A chat with Lee Edward Födi
Lee and I have been friends forever, and, in fact, his last book launch was the final event I attended before the pandemic shut everything down. I’m thrilled to chat with him today about his new story SPELL SWEEPER— and to share it with you!
kc: Welcome, Lee. I’m so happy to talk with you today! Let’s start with what it’s like writing for kids when you are a dad yourself. How does having a small person living in your house affect your writing life?
LEF: My son is three, only going to preschool part time. He’s around the house a lot, especially during the pandemic, and we live in a small townhouse with an open concept, so . . . well, let’s just say HEADPHONES. I invested in a really expensive set.
Honestly, I think I’ve learned to switch my creative energy on and off a bit better. When I was younger, I always thought I had to be in the right mood to write. Then I became more experienced, and thought, I just need to actively put myself into the right writing mood.
Now? It’s like: I better get some writing done RIGHT NOW whether I think I’m in the frame of mind or not to write because I have two hours until the reign of terror is reestablished in this house.
But I’ve also been teaching a lot of virtual classrooms from home since the pandemic, and I think I’ve just become a lot more unflappable in general.
kc: Let's talk about teaching for a minute. How does teaching help inform the books you write?
LEF: It definitely gives me insight into how young people think, some of their compulsions, and their voices. But aside from just spending time with them, teaching writing helps me think about writing. I’m constantly deconstructing writing, examining it from different angles, and considering how to do things differently. I also come up with many writing prompts for my students that end up inspiring my own writing! An example of this is that I often lead my students in an activity to build magical creature eggs then write a set of instructions called “The Care and Feed of . . .” Well, readers will see there is a chapter in Spell Sweeper called The Care and Feeding of a Squix.
kc: Sounds funny! So tell me, what is it in your life -- or who-- that makes you laugh the hardest?
LEF: My wife. Followed by my son.
kc: Ha! Marcie IS hilarious, I'll give you that. So, switching gears a little here, what would you say is your most treasured possession?
LEF: This changes all the time, but currently, I love my broom that served as a big inspiration for Spell Sweeper. It’s the item that served as the model for Cara’s magical broom in spell sweeper, and we even sent a photo of it to the cover artist (Maike Plenzke), so that she could match it. She did a wonderful job of doing just that.
kc: Do you have something you've been reading -- or watching, or listening to-- lately that makes you want to grab us by the lapels and tell us all about it?
LEF: I’ve been reading a lot of magical learning and magical broom books during the writing of Spell Sweeper, even after the book went to press. These include Witch Hat Atelier (Kamome Shirahama), Wizard’s Hall (Jane Yolen), The Magic Broomstick (Mary Stewart), The Last Shadow Warrior (Sam Subity), Kiki’s Delivery Service (Eiko Kadono), Eva-Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch (Julie Abe), A Hatful of Sky (Terry Pratchett).
In terms of what I’ve been watching lately? A Korean show on Netflix where there is plenty of drama, inter-personal relationships, and squid . . . Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha. LOVE. IT. Also just started a fun show called Atelier, which is about a wide-eyed girl who’s moved to Tokyo to take a job at an undergarment design agency. Uh, I just realized the word “Atelier” has come up twice in my answers. That has to be a first.
kc: So who are your favourite writers?
LEF: Too many to list! But, hey, check on my Insta feed; I’m always posting my latest reads.
kc: Okay, so let’s step outside your home for a bit. Where is your favourite place in the world?
LEF: I have many favorite places in the world, and it’s hard to pick one. Tapgol Park in Jongno, Seoul (just because it’s peaceful and quiet, a place in the neighborhood I often stay in when I’m in Seoul). Another is Yu Garden in Old Shanghai (because it is a magical place where dragons undulate over the walls and mischievous doorknockers grin at you from seemingly every corner). Still another is Cecil Court Road in London (it’s a street where there are multiple book stores, including one devoted solely to Alice in Wonderland). Then there’s the seawall in Vancouver, with its views of mountains and water, where you can see herons, seals, and sometimes even beavers and otters.
kc: We’ve walked and ridden bikes on that seawall together many a time, so I agree with you there! Shall we dive into writing for our final question today? Who is the most interesting character you've ever created for one of your books?
LEF: When I read this question, I instantly thought of Caradine Moone in Spell Sweeper. She seems to have a mixed response from early reviewers. Some people have a negatively visceral reaction to her. Others adore her. I think it’s because she’s a twelve-year-old protagonist who is not a positive influence on her school community. She’s jealous, petty, scrappy . . . a troublemaker. I created her that way because I wanted her to be realistic. The thing that I hear from young readers time and time again is that main characters are often boring or “flat”. I wanted a character whose sole purpose wasn’t to serve as a role model for kids, but one who might be a little more relatable, someone they could read and say, “Hey, I think that way, too.” I think some adults have trouble with that sort of character, but ultimately, I want to advocate for Cara and say that I think she’s a kid with a heart of gold—she just tends to make bad (or selfish) decisions, at least at the beginning of the book. But let’s not mention this to Cara because . . . well, let’s just say, she HAS OPINIONS and I don’t need her in my head right now.
kc: Oh, man — I love her already! Thank you so much for sharing her with us today!
Readers -- I’m giving TWO copies of SPELL SWEEPER away to newsletter readers. Sign up in the box below for a chance to win!
And huge thanks to Lee for joining us today. I've loved his books since he first debuted Kendra Kandlestar, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!