Author: Karen Hughes
Cover design: Andrew Carraro
Publisher: Kalika Magic
Age Group: 9+
Please tell us a bit of what your book series is about.
The Kalika Magic series is set in the land of Gort, where the tribal Kalika people live in tree houses in the forest. The series follows the adventures of five children who must work together to protect the Kalika people and their land.
In The Shaman’s Secret, Kai and Indie journey into the mountains where they meet the Dasa children, Jabar and Nima. Together they discover spirit animals, a mysterious shaman, and a flower with legendary healing powers.
In The Sorrow of the Waters, the four encounter angry water spirits, an island of lost children, and a forgotten city hidden deep in the jungle. They also meet the fifth child, but like many things in Gort, he is not what he seems.
What kinds of themes / issues are raised in these stories?
I started writing the Kalika Magic series as a fun-filled adventure, but it has become so much more than that. It is a story of courage and resilience – reminding young readers that there is magic and wonder in this world, and they’ll be okay in the end, no matter what happens. The overriding theme is that there is more to this world than we think, and anything is possible.
Emerald Child explores our connection with the earth and the power of the four elements – earth, water, air and fire. It’s also a very personal story, with themes of abandonment and the search for the self.
The Shaman’s Secret introduces the shaman and the spirit animals, taking the reader on a more metaphysical journey. The characters visit different realms, and are aided on their quest by nature spirits and guides. This book delves into ideas about who we are and why we do the things we do.
The Sorrow of the Waters is a deeper, more complex book, with the spirits of the water grieving over the destruction of the land. The protection of the environment emerges as a strong theme here.
How are these important to you in raising awareness to your readers?
Themes of self-discovery, protection of the environment, courage, diversity, and empathy are important for everyone. Children need to know there is still magic in the world, even if things look bleak. I hope the Kalika Magic books give children a greater appreciation of mother earth, as well as encouraging them to believe in themselves and their power to change things for the better.
Who or what inspired you to write this series?
I began writing these books as an escape. I was a commercial lawyer in a big national firm, and I had 3 small children. I needed something for me. In the beginning I was influenced by Narnia, A Wizard of Earthsea, and all the other magical books I’d read as a child, but over time the themes changed and the books took on a life of their own. I was having all kinds of interesting experiences: studying herbal medicine, travelling, meeting shamans and monks, visiting sacred sites and wild places – all these things continue to influence my writing.
When I’m stuck for inspiration now, I visit the river near my home. The trees lean down over the road, and it’s cool and dark, as if you’re driving into a green cave. The water is fresh and clear, with pebbles at the bottom, and I love that my pioneer ancestors are buried at the little church nearby – it gives me a sense of history and belonging.
Do you have a favourite? Why this one?
The three books are all quite different, so it’s difficult to choose a favourite.
The Shaman’s Secret was a great awakening for me. I was fascinated by the idea of spirit animals and journeying to other realms, and I spent a lot of time writing under trees or beside the river, exploring my connection to the earth.
How would you describe the publishing process? Were they supportive? How long did it take?
My books are published through an Indie publisher, so I’ve arranged the cover designer and editors myself. I found this a bit intimidating at first, but I’d worked in the corporate world so long that I wanted to see what I could do before handing it over to a big publishing company.
So the timing of publication was really up to me. I had to wait for cover designs and jump through all the usual editing hoops, but it was a lot faster than it would have been with a traditional publisher.
It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve built my own website. I organise my own book tours. I’m working with editors from the big companies, but I still have full control of the project.
What was the collaboration like between author and illustrator? Juicy gossip, please!
I’m afraid my only artistic collaboration was with the cover designer. The books are novels, so they aren’t illustrated at the moment (though if Chris Riddell offers to do it, I won’t say no).
The cover designer is Andrew Carraro, a very dear friend of mine, and he and I work very well together. In short, I buy him lunch and give him a brief outline of the book and its themes, and he comes up with something wonderful.
What has the feedback / audience response been like so far?
I can’t believe how positive the feedback has been! I’ve had reviews in many publications, including The Sydney Morning Herald. The books have been used in reading programs both here and in the USA. I’ve had so many letters from excited kids and their parents, asking when the next book is coming out. And I’ve been invited to participate in wonderful events, like the CBCA ‘Lunch with the Stars’, International Women’s Day, and various Writers Festivals and literary events.
What teaching and learning ideas would you suggest to complement these books?
I’m in the process of preparing teaching notes directed at upper primary and based on the importance of using imagination, innovation, and creativity to develop literacy skills. I’m more than happy to chat about this with teachers and librarians. You can download my School Visits brochure at www.kalikamagic.com
We’d love to see a book trailer!
I don’t have one yet, but my quirky 15 year old daughter is currently making one with the class at her performing arts school, so that could be interesting.
Any details on your book launch you’d like to tell us about?
I’ve had some fantastic book launches, hosted by the local libraries and bookshops, with yummy food, exciting activities, and lots of excited kids. I’m planning another one when the next book is published in October 2017.
Please let us know where we can find more on you and your books.
Visit my website at www.kalikamagic.com
Thank you for your terrific responses, Karen! ✨✨✨
Karen Hughes grew up on a cattle station on the Liverpool Plains, and spent her childhood climbing trees, chasing emus, and exploring the creek with her two sisters. She has been a lawyer, a herbalist, and a web designer, but being a storyteller is by far her favourite job. She lives in Newcastle with her husband, Andrew, their four children, two dogs, and one very spoiled cat called Scout.