Monday, January 3, 2011

Interview with YA Author CJ Gosling

By Nick Daniels

If you like The Chronicles of Narnia, you will probably love Shadowlands by CJ Gosling.

A hidden world, known as the Shadowlands, threatens ours with darkness and magical violence. To protect both worlds, boundary lines were drawn. No one can cross from one to the other without risking open war.

CJ is a debut Canadian YA author with a great imagination. She has created a magical world full of fantastical creatures in which only a special teen can enter.

The first book in The Shadowlands Series is The Guardian, to be officially released on February 14t,h 2011 by Brighter Books (although you can order preview copies now from CJ's website).

CJ, you live on Vancouver Island, yet your novel is set in rural Germany. How come?

I lived for a year in Germany as part of a work exchange program. I lived and worked on two farms in beautiful rustic settings. I also fell in love with the people. I set the book in Germany hoping to bring a small feel of what I loved back with me, to share with those who read my book.

So, is the village of Teilenheim a real place?

It’s a town I built by mixing together my experience of small German villages and throwing in some smelly goblins. It’s loosely based off a village called Wintersheim.

Why write about somewhere so far away?

For those who haven’t traveled, I wanted to give teens a sense of a wider world than the one they may have grown up in. The German exchange program that I participated in originally began shortly after the Second World War, by Mennonite families in Germany and America who despite their values of peace, found themselves at war. To ensure that this would never happen again, they began a young adult work exchange program to teach their children about our different cultures. I wanted to honour and continue this tradition.

That sounds cool. Why did you decide to write for teens?

I remember being a teen. Sometimes it was lonely and confusing. Sometimes it was hard to find positive role models to help me know how to live. I wanted to write a book that would speak to teens about the value of sacrifice and selfless love.

What is something that makes your book unique?

I really enjoyed writing the adult characters of Oma and Opa. Many stories for teens today are ‘orphan’ stories, without any strong, loving, adult role models around. I wanted to bring back the sense of family and give tribute to the value of family.

Talking about characters, what makes an interesting character?

Contradiction. I love setting up a character strongly in one way and infusing him or her with opposite and contradicting qualities. Aria is my best example of this. She is a fighter who acts only for herself, but underneath she is broken and tender. She needs a good friend; just like we all do.

We sure do. Your novel reminded me of C.S Lewis, but tell me who are some authors you consider influential?

I love Tamora Pierce for her development of strong teen characters. I grew up reading Madeline L’Engle, and was captured by her unique alternate worlds as well as the strong part family plays in the bonding and development of her characters. Farley Mowat is one of my favourite storytellers. The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien and The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis are both wonderful adventure/fantasy/quest novels, and are two particular favourites of mine.

Do you ever work with other writers?

Absolutely. All the time. I have the thought that if you stop reading and learning from others, your writing will only get worse.

If it weren’t for friends who share the same passion for worlds as I do, I could have never brought my book to this point. I am part of an amazing writers group that lends me love, critique and support. I have also made friends with many others who continue to teach me and guide me on my writing adventure. Without them I would have never made it.

Thanks, CJ. All the best wishes with your books.

(CJ Gosling is also an artist, so be sure to check out samples of her paintings on her blog)


  1. Thanks, Nick and CJ, for this interview. Sounds like a fun book! I'd love to read and review it.

  2. Looks fascinating, CJ. Makes me think of the work of my friend Jill Williamson. I've sent her the link to this blog as I'm sure she'll want to know about your books if she doesn't already.

  3. Hi! The book sounds very fun. Congrats, CJ!

  4. Thanks! It has been fun. And thank you Nick! :)

  5. Insightful interview! :D I like hearing the thoughts and ideas behind the story creation and how knowing some of the author's intent and spirit also highlights aspects/elements in the book reading experience in different ways :D

    Thanks for doing this interview you two! :D