This week’s Toronto Tuesdays interviewee is the lovely and talented torkidlit author Adrienne Kress. Adrienne is both an actor and an author who, as she puts it, is “attempting to achieve sensational wonderfulness at both.”
Having read both of her books, ALEX AND THE IRONIC GENTLEMAN and TIMOTHY AND THE DRAGON’S GATE I do believe she’s well on her way.
Meet Adrienne Kress.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well that’s a big question. Actually not so much a question as an order. And now I’m feeling rather intimidated.
Me. Well I’m Adrienne Kress. I’m the author of two children’s adventure novels, Alex and the Ironic Gentleman (nominated for a Red Cedar Award 2010) and Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate (nominated Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award, 2011). I am also an actor who would be happy to perform Shakespeare all day every day.
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I went to arts school from the age of 11 and graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours BA in theatre. I then moved to London, UK for three years, where I studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. I am also a playwright and a director, which is quite a convenient combination, and thus directed my own play “A Weekend in the Country” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Toronto Summerworks Festival.
I am a member of the Tempest Theatre Group and a founding member of the geektastic website HardcoreNerdity.com
What and/or who has been your biggest influence as a writer?
I’d have to say I have two. My father for teaching me everything I know about writing and for constantly encouraging me. And Douglas Adams (who, incidentally, my dad read to me as a kid). Douglas Adams was the first author I was introduced to who broke so many writing rules and was hilarious and poignant in a truly unique odd and wonderful way. I absolutely adore his digressions.
How much has your theatre experience played a role in your writing?
My experience as an actor definitely informs character and dialogue development. I think both of those come quite naturally to me now. My experience as a director informs how I stage scenes in my novels (I tend to block out the action of a scene the way I would block out action on stage – i.e. one character moves to the couch, another one crosses downstage left etc). The latter also informs how I go about putting a novel together. In theatre you are only as good as the team you have around you, and I figure why not apply that to writing as well? I have so many friends who are experts in so many different fields. So if I need help with writing a combat scene I give one of my fight director friends a call. If I need help on a costume or set design, I call one of my designer friends. I really am so lucky to have such amazing people to help me.
Do you find there is a distinct line between your actor psyche and your writer psyche, or are they interrelated?
I don’t really find a distinct line between the two psyches. Either way you are creating. It’s possible that there’s a misconception that because an actor is playing a role written for them, that there isn’t the same level of creativity involved as creating the words being said. But an actor’s job is to flesh out the role given to her, to bring words on paper to life, and there’s a lot of work involved in creating a three dimensional character, work that the audience might not know about but will sense even if it isn’t obvious. I like to create, I like to play make believe. Whether that is pretending to be someone as an actor, to put together someone else’s world on a stage as a director, or to create a world from scratch, it’s all storytelling. And it’s all pretty awesome.
Tell us about Alex and Timothy.
Alex and the Ironic Gentleman is about a ten and a half year old girl named Alex who has to rescue her grade six teacher from pirates. Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate is about an eleven year old boy named Timothy who has to help a Chinese dragon trapped in human form return to China and scale the Dragon’s Gate so it can turn back into a dragon.
Both are pirate adventures (Timothy involves Chinese pirates), but are also about the smaller adventures had along the way, and most importantly the wacky characters Alex and Timothy meet (some of whom include a ninja, an Extremely Ginormous Octopus, Giggles the cat, a fish herder, the Daughters of the Founding Fathers’ Preservation Society, and the Make Cold 6000). The books are funny and absurd, I suppose one could call them the definition of a “romp” 🙂
Note: Timothy is technically a sequel as half way through the book he meets up with Alex the day after her adventure finishes and she joins him on his. But you can read Timothy as a standalone as well.
Why did you choose to write children’s books?
I’m not sure I really decided to write children’s books per se. It’s more like I write what I love to read. And I happen to just really adore children’s literature. I’m a huge Harry Potterphile, for example, and did a paper comparing Alice in Wonderland to Peter Pan as my OAC English thesis back in the day.
I do love kids, and I love that when you write for them they will tell you exactly what they think of your work. I think it’s also quite overwhelming when you realize that the books people read as kids tend to be the books that will stay with them forever, that can have a serious impact on their lives. But truly that has all been a most happy bi-product.
Really I just think there’s something magical about children’s books that make them my favourite genre to read. There’s a wonderful absurd humour and beautiful simplicity in such books that can at the same time be remarkably profound.
I have blogged much more in depth about my reasons for writing what I do and about the misconceptions other people have about Children’s Literature over at agent Nathan Bransford’s blog here.
Are there any current or upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
No. Lol. Well I do have a couple projects, a couple YA novels and an adult one, that I’ve been working on and that are on submission, but I am a little superstitious sharing details about unsold work. I’m sorry! But yes, I’m definitely keeping myself busy.
How about sharing a favourite quote?
I have two. I suppose my more literary one is courtesy of the lovely Jane Austen: “Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint.”
And my less than literary one, but I think a philosophy most needed for any writer, is from the movie Galaxy Quest: “Never give up! Never surrender!” (And if you need a more children’s appropriate version of the same, from Finding Nemo: “Just Keep Swimming!”)
Thanks so much for the interview, Adrienne!
Alex and Timothy are both definitely worth a read. They are very clever and funny stories. I have already recommended them on several occasions, and you may consider this yet another occasion: buy them!
And as you wait for the books to arrive in the mail, why don’t you visit Adrienne’s website, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, join her facebook fan page, and check out her geektastic HardcoreNerdity.com website too! Oh the magic of social media!