Caramel Cardamom (or possibly Caramel Cinnamon) is an elf girl who lives on the planet Cardamom. Her grandfather is the king, and her mom is a healer. They heal through thought, and that’s what Caramel wants to do when she grows up – except since she can talk to the trees that provide their specialist planetary crop, cardamom, she is in demand to help heal them when disaster strikes. Which of course it does, in both Escape from the Forbidden Planet, and in the sequel, Return to Cardamom, which has some truly extraordinary descriptions of how the planet works. Both titles are linked to my reviews, as is the third of the trio of Cardamom stories, Stellarcadia, most of which takes place off-planet, but with the same cast of characters and new friends.
I asked their wonderful author, Julie Anne Grasso about her approach to building the world of Cardamom, and as with all the interviews this month, I asked about the aspects – physical, social, technological, political, cultural – that she felt were most important, but first, here’s a short extract to show you what I mean. The elves are up in the tree canopy tending to the trees which have suffered a traumatic attack, and they have to think to each other, rather than speak aloud…
‘I love the ingenuity of the vine platform,‘ Caramel said. ‘Just the way the holes are so much larger to allow us to winch down amongst the stems without having to stand on the ground during harvesting.’
‘The stems are extremely sensitive,’ said Jemm. ‘They’re very prone to releasing their pods at the best of times, let alone now after such a trauma.’… Jemm motioned for Caramel to attach her robot to the vine platform. ‘Now, remember the rules– always ask permission before you do anything to a cardamom stem, or they will freak the other stems out and drop their pods.‘
Caramel could already hear a faint weeping from the stems, which made her feel like crying buckets, but she tried her best to be brave. They winched themselves down amongst the stems, and Caramel closed her eyes to concentrate. She cleared her thoughts of all recent worries so she could focus solely on the stem before her. She touched it gently and felt the stem shiver…. She pondered a moment then began to weave a melody in her thoughts,,, she could feel a gentle vibration — a tingle in her hand — and right before her eyes, the beginning of a deep-green pod formed at the base of the cardamom stem.
From: Return to Cardamom, Chapter 6, by Julie Anne Grasso
Hi, Julie, and thanks for being here today. You know how much I enjoy your books, and how much I enjoyed the peculiarities of the planet Cardamom. What did you set out to achieve when you invented Cardamom?
Everything I read about writing for children said, write about what you know. I don’t know what I really set out to do with Cardamom, I just followed my imagination. I wanted to include telepathy, healing, and cupcakes, so I tried my best to incorporate that odd combination to create an adventure that kids would hopefully enjoy.
How well do you think you achieved that?
Being my first book, I was unsure as to whether I would be able to entertain kids sufficient to have them read to the end. There is always room for improvement, but I did gain some great feedback when the first Cardamom book won gold in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards in 2014. The award was solely judged by children, so that gave me a great insight into what they liked and didn’t understand.
What was your favorite aspect?
I like the dreaming up of characters and settings and the deliciousness of trying to plot something that the reader will not see coming.
What didn’t work, or not in the way you expected it to?
I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to incorporate mind reading in a manuscript as far as punctuation and inner dialogue. One of the cardinal rules of writing is to not let your character talk endlessly in their heads, however, my characters have whole conversations in thought, so that was a challenge.
Of the elements I mentioned above (physical, social, technological, political, cultural) which do you think is most important:
I think social and technological are the most important for my stories. I want children to be able to relate, but also be interested in the unique technology I use to create the world in which my characters reside.
What key messages would you give to budding world-builders?
Nothing new, read in your genre until your writing becomes intuitive. This takes a long time I guess, and I am personally not quite there yet. Read other people’s work, taking careful note how they structure the beginning, middle and end of a chapter. This is the best method to get your story appropriate for your target age, engaging in concept and exciting to the very end.
Thanks very much, Julie, and good luck with your books, and the Frankie Dupont Kid PI series, too.
Check here for Julie’s books, and follow her website: http://www.whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.com.au
The first Monday of the month is also Question of the Month day
What is your favourite thing beginning with C?
Well, in honour of Julie Grasso, and although I haven’t made it yet from the recipe she gave me some time ago, I have to say…
…caramel cardamom syrup over sticky date and chocolate cake.
And if you haven’t got enough people to visit – you could see whether all the people on the Question of the Month hop are doing the A to Z Challenge!