INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR OF, "THE KINGDOM OF LOST CHILDREN", LYDIA CARTER
Hello Lydia! It is so wonderful to have this opportunity to interview you. You have quite a few books you have written, tell us more about each one and the inspiration behind them.
Thank you so much Kitty; it’s a pleasure!
Well, I have many books floating around in my head but the first to be released is my illustrated YA novel, Kingdom of Lost Children. Kingdom of Lost Children: The Book of Ren, is the first in a series of YA fantasy novels, following the adventures of Leyla and her orphaned ‘siblings’ Christian, Lizzie, Seph, Jasmine, Caterina and Ali.
After Leyla’s mother mysteriously disappears on her sixth birthday, Leyla is forced to live in a small orphanage run by the cruel and corrupt town mayor, Lord Faolan. Now at fifteen, Leyla is having bizarre and frightening visions compelling her to return to her haunting past and question the truth about her mother's disappearance.
But when Leyla discovers an ancient script in her old childhood home she is thrust into a world she never expected; a world filled with strange creatures, secrets and dark magic. There is more to Leyla’s past than she realised and more than just her future is threatened. Only an ancient book holds the key to her survival but Leyla is not the only one after the book's great power…
The Book of Ren involved a great deal of research into ancient Egyptian, Sumerian and Hebrew myths, beliefs, writings and languages. The ‘Ztepian’ language used in the book was created from a combination of these languages; the term, Ztep Tepi, being an ancient Egyptian term meaning, ‘first time’. The book takes the reader back to a time before time and a forgotten world secretly linked with our own. Here, Leyla discovers dark and evil forces on both worlds are plotting the unimaginable in a conspiracy to rule and Leyla and the other children are in grave danger. Leyla must find the Book of Ren, a book of ancient and powerful magic, to not only save her own life, but also the lives of those she loves before they are lost forever.
Although this is a fantasy book, there are many layers to this story that many people can identify with; love and loss, betrayal, learning to have faith in yourself and your abilities, speaking out and standing up against abuse and oppression, and whatever the circumstances may be, never giving up hope.
You were born into a very large family, how do you think this has been an inspiration in your writing career if any?
I do have a very large extended family. My grandmother was one of 10 children! I love hearing her stories of growing up in that environment; it is so full of community and happy childhood adventures!
My immediate family is much smaller. As my mother and I moved around a lot when I was child, and my brother and sister were not born until I was much older, in my early years, I spent a lot of time on my own. I missed having access to family but in the end it developed in me a big imagination! I loved reading and could spend hours imagining my own stories. I also spent a great deal of time drawing which developed my skills as an illustrator.
Our travels had a big impact on me too. Living in England added a gothic edge to my writing. Any moment I could spend in a gothic church, cemetery (yes, as morbid as it sounds…) or museum, I was there. The mystery, atmosphere and history surrounding these places fascinated me. It wasn’t easy changing schools all of the time but exposure to other countries opened my mind to many different cultures and that comes across in my work.
My mother was also always one to encourage my brother, sister and I to follow our hearts. Her belief and encouragement was instrumental in giving me the confidence to become a writer.
You speak so fondly of your family and growing up, tell us one of your most favorite memories of that time.
Growing up, there were some very difficult times. My real father left when I was only six and my stepfather was a very abusive and manipulative man. Somehow, despite it all, my mother, brother, sister and I would steal away and find moments of relief and laughter. These were wonderful times of hope.
I think my most precious memories are of reading to my brother and sister when they were little. There was such a closeness in those moments filled with love and safety.
Who are some of your favorite authors and inspirations that have helped you along the way?
I’ve always been partial to, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My favourite scene is when she is forced to be a servant and is made to sleep, hungry and cold in the attic; she uses her imagination to pretend she is attending a rich, colourful banquet in India. It is a wonderfully described example of using the imagination to survive a terrible situation.
As for inspirations, they come from a number of sources. I’ve always been fascinated by ancient history, people and their beliefs. When you see structures like the pyramids and the Temple of Karnak, it’s extraordinary to think they were built five thousand years ago. These are structures, with all of our modern technology, we are unable to replicate today. Today, we look at flat slabs of grey concrete high-rises built by businesses competing to see who can be better and bigger. Thousands of years ago, architects, writers, artists and sculptors all worked together to create a beautiful structure that was not only functional but had a deeper meaning into their beliefs and society. We like to think we are so much more advanced and civilised but there is so much we seem to have lost.
I am also inspired by life and the challenges many of us face, often to survive. WHO (World Health Organisation) estimates there are over five million children in forced labour or prostitution, one hundred and fifty three thousand girls and seventy three thousand boys facing domestic, sexual or physical abuse. It saddens and angers me that there are so many dealing with this and that so little is being done about it. As someone who has faced abuse, this is an issue that is very close to my heart and one I can speak about from experience. Kingdom of Lost Children, takes the perspective of children dealing with abuse and oppression and the challenges they face to speak out about it; shame, fear, society’s complacency, lies and manipulation used by an abuser. My blog post, ‘Why Your Greatest Power is Your Voice’ gives direct links to worldwide helplines for anyone facing this issue or for anyone who knows someone facing abuse: http://www.kingdomoflostchildren.co...-is-your-voice.
