Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Interview with Karen Krossing, Author of BOG

In the midnight forests of the north, a cave troll named Bog has spent his young life hunting with his father and avoiding humans whenever possible. When his father is mercilessly turned to stone by the Troll Hunter’s followers, Bog sets out to find the murderers and avenge his father. But with no leads and little knowledge of the human world, Bog knows his journey won’t be easy. Along the way, he meets a huge forest troll named Small and a young human girl named Hannie. Together, they venture deeper into human territory, where they learn of the legendary Nose Stone—a rock rumoured to bring a stone troll back to life. Hope fills Bog’s heart, but when he discovers the Troll Hunter is also going after the Nose Stone to destroy it, his quest becomes a race of cunning, trickery, and wits.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  Don't you just want to avoid whatever you're supposed to be doing, make yourself a cup of tea, and curl up with BOG?  (The book, I meanmaybe not the troll!)  Today we welcome BOG's creator, author Karen Krossing to our blog.

Lena: Welcome to the Enchanted Inkpot, Karen! As you know, I am a great fan.

Karen: Thanks for the interview, Lena. If Bog, were here, he’d affectionately yank your nose in greeting.

Lena: Well...I suppose I'd yank his right back, then.

You’ve been very busy lately, haven't you? Your book CUT THE LIGHTS came out in October, BOG is just out, and you’ve just come back from your TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour. Many Enchanted Inkpot readers are in the US and might not know about Book Week, so we’d love to have you tell us about it. Where did you go and what was it like?

Karen: I have been busy! I’m just back from Vancouver, where I toured local schools and libraries, giving writing workshops and readings. Book Week is a national celebration of books and reading, organized by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. For one week, touring authors and illustrators bring the magic of books and reading to over 25,000 children and teens. I was thrilled to be able to connect with readers—and to go looking for trolls in the forests of western Canada.

Lena: I know that you’ve been working on Bog for a long time, that it’s one of those labour-of-love books. How long did it take and what was the writing process like?

Karen: BOG took ten years to conceive, write and publish, and it certainly was a labour of love. I stopped writing BOG several times during those years because the story needed more time to mature. Some books just take longer to develop in the writer’s subconscious, I think. So I researched my characters and world further—both troll lore and the rugged, wilderness setting for my book—and I planned my plot twists and turns. I also approached other writers for feedback on my early drafts.

Lena: What made you decide to write about trolls? Did you research them, or did you make up the

One of Karen's readings in British Columbia, Canada
Karen: I first conceived the idea for BOG after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the ensuing war on terror. I wanted to write about cultural hatred fostered by learned biases from previous generations. But the novel is also a reaction to ethnic conflicts the world over—anywhere where there is prejudice against another cultural group instead of acceptance and understanding of differences.

I chose to write about trolls because, in literature, they’re traditionally considered vile to humans. The point of view of a troll character sets up humans as “monsters,” asking what morals and values make us human versus monster. For me, the novel explores the journey from hatred to tolerance.

I researched troll lore in Norse mythology as well as ingenious legends before creating my version of trolls. These trolls are family oriented and in tune with nature. They tend to avoid humans, and they have a rich storytelling culture. Like in traditional troll lore, they are night dwellers, since sunlight turns them to stone. It was great fun to imagine the details about my trolls and their world, but it was also challenging.

Lena: Bog is such an amazing character. He’s so complex and so flawed. How did you develop him?

Karen: When I started writing a book from the point of view of a cave troll, it fit with who I am. Somehow, writing about a fur-covered beast was natural to me. I developed Bog by thinking about his contradictions. He’s deeply caring yet deeply wounded by the loss of his father. He has adopted his father’s prejudices against humans as well as his strong commitment to family, so it’s hard for Bog to see beyond his family biases to the reality of his world. I think the conflicts that are built into his character make him appealing and fascinating.

Looking for trolls in BC forests
Lena: I love your fantasy writing, but you’re known more for your gritty contemporary stories like THE YO-YO PROPHET. Will you be writing more fantasy now? *crosses fingers*

Karen: Yes! I adore writing both fantasy and realistic contemporary fiction. Although my next book will be realistic (PUNCH LIKE A GIRL, Orca Book Publishers, Spring 2015), my current work-in-progress definitely falls within the fantasy genre. It’s tentatively titled THE WANTON CRIMINAL, and it’s about a fantastical trial of the absurd.

Lena: You seem to really get that middle grade and lower YA age group. What were you like back then? Were you a big reader at that age and if so, what were you reading?

Karen: I was terribly shy, quietly rebellious and fiercely independent. As a teen, I wrote angsty poems and rants, and planned to be a writer—maybe when I retired. I didn’t think writing could become a career, maybe because I’d never met any professional writers. I was also a reader, and I read anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t distinguish between literary and commercial fiction; I consumed everything from trashy romances and Archie comics to Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and Judy Blume. I was hungry to understand the world from any source.

Lena: In addition to your writing, I know that you are very keyed in to the writing community in Canada. You’re the former president of CANSCAIP, you work with teen writers…. Do you find that this feeds your writing or does it take time away from it?

Karen: I find that connecting to other writers helps my writing in many ways. I’m a firm believer in writing groups and the value of quality feedback from trusted fellow writers. I also find that my community encourages me when the daily grind of writing becomes challenging. So I like to give back to that community. I feel it’s important to support the creators of literature for kids and teens, so that we can all have fabulous new stories to read.

Lena: Thanks so much for dropping by the Inkpot today, Karen!  If anyone would like to try their luck at winning a copy of BOG, Karen is having a Goodreads Giveaway.  And have a look at her book trailer!

Lena Coakley's first novel, Witchlanders, was called “one stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for the Americas.  It is a 2013 MYRCA nominee and a 2013 OLA White Pine honouree.  Lena is also the author of two children’s picture books and the former administrative director of CANSCAIP. Learn more about her at


  1. Thank you both so much for the great interview! I enjoyed hearing about your process, Karen, it is so interesting that you needed to do so much research for the book. I am looking forward to reading BOG - it sounds fabulous!

  2. Thanks, Erin. I hope you enjoy the book.

  3. Love the cover and the trailer. Karen was the trailer shot in Canada too? It could be a tourist come to Canada promotion it looks so beautiful. I love the sound of book week, connecting with so many kids, teachers and parents! Congratulations on a fabulous new book, and Lena, thanks for a great interview!

  4. Isn't that cover wonderful? I love how the letter 'o' is the moon!

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  6. The cover is by Felix Girard, a Quebec artist. I agree that he did a fabulous job! In fact, I bought the painting. It was a thrill to see my characters come to life in art. I created the trailer from video and images I collected or got from stock imagery sites. It can be fun to put a trailer together, and I noticed that more teachers are using my trailers to introduce the books to kids.

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