Sunday, April 8, 2012

Oh, those elusive fairrier cats!

This interview originally appeared March 24, 2012 on Michelle Keener's blog, Escape in Words, Since  so many people have been asking about the fairrier cats lately, I asked Michelle if she wouldn't mind if I re-posted this Q & A here. (The legendary and powerful fairrier cats are central to the plot in the young adult fantasy book, Candlewax, which was just released by Terabyte Press as an ebook and a trade paperback). Thanks, Michelle, for letting me re-post.  C.


Q. & A with writer C. Bailey Sims about fairrier cats in Candlewax
Posted by Michelle , at 8:25 AM, in Labels:

Q. How did you think of the idea of fairrier cats?
A. Spelopokos’s character came first then came the characteristics of the species. He had to have an attitude to play against Catherine’s character (as she was in the beginning of the book—a sheltered, self-centered princess). Spelopokos had to have a commanding presence of his own so as not to be daunted by her nobility. Of course it is easy to be fearless when you are a huge, lethal fairrier cat.

Q. So then, Pokos’s character inspired the whole idea of fairrier cats?
A. Definitely. But Pokos and the other fairrier cats also have some of the best qualities of tigers, lions and other big cats—nobility, fearlessness, courage. And of course they are pretty stealthy too. You have to respect them.

Q. How did you come up with the unique physical attributes of the fairrier cat?

A. That was fun. First came the invisibility, the black-and-white spotted coloring, then the soft neck fur and the changing eyes. And Spelopokos had to be larger than our biggest big cats, because he is, after all, a fairrier cat.

Q. And what about the supernatural qualities of the cats?
A. Many people throughout history and still today believe in the supernatural powers of animal parts, and that’s caused a lot of killing of endangered species, which is quite tragic. In reality, the only power of animal parts is the power we give them in our beliefs. It’s so sad to see wild animals hunted for their horns or their skins or other parts. In Candlewax, the wearer of the fairrer cat skin has a kind of invincibility. Fairrier cats only die if they are killed, and yet a human wearing a fairrier cat skin is almost impossible to kill. That is why the cats have been hunted to the brink of extinction.

Q. Surprisingly, Pokos can talk. Was that important for the story?

A. I once spent a week house sitting a Himalayan cat that was able to swear—actual words you could understand. Ha! I’m not kidding! I’ll never forget how cool that was. I think the cat was mad that the owners had left it. For Candlewax, I just took some of what cats already have and amplified it. Cats are pretty smart and they have some amazing vocalizations. And Pokos is so much more interesting because he can speak.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Q. & A. about Candlewax, Blooming With Books interviews C. Bailey Sims

This post first appeared on Blooming with Books' Blog
I am grateful to Meagan  for letting me re-post it here because she asked some really good questions about Candlewax. Be warned that there are minor spoilers here--nothing too egregious!

date of original post: 3.15.2012

Candlewax Q & A with author C. Bailey Sims

First of all "C", I'd like to thank you for agreeing to this interview
and I'm sure Candlewax's readers will appreciate the behind-the-scenes
look at this award-winning title.

Thank you for having me, Meagan!

1. Fire is both fascinatingly beautiful and at the same time
frightening. How did you come up with the idea of the continually
burning trees of Candlewax?

Ahhh. I just love candlelight. When I began telling stories to my kids
to keep them at the dinner table it was not uncommon for me to light
candles—even for every day meals. Candlewax trees were one of the
first recurring elements in what became known as my Candlewax stories.
There is something calm-ing and beautiful about candlelight that
appeals to me on a very basic level. It is interesting, too, that
there is a real species of tree called the Chinese tallow tree that
has a sap that can be burned as fuel, so to me it was natural to make
Candlewax Wood a totally believable phenomenon.

2. You didn't really touch on this, but is Candlewax always lit up
even at night with a glow on the horizon?

Yes, the Wood does light up the night sky, much like we can see city
lights illuminate the atmosphere above. When Catherine is running
away from Crystallia, she glimpses the faint glow of Candlewax in the

3. Is Catherine actually the heir to three kingdoms?

Oooh. I’m impressed. No one has noticed that yet. Or if they have,
they haven’t said anything about it. Catherine is uniquely positioned
for her mission. She definitely has ties to three kingdoms of the four
kingdoms of Lackanay, and how much she makes of her claims in the
future will depend on many un-foreseen (possibly to be revealed)
factors. Readers of Candlewax might even spot a fourth tie to a land
outside of Lackanay. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give too
much away.

4. Trodliks sound really icky looking, how did you come up with
them? Are they based on anything, even something you would find under
a microscope?

I made trodliks as icky as I could possibly imagine them. I mean,
white exoskeletons with yellow guts, red eyes, lots of little legs and
nasty teeth and claws. Yuck!!!! I did sort of have evil shrimp in
mind. I wanted them to also have a pre-historic, fossil-record feel to

5. Where did Trodliks come from originally so that they were able to
get to Devona in the first place, or is that an unknown mystery that
no one even knows?

I imagine they evolved from a more benign species. Something went
wrong to trigger a transformation, much like when we see locust swarms
develop from much more harmless grasshoppers or some species of
African ants suddenly attack livestock and humans. Once trodliks get
started, it is hard to stop them.

6. Will Desert of Devona ever be able to returned to what it once was
or are the Trodliks a permanent resident of the land?

Can you read my mind? I have plans for Devona but can’t reveal them!

7. If there is not a Catherine, would the Ancient Onyxes work? Or must
a Catherine control it?

Only Catherine could fulfill her particular mission. While others can
wield the Ancient Onyxes with great power, the pendant was crafted for

8. How did you find out about Candlewax winning Connecticut’s Tassy
Walden New Voices in Children’s Literature Award, and how did you
feel? (Shocked, happy, excited?)

