries are sprawled over a dozen blocks, a maze of crazy alleys with no beginning and no end. 

How many finished stories did you write before seeing your first book published? Do you think you'll ever go back to them and try again?

Because I started out with picture books, I have several of them in drawers, complete with illustrations, waiting to be published. I think one day I’ll start sending them out again. Right now, I am focused on the YA books, and I was lucky enough to have the ones I’d written published from the start, so I don’t have any to go back to. I do, however, have a million ideas filed away in my mind.

What advice would you give your teen readers about life?

Do whatever it takes to preserve your individuality.

Thank you for sharing with us today, Caroline! You can read more about Caroline and her book The Scratch on the Ming Vase below:

The Scratch on the Ming Vase 
by Caroline Stellings

An attack on her kung-fu master leads a budding spy on a mysterious adventure

Born in China, Nicki Haddon was adopted by a wealthy North American family as a baby. Now sixteen, she has a talent for kung fu beyond her years, a fierce independent streak, and a growing curiosity about her birth family.

Nicki is all set to train with at the Fire Dragon Academy with David Kahana, a kung fu grand master, when she reports to the studio to find him stabbed and lying in a pool of blood. As he lapses into a coma, he begs her to find a priceless Ming dynasty vase that once belonged to Pu Yi, the Boy Emperor.

Over seven days of danger and deception, Nicki will rely on her wits, her martial arts training, and some unexpected allies – including Fenwick, the family butler – to uncover the criminal mastermind behind the plot to steal the vase.

A Nicki Haddon Mystery

 Find it on Amazon and Chapters.

Or add it to your Goodreads list.

About the author:

Caroline Stellings is an award-winning author and illustrator. Her book The Contest, part of the Gutsy Girl series, won the 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year Award and was a finalist for the 2010/11 Hackmatack prize. Besides her many books for children and young adults, she is also the writer of The Nancy Drew Crookbook, a long running series in The Sleuth magazine. She lives in Waterdown, Ontario.


2 copies of The Scratch on the Ming Vase.
The winner has a choice of a print book or a code for the ebook on iTunes.
Open Internationally. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Good luck!

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1 comment:

  1. +JMJ+

    When I saw the cover and title come up on my GFC feed, I just knew this would be a Mystery! I can't tell you how much I love Mystery novels with young protagonists! (Yes, I grew up on Nancy Drew, too. LOL!)

    A friend of mine recently adopted a toddler from China and another friend recommended that we watch a documentary about four Chinese girls adopted by American parents; so I'm primed to read about a protagonist like Nicki. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention and making the giveaway international! I have my fingers crossed! =D

    PS -- Caroline's first book The Contest sounds wonderful, too. I should definitely check out her entire backlist!