Interview with Lisa Luttrell, author of "The Little Green Armchair and Tales of Echo Forest"
It's always so much fun to interview authors about their books. It's especially delightful when we come across authors who're sharing their stories in a way that's different from all the rest. Lisa Luttrell is bring back the vintage style of children's stories in a way that's fresh, but just as heart-warming and cozy as the classics are known for. Here's what she shared with us:
The Little Green Armchair and Tales of Echo Forest looks like a wonderful book for kids! What inspired it?
My inspiration for this book, as well as all of my writing endeavors, surround me each and every day of my life. I live on two wooded acres filled with various woodland creatures and many types of birds. I had true-to-life experiences with a young possum, a petite, bright green stink bug with skinny legs and of course, the catalyst for my idea for this book, a green, bedraggled armchair that became orphaned in my acre side yard.
Since you named the book after it, the green armchair itself must have special significance that carries through each of the three stories. Please tell us about that.
The Green Armchair once stood in my own home. My cat, Maximus, began to enjoy satisfying his primal urge to scratch upon the cushion and the back of the chair and slowly progressed to each arm. These scratching events, over the course of time, left the little green chair in bedraggled shreds, long strings from the material fiber began to hang, tattered down to the floor. Each time in walking past the forlorn chair, those fibers would come to life and swing and sway in the breeze. I had a little cat named Violet that lived outside and had the freedom of exploring our acreage and her favorite activity was taking an afternoon nap in a sunny spot. The little green armchair was removed from our home and carried to our north side yard and placed in the grass. The spot we chose was warm and sunny all day, perfect for Violet to curl up in its tattered bones and take long naps. The rest of my ideas followed. The chair would be a vessel for nurturing seeds that fell onto and into its fibers and nuts would fall into its core filled with coils to incubate nuts while sleeping over the winter. Springs resurgence would bring to life all of those tiny seeds and nuts and give birth to an entire forest. full of beautiful trees and flowers.
"Echo Forest" is such an interesting name, and with so much happening within it, it seems to be a character in itself. How do you come up with the names for the places and characters in your stories?
I thought of "Echo Forest" while sitting by my pond watching my Koi one afternoon and took notice of a bird, a Thrush, just inside the perimeter of my north woods singing an exquisite, but short song. With each burst of song I noticed what seemed like a soft reverberation of that lovely song that seemed to float through the trees, like an echo. As for my animal characters in my book, most of them are and were in my everyday life; my book is dedicated to my Jack Russell Terrier, Suzy, whom is no longer with me and my cats, Maximus and Sookie. Primrose Possum was a juvenile possum I rescued and nurtured, Primrose's other children were just names I thought were sweet. Violet was my outdoor cat and Neville was the name given to a little, bright green stinkbug that I happened to notice while drinking my morning tea on my front porch bench. He was swirling and swimming, trying to get out of my cat, Violets, water bowl that he had fallen into. Needless to say, I saved him and placed him on top of a Coneflower for him to dry out.
These stories are described as being written in what's considered a vintage style, like Winnie the Pooh or Peter Rabbit. How come you chose this particular style for your stories?
There is always a soft sentiment and a heart-warming sincerity in vintage children's books. Their beautiful artwork is typically done in soft, almost faded color and the illustrations seem to come to life for the reader on the books time-worn pages. Peter Rabbit and all of the Winnie the Pooh stories were an extraordinarily large part of my young life. I began reading each of these timeless classics at age 5 in 1967 and still hold them in the highest regard today. Books of my childhood in the 1960's and early 1970's were all written in such expressed detail. There were sentences, long paragraphs and they told complete stories, most were chapter books.
How do you think this style of writing might create a different experience for readers than today's typical children's books?
I wrote this book, to be a book in which you had to sit down and actually read each and every line in the paragraphs to see and feel my story evolve. I wanted children to be exposed to acts of kindness, friendship, lessons learned, trust and most importantly... love. This book unfolds all of the human emotion that all children have and will have presented to them in their young lives. I wanted my young readers to "feel like they read a book and comprehended it". It takes work, patience and diligence to read a chapter book, it was important they felt a sense of accomplishment and understanding.
It looks like this is your first children's book. What prompted you to start publishing now?
An honest answer would be that finally, at age 58, I had come to a point in my life where my time was "all my time". My husband was retired, my son was 23 and I no longer had a schedule to follow on a daily basis. I had always dreamed of writing. I started what I thought was writing (poems, short stories) at age 6 or 7. I also was a lover of books. I read 500 books from my school library in 3rd grade. I kept account of those books on a raggedy, small notebook. My elementary school librarian, Sarah Franklin, was one of my biggest influences and introduced me to all reading genres. She has since passed, but I wanted her to know I was now fulfilled with my wishes and dreams of writing. I have spoken of her in my Authors Bio page.
What advice do you have for someone who's thinking about writing or publishing their own children's books?
Follow what your heart has always directed you to do. Age does not matter, what type of children's book you construct or any other type of genre, does not matter. What matters is the fantastic sense of accomplishment that you feel the first time you see your book in print, in your hands. It is an overwhelming moment. Write about things that are knowledgeable to you and that make you happy.
If you could sit down with your 7 year old self and read "The Little Green Armchair" together, what do you most hope she'd experience?
I would want her to feel the love that resonates from the pages I have created...the sense of friendship, companionship and trust as well.
What do you most hope that parents, grandparents or even teachers will get out of sharing your stories with the kids in their lives?
I would like for everyone to understand that Life can be sweet and sentimental on a very small scale; it doesn't take a big platform to express love, kindness and friendship to others. Good things sometimes start small. Being kind to others and having love in your heart are a fantastic way of living and learning.
Are there plans for additional stories from Echo Forest?
Yes, there is a 2nd book in the works. It will take place a few years down the road from the original story context and new animal/bird characters will be introduced.
With the holidays just around the corner, you'll definitely want to check out The Little Green Armchair and Tales From Echo Forest on Amazon, find out more about Lisa Luttrell on her website or connect with her on Facebook.