Ten percent of the proceeds of my book, as well as ten percent of proceeds from artwork associated with the book, are also donated to a small yet wonderful organisation, The Grey Man, dedicated to fighting the trafficking and exploitation of children. Ninety-five percent of all donations are used directly toward their work, unlike many charities that use a large proportion for self promotion. They are receptive to any way you can help, be it donations, dedication of your time and skills or spreading the word. You can check them out by going to: www.thegreyman.org
You are a very religious person and it shows not only in your bio but your writing. Tell us more about how God has made a difference in your life.
I’m not a religious person but I do believe in God. To me, religion and God are two different things. People often get so caught up in tradition and rules (and sometimes corruption) created by people they forget the true message.
A good example of this is the way many people have jumped on the biblical passage, Matthew 5:31-32.
31It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
The last sentence is really shocking when you read it. What if a woman and her children are suffering abuse? What if her husband cheated on her or abandoned her; she can never remarry? What is interesting here is, in that last sentence, the King James Bible incorrectly translated the original Greek word, apolelumenEn, which is the past tense of, apoluseE, meaning, “put away,” not divorce. In ancient times it was common for a man to “put away” his wife if she no longer pleased him as he could marry numerous times. When you now read the two verses making this amendment and place it in historical context, you see that what Jesus was saying is, if you put away your wife, give her a legal divorcement so that she can remarry legally (this was also to protect her from a cruel husband who may later come back, accuse her of adultery, and have her stoned to death). Strangely, although this word appears two previous times in the verses, correctly translated as “put away”, the translators chose to translate the word as divorced, even though the actual term for divorce, apostation, is a completely different word and is correctly translated in verse 31. This is why it so very important for people to do their research and not just blindly follow what people tell them. As a result of this one little passage, many religious women stay in abusive relationships because they believe it is a sin or shameful to do otherwise.
Jesus was actually frustrated by the religious leaders of his day for exactly the same reason. He taught compassion, generosity, love, open-mindedness, common sense and to be non-judgemental. One of my favourite stories in the bible (and one that corresponds with the above point) is when the scribes and Pharisees (religious leaders of the day) decide to stone the adulteress, Jesus said the simple words, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ (John 8) None of them could, of course. He was also fiercely protective of children, the weak, sick and the poor. His example, to me, is a true example of what God really is.
It is this belief of what God is that has seen me through some very difficult times. I truly believe, if there were no God or guardian angels listening to my prayers, there are times in my life I could not have survived.
What are some of the novels you have that are forthcoming and when can we expect more from you?
Kingdom of Lost Children tells of five magical books, all based around the ancient Egyptian belief of the five parts of a person. The first book, the Book of Ren, had the power of the Name. In ancient times, it was believed that as long as the name survived (even past physical death) it could be used to acquire the knowledge and magical powers of the person or persons who owned the name. This is why a name in ancient Egyptian text was surrounded by a protective ‘magic circle’ or cartouche of protection.
The four remaining books are: Ba, the soul; Ka, the life force; Ib, the heart and Sheut, the shadow. I am currently working on, Kingdom of Lost Children: The Book of Shadows, which will be the second book in the series.
Give us an idea of what a day in the life of Lydia is like.
Haha, an attempt at organised chaos! As I am also an illustrator and graphic designer, no two days are the same. It is a whirlwind of writing, illustrating, graphic design and art commissions, maintaining websites, blogs, interacting with readers and art lovers. Somewhere in-between, I try to squeeze in some regular life.
Do you allow your family to read and critique your writing before it is published?
I would be happy for them to but they aren’t novel readers (I’m the odd one out!). They often say, they hope the book becomes a film as they would definitely watch it! My husband does read novels but he’s into adventure and true crime. Fantasy isn’t his thing but he has been so supportive of me and my work. That means the world to me. Both of my brothers-in-law enjoyed Kingdom of Lost Children though! Everyone is different but I am very excited and blessed by the positive response my book has received by the public.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your life besides family and writing?
Well, I started my career as a designer and I continued in that field for many years. I first began writing, Kingdom of Lost Children, ten years ago in every spare moment I had. It took a lot of courage to take a leap of faith and follow my heart. I’m so glad I did! But when people contact me to say my book inspired them to follow their dream or helped them to deal with abuse or a trauma they have faced, I feel the greatest accomplishment of all.
Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other authors, or in general that you think would be beneficial to our readers? Also we'd love you to share your links and let us know where we can find out more about you.
Never stop learning, never listen to negativity and never give up! I often think of Thomas Edison’s response to a critical reporter, ‘I haven’t failed, just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.’ Despite all of the criticism, mistakes and years of hard work, Edison went on to not only light and perfect the two and three wire lightbulb, he proceeded to create the very first power grid. Edison didn’t stop learning; every time he failed was a learning experience. He refused to listen to negativity which could have caused him to quit too soon. He never gave up and look at what he achieved! What an awesome way to live!
Kingdom of lost Children: The Book of Ren is now in digital format and will be available in print in late 2012. To find out more about, Kingdom of Lost Children, you can visit the official website: http://www.kingdomoflostchildren.com
You can also join the Kingdom of Lost Children Facebook Page for free wallpaper downloads of some of the illustrations included in the book, as well as updates, freebies, special offers and more! http://www.facebook.com/KingdomofLostChildren
All artwork was done by Lydia herself on her novel; the picture of Lydia is courtesy of: