N.P. Thompson creates web things by day and writes magical middle grade books by night. She is the author of River of Crows and Mirror of Wolves. She lives in Ottawa, Canada with her two awesome kids and a very lazy cat.
Tell me what inspired you to write your book?
In my hometown of Ottawa, Canada, there is an enormous flock of crows (tens of thousands of them) that roost near one of the hospitals downtown. Every morning when they head out from the central roost to search for food and every evening when they head back to sleep at night you can see long lines of flapping black forms against the sky. I have always loved watching them, and they always make me think of an undulating black river across the sky. That phrase, “river of crows,” became the seed for the first book in my series.
What came first the character or the world?
The two main characters came first. They just popped into my head one day and I knew I had to write their story, and I knew it was going to involve my crows… I just wasn’t sure how, exactly. That part came later.
How long did it take to write?
It took six years to get the first novel written. The second one took three. And the third one was about two. So, it may take me a while, but at least I’m getting faster as the series progresses…?
Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?
I don’t have a writing playlist. I find it hard to write if I’m listening to words with lyrics in them, so I usually just prefer silence when I’m writing. But, sometimes, I will listen to instrumental stuff. I’m a big fan of Brooklyn Duo for that. You have to hear the incredible cover they did of Toto’s “Africa.” It’s on YouTube.
What kind of reactions have you had to your book?
So far, the reaction has been gratifyingly positive. The first book in the series received a glowing review from Kirkus, which was so exciting for me. And I have had several teachers and librarians tell me they loved the first two books, so that’s been wonderful to hear. And just recently, River of Crows was listed as a 2023 Canadian Book Club Awards Finalist (the winners won’t be announced until December).
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
I had a teacher who read an early copy of River of Crows tell me her fifth graders were “going to go bananas when this one comes out”, which made me so happy. And then there was a review in the UK that said so many lovely things about it.
What can you tell us about your next book?
So, the first two books, River of Crows and Mirror of Wolves, are already out. The third book in the series, Stone of Serpents, will be out this spring and there are going to be a couple of major plot twists in that one that are either going to make people hate me or have them immediately pre-ordering the next book and biting their nails until it releases (or maybe both). Books three and four basically set things up for the rest of the series and there are a lot of really big things that happen in them… and it’s going to change everything for this intrepid group of kids. [Insert evil author chuckle here.]
Do you take notice of online reviews?
Of course. Reviews are critical to any author’s ability to get books in front of the right audience. If I get a review that’s not what I had hoped for, I try not to take it personally, though.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
Absolutely. I actually had planned to write an adult contemporary fantasy before I got immersed in writing River of Crows. My priority now is to finish this series, though.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I do UX/UI and web development.
Which author(s) inspire you?
Oh, gosh. So many. I was one of those kids who was always reading. When I was in grade school, I had a goal one year of reading all the books in my school library. I made a plan to start in one corner and systematically go through every shelf on the bookcase, then move on the next one, all the way around the room. I think I got through two bookcases. In my younger days I was really into science fiction, and my dad had all the classics – Asimov, Heinlein, Bova, Clarke… all those old guys. So, I read all of those. And I loved the Red Dwarf Books and Douglas Adams and Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean books are still favourites, as are any and all of Charles de Lint’s fantasy books. And in terms of middle grade writers, Kelly Barnhill and Anne Ursu are both writers I’m kind of in awe of.
Which genres do you read yourself?
These days, I’m mostly reading middle grade stuff. With everything going in the world right now, I can’t deal with YA dystopias or anything “heavy”. I did read the Skullduggery Pleasant books recently (up to about number eleven, I think) and quite enjoyed those, though.
I think middle grade is such a wonderful genre because we deal with the big issues and big feelings, but we do it in a way that helps kids (and maybe adults, too) learn to identify and cope with those things. We do it in a way that still gives our readers hope that whatever is going on, things can get better. And we maybe show them that there are ways to make things better for themselves and the world around them. We give them a sense of agency when life sometimes makes them feel helpless or alone. And we do all that while still being fun and entertaining. Not that I’m biased about middle grade being the best genre or anything. (Middle grade is totally the best genre.)
What is your biggest motivator?
Sadly, deadlines. If I know someone is waiting for the manuscript, I absolutely feel pressure to get it done faster.
What will always distract you?
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
I have quite a lot of say in my book covers, actually. I should do a blog post and upload the stick figure sketch I sent the art team for the last book cover so readers can contrast that with the absolutely stunning artwork they came up with based just on that and my written notes. Artists are amazing people.
What were your favourite childhood books?
I lived in a semi-rural area when I was a child, and we used to have a Bookmobile that would go by the school every so often. I remember borrowing the All of a Kind Family books and the Booky books and very much enjoying both those series. I also remember really liking the Little House on the Prairie books. And all the Babysitter’s Club books.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
Sadly, there are no indie book shops anywhere near me. Just the big box chains. I would love a quirky little book shop, preferably with a resident cat overseeing things. And if it was right next door to a cozy little café I’d be in absolute heaven.
What books can you not resist buying?
I bought myself a Kobo for Christmas last year and I have a BookBub account. Do I need to say anything more? (All the books! I cannot resist a deal involving a favourite author or a genre I enjoy.)
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
Lots. I have lots of books on my TBR pile. But I’ll get around to them all, I swear!
What is your current or latest read?
I just finished the first book in James Ponti’s City Spies series. Definitely adding the rest to my TBR list. And I’m currently reading The Curious League of Detectives and Thieves: Egypt’s Fire by Tom Phillips.
Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?
I am really looking forward to Michelle A. Barry’s Seagarden. It’s the second book in her Plotting the Stars series, and the first one, Moongarden, was fantastic. I’m also looking forward to Lora Senf’s The Nighthouse Keeper, which will be the second book in her Blight Harbor series. The first book, The Clackity, was wonderfully spooky.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
My current plan is to finish all the books in The Arcanium Saga. After that, I’ve got another, unrelated, middle grade book (that might end up being a trilogy) I want to write. And then after that, maybe I’ll finally get around to that adult fantasy series that’s been on the backburner!