Interview: Chantal Venter talks about Kylo Kitty Moves to the City
Chantal Venter was born in South Africa but moved to New Zealand when she was twelve years old. She has worked in a variety of roles that include business, management, travel, and aviation security positions, with a stint in the UK for a few years. She has done several improv shows, screen acting and has worked in a movie filmed in New Zealand, but writing and animals has always been her first love. She has studied vet nursing and has a goal of starting a foundation that will help people with their vet bills, to give their pets a second chance. Her cat has a big heart and a love of adventure that inspired the first in this series of books about Kylo Kitty.
Chantal lives in Christchurch, and she talks to NZ Booklovers about Kylo Kitty Moves to the City.
Tell us a little about Kylo Kitty Moves to the City.
Kylo Kitty Moves to the City is the first book in Kylo Kitty in the City collection. This book is about new challenges that children (and adults) can come across during periods of transition, in this case moving cities.
Kylo is excited to make new friends and discovers along the way that sometimes in life, not everyone will be your friend, and that that's ok. Kylo Kitty's attitude does reflect a sadness only after a second let down, but he doesn't let that deter him from the hope of what can happen, which is making friends.
Kylo Kitty eventually finds a friend and, so his new journey of discovery in his city begins. It's a feel good message and one of transition and understanding that life is sometimes scary and we have to face new challenges, and even though you might feel it, you are never actually really alone.
What inspired you to write this book?
I've loved writing and rhyming ever since I was a young child. I wrote my first poem at about age 6 and found that rhyming just felt natural to me.
One day I looked at my cat, sitting staring at me in the kitchen, he looked like he wanted to create some mischief and in an instant, a whole story formed in my mind about what an adventure his life would be and how telling it through a children's book could bring to life and inspire wild imaginations while delicately delivering some meaningful messages. The idea stuck with me, and niggled at me, until one day I sat down and it all started.
What research was involved?
Ahh, so much research. it's not as easy as I thought to just write the story and then have it be done. There is so much to know and learn, and I'm still learning. Some of the things I had to consider were; did I want to self publish or trade, how much would either cost me, and what would that cost be, for example if I trade published, I'd have no control of how the book and illustrations turned out, but I wouldn't have to pay for it to be done, and if I self published I would have full control of it from start to finish but have to front up the costs.
I went to bookstores and looked at so many children's books, prices, and quality of illustrations.
I researched, font, text size, how many words it should be and page number and book size, best prices for printing and watched video after video after video about self publishing! haha.... Every time I had one thing ticked off another 10 things came to mind to research!
It was difficult and did take a long time, but I loved every minute of the whole process! :)
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
This part was tricky as I'm a shift worker and my hours are constantly changing. I spent a lot of time often very tired trying to put it all together. Draft after draft I would read it aloud, then read it to my husband, and to other family and see how it flowed etc. With rhyme it's not like if one word doesn't work you can swap it out, most of the time the whole sentence or couplet has to change to accommodate for that change, that also kept me busy when doing new drafts ! haha
Sometimes I would only work a few hours a week, others multiple hours a day. It's just about when you get into a groove you just have to give yourself to it even if you are exhausted, as those are the best moments to get out as much as you can.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
This is a fun question, I heard this song a lot while working on this and so in some way I associate this book with this song, " High Hopes " - By Panic at the disco
Also another song I heard a little bit more dark but just as beautiful was - Leave a light on - By Tom Walker.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this picture book?
Creating a story that is both meaningful and inspiring. I wanted to inspire and spark imaginations in young readers about rhyme and rhythm and tell a story that gives a message about courage and new challenges. The idea of the kids reading this and it changing or helping even one propelled me forward even when I was at my most tired or most doubtful of my abilities.
How do you go about collaborating with the illustrator?
I placed an ad via a website and had advertised around the whole world. I had so many responses for this project, (sadly none from NZ). I interviewed a lot of them and asked them to submit samples, once I had the samples I decided upon Katerina , and we just clicked from the get go. She is Ukraine based, so the time difference threw another challenge as I would often have to stay up late to approve drawings and add things in or out, and it was hard, but it was so worth all the time late nights and early mornings :) She really is so wonderfully talented and never took to heart any changes I needed to make. She gave me direction when I needed it too. I feel so lucky to have her on my team ! :)
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
Upon receiving the first proof copy, I bought Champagne and celebrated as my husband read it as it came to life in front of me. It was just a beautiful moment. A sense of relief and pride came over me. Emotion was definitely a strong undertone.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I bought the book, " Find your Why" by Simon Sinek.
This book really helped me understand certain things about myself and how I can improve with my work, why I do what I do, and what I want to do to improve my team, to ensure the best results. I love self discovery books and took so much away from this.
What’s next on the agenda for you? Can we expect more books featuring Kylo Kitty?
Yes ! The second installment for Kylo Kitty is written and we are just working towards the illustrations . Hopefully in the next few weeks / month. The second book is very fun. All the books will follow the Kylo Kitty universe and we will see a lot of continuity and easter eggs in books. We will also be looking at going into animation and hopefully have a cartoon out in the next few years!