Kallie George works as an author and editor in Vancouver, Canada, and she holds
a master’s in children’s literature from the University of British Columbia. In
addition to writing and editing, Kallie is a speaker and leads workshops for
aspiring writers. She dreams of one day adopting a fairy horse. Visit her
online at kalliegeorge.com.
I am an ideas girl (that’s what my friends often call me). I love to come up with ideas for stories, of which only one or two actually are good. But there is nothing like a new idea—it’s the best gift in the world to a writer. Lots of my story ideas come from conversations with my family or friends kids I teach, or on hikes with my husband, who works in the film industry and has a great mind for ideas (even if he would rather I write all my books about dinosaurs, particularly t-rexes).
The idea for The Magical Animal Adoption Agency was no different.
It all began when I was teaching a camp for young writers and, in particular, teaching a class I had created in which students were supposed to come up with an adoption ad for a magical animal. After one of the long days of teaching, I went out for dinner with the other mentors who were working at the camp, all published authors themselves. One of these mentors, a good friend of mine, shared many stories he had from working at an animal rescue shelter. Later that week, on the drive home from the camp, I was musing out loud, and wondering what I should write next, and another friend, a teacher and writer as well, suggested my class was perfect story material, not just for students, but for myself! I could even use real animal shelters and adoption agencies to find more inspiration. And so The Magical Animal Adoption Agency was born. I owe a lot to my wonderful friends!
Although, when blessed with a new shiny idea, it is tempting for me to begin writing right away, I have come to learn that writing works best when I let my ideas simmer—and plot them out. And so, I spent the next year or so, plotting and planning the book.
I love to write to an outline, but often that outline changes. I actually feel like I teach my creative writing classes like that, too—I come in with a very set plan, knowing that the plan might have to be thrown out the window, depending on what is best for the kids, for that class, for that moment. I think that for my particular stories, which are very plot driven, outlines definitely help. I always write my best stories when I have an outline that is very strong, and I can visualize the whole story in my head already like a movie. I also really just love plotting. There is something magical about those days and weeks and months dreaming of a story, organizing it in my head.
At first, in plotting Clover’s Luck, the story’s main character was Mr. Jams, instead of Clover, but of course it is usually better to have a child star in a children’s book, not an old, slightly grumpy man! I also went to a number of SPCAs to research real animal adoption agencies and see how they are run. Each time I dragged along my boyfriend (now husband). Thank goodness I did because I was too shy to explain why I needed to ask a bunch of questions (but not actually adopt an animal). He, on the other hand, happily explained that I was writing a book, and always the volunteers and staff at the agencies were so gracious and exciting and shared with me tons of information that I used in the stories.
I am also an editor for a publishing house based in Vancouver called Simply Read Books (I think the Book Wars Blog did a series on Simply Read and me as an editor). That’s why, I think, as I write I am always editing! Editing to me is so wonderful. Oftentimes, my first scenes are just dreadful, but as long as the germ of the idea is there, I know I can work on them until the writing itself is polished to how I like it. I wonder sometimes if that is why I insist on so much plotting, because I know I will really work hard to rewrite each scene, and that can be exhausting if the story ends up having lots of plot holes, because then you have to rewrite everything again! One of my favorite parts of editing Clover’s Luck is the conversations I have with my editors. I love how I can spend an hour on the phone with an editor discussing the properties of a unicorn’s cold or the food one should feed a fairy horse.
This is my writing process—not just for Clover’s Luck, but for most books. Of course, each time it changes with each story, but in general this is how I work. How I live, actually! Because stories are my whole life—Clover’s story, the Agency, and so many others that I am dreaming up and working on.