All of those. I answered the call from the Shoreline Arts Alliance on
the house phone in the kitchen. It was evening and I was thinking it
was one of the kids’ friends or something. When they told me
Candlewax had taken first prize in the Young Adult category, I was
simply overwhelmed with shock and joy. The first thing I wanted to do
was share the news with my sons and husband. Having the judges of the
Tassy Walden award validate my writing was incredibly helpful to me as
an author. I’ll never forget it.

9. Where did you find fairrier cats and Spelopokos?

For me, Spelopokos came first, then all the capabilities and
characteristics of fairrier cats. Strange, I know, but then he is a
very assertive character. He was always there—I just had to find him,
like a sculptor chipping away at a block of marble. Fairrier cats are
an amalgamation of my favorite things about big cats—made more
extreme. And yet, in spite of his enormous size, there are times when
Pokos can be just like a housecat.

10. Do you have a favorite scene?

The Duray Principas. (Pronounced DUR-ay PRIN-see-PAHSS). It is a very
visual scene for me. I can see every one of those arrows fly. But
there are lots of other parts that I treasured writing.

11. Are Catherine or Cyril based on anyone, even loosely?

Anyone who has ever looked danger or defeat in the eye and not
blinked. There are a lot of you out there, and some even in my own

12. Is there a character that you relate to more than the others? If so, how?

Spelopokos. I soooo want to be Catherine so Pokos can be in my life!

13. As a writer, what gives you the greatest satisfaction?

It is a thrill for me to find an audience for my writing. Whenever
there is a reader to share my world, it is a universe-expanding
feeling. Writing is very solitary. When the writing is done, and the
sharing begins, it is nerve-wracking, complicated, sometimes tortuous,
and frequently inspirational.

14. Is there a question you wish someone would ask you about
Candlewax? If so, how would you answer?

Okay, here goes. Is “Wolfy” from Candlewax based a real dog? Yes, he
is a Great Pyrenees and his name is Buddy. I am seriously considering
putting Buddy in all of my books. He is one of the great loves of my
life. Maybe you can tell that by the way I am strangling him in the

15. How many books do you plan on writing about Lackanay? Or will they
just happen?

Ah ha. Good question, Meagan. I am working on the sequel, TABREK. How
many books there will be, I just don’t know because I like spending
time in Lackanay.
Again thanks for your time "C" and I wish you success with Candlewax.

Thanks again for having me on your blog!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The "Young" in Young Adult Fiction

The words "young adult" conjure up different images for different people. Libba Bray once quipped that when she told kids she wrote "young adult books" that they sometimes thought she meant she wrote porn. I remember that joke getting a big laugh from everybody at a BEA Children's breakfast, including me. It was funny--especially with Libba's fantastic delivery.

There are lots of books for age 12 and up that are rightly considered YA. Maybe too YA for a 12-year old, depending on the 12-year old. Which begs the question are some of our YA books miss-identified? Yeah, maybe.

And then there are precocious readers like the young Sherman Alexie, who devoured books for adults at a tender age and grew into a magnificent writer. I for one, would not have censored his reading list one little bit.

What are the qualities of an adult? The ability to think for oneself with a certain amount of wisdom comes to mind. Really, that has more to do with the character and experience of the reader than the number of years that person has been on the planet. Sometimes kids might stumble on a book that stretches them farther than they were expecting or willing to stretch. Parents, teachers, and librarians need to be alert to matching kids up with the right books, and mismatches are going to happen. Peers are going to lend books to their friends. Stories, information, and knowledge of adult topics will flow freely, despite or because of  our best efforts (depending on what your perspective is).

But sometimes common sense is lacking. For example, I had an 8th grade public school  teacher who, without any discussion or preparation, showed her classes a black and white NAZI film of bulldozers moving huge piles skeletal bodies, lamp shades being made out of human skin, and other real-life horrors of the concentration camps. I was shell-shocked for days. It was brutal. And, no, I didn't talk to my parents or anyone else about how sick I felt. If our class had had discussions on the Holocaust ahead of time, and been given the option to see the footage or not, I think that would have at least prepared us to see the horrors that she sprang on us unawares. I don't think that was good teaching. Or maybe, it was. Cruel, but effective. So, yeah there are things we all need to learn about. How we learn them can make a difference.

Which brings me back to YA literature, which will always be a mixed bag with childlike qualities and adult qualities in a tug of war and a glorious mud pit in the middle.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Missing in action

I have always suspected that untamed social media would take away valuable writing time, but just the opposite has happened to me over the past year-plus. I have been invisible on social media and instead have been busy writing the sequel to Candlewax (Tabrek), working on short stories, thinking, moving, and generally being engulfed in life.

I signed up for Twitter in 2009. Since then, I have tweeted twice. What a phenomenal pace!!! I signed up to blog a year ago. I think this is my fourth blog. WOW. What impulsive erudition.

Well, I've had to figure a few things out.

First of all, I am going to start liking social media. It's convenient, fun, and inclusive. It's a great way for authors to reach out to their readers.

Next, I'm going to try to link it all up together: Twitter with my Blog with Facebook with reading sites like Goodreads with my website with whatever else comes along. The web giants are nudging us towards this kind of comprehensive unity anyway. They want it, badly. Social media platforms are going to be as connected as possible with each other.

As an author, I embrace this, even as a private person it is alarming. Starting March 1, Google will adopt a new privacy policy and begin tracking individual users across its many services including search, gmail, and YouTube. Will the corporation Google always be in the right hands and make moral decisions? I hope so. What could happen? As a writer of fiction, I hate to imagine it.