Ask a Children’s Author Karen Foxlee

Karen Foxlee

My last author in this series is the award-winning Karen Foxlee who was born in Mt Isa and resides in southeast Qld. Karen writes for kids and grown-ups fine-tuning her narratives and themes into golden nuggets of treasure. A Most Magical Girl was selected for the 2017 Shortlist CBCA. All her books are surprisingly unique and unforgettable. I was pleased to say hello to Karen on the left as she talked with author Allison Paterson at Romancing the Stars at Immanuel Lutheran College, Buderim.

Multiple award-winning, tough, tender and beautiful


1    Karen, what makes a story shine for you? Where does your inspiration come from?

So many things come together to make a story shine.  Characters that you believe in, with real fears and dreams and desires.  A place or setting that is as important as the characters themselves.  A voice.  Not just the narrative voice but the voice of the story itself.  Its sensibility, its trustworthiness, its steadiness.  I think stories with heart are the ones that shine.  

My inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere.  Emotions mainly, working stuff out in myself.  Memories, places, people, experiences.  Usually I find a character first and then I’m inspired to work out their story.  I think that’s what keeps me going. 

2    When did you decide you wanted to write a work of fiction?

I always wrote stories from when I was really young.  I’ve always loved the puzzle of working out a story, of creating something from nothing.  It’s always been part of who I am.  But I guess it wasn’t until my late twenties that I started to wonder about whether I could actually write things that other people might want to read.  I’d also become quite critical of my writing in my twenties, so I could never actually finish anything I started.  I think my first novel was me trying to prove to myself that I could write a novel, that I could complete something.  

3    Your career background, how has this shaped your creative journey?

I’ve been a registered nurse for thirty or so years. I love people and their stories.  Where they come from, what they did when they were young, where their parents came from… stories, stories, stories.  I was very much a dreamer as a young person but through nursing I’ve learned all sorts of wonderful things.  Nursing is practical.  Nursing is emotional. It is hard work and determination.  Very useful skills when writing a novel.  

4. Can you describe the moments of publication success?

There’s always such a sense of relief when I learn that a story will be published.  More than elation or happiness.  I feel really relieved that someone else read it and saw the good in it.  I’m often very anxious when I hand a story over.  Vomiting anxious.  I’m so secretive and solitary for the first twenty drafts.  I’m so bogged down in the story by that time, with no perspective at all.  Each time I think I will get better at that part but I never do.  So, yes, relief is the main feeling I have. 

5    You have dedicated Dragon Skin to your sister Ruth. In dividing the pages into Acts, can you explain your thoughts here?

Ruth is my eldest sister.  She lives in the UK.  She’s always been very supportive of me through many life challenges and is such a great friend.  In regard to the Acts, I think the story fell perfectly into the three-act structure. Dragon Skin was entirely cinematic in my head.  

6    Please tell us about your latest release—ideas and processes of writing it.

My latest  book to hit the shelves is the first in a new series for younger readers called Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters.  This first book is the adventure called The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm.  It is about a girl who has anxiety who is also very good at helping monsters.  She travels the world with her archaeologist mother solving monster related mysteries. 

I was thinking about monsters and magic to start with when I began and the idea that there might be a girl who is able to understand them in some way.  The more I started creating the character of Mary-Kate, the more I realised that she was anxious about many things.  I really began channelling my own inner child worrier (I was very anxious and shy as a child).  The story really took off from there. 

7.  When buying a book for yourself, what do you seek out? Why?

It really depends on my mood I suppose.  I read lots of different genres.  I love literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, crime fiction, and I read a lot of children’s fiction.  I love going to a book shop with a specific plan to find a book but also love those times when you find a book you’ve never heard of before.  Also love second-hand book finds.  I have a very tall to be read pile.  I’m also a very slow reader.  

illustration by Freda Chiu from Sydney

8.  Have there been a book, children, or adults, that stirred your heart and emotions?

There have been many books that have stirred my heart and emotions.  Gosh, where to start!  Fairy tales still give me goosebumps. One of my favourite ever children’s books is The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman.  Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things really moved me.  I am inspired by anything and everything that Margaret Atwood has written.

10   When you’re not busy writing, how do you fill your spare time?

Mostly I’m at work.  I only get to write on my days off.  Not very glamorous I know.  I love travelling and look forward to doing more of that again.  I love the beach.  Anything to do with the water really.  Mostly though I’m a homebody. I love cooking, eating, reading and resting.  I live with my teenaged daughter, who makes me laugh a lot and keeps me very busy as a taxi driver.   

Thanks, Karen. Like you, I am a slow reader and also have piles of books to read. It’s been a pleasure to interview you, finding out the wisdom and inspiration that sets you apart. All the very best with the next titles in the series from Allen & Unwin. From the amazing vivid purple and gold cover, the next fantasy stories will be exciting. I can hardly wait.

Check out Karen’s website www.karenfoxlee

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Leave a Comment


Karen Hendriks
July 13, 2022 at 5:57 am

Great interview and a Karen is a very talented author I love her books.

    Marg Gibbs
    September 16, 2022 at 11:10 am

    Thanks Karen, Have you read Dragon Skin?

Kim Roberts
July 15, 2022 at 4:41 am

I love the front covers of Karen’s books you showed here. I’ve got to say I wasn’t fussed on the cover of Lenny’s when I bought it years ago. Covers are interesting things.
Good questions Marg and Karen was honest and open with her responses. I’d like to check out Dragon Skin..

    Marg Gibbs
    September 16, 2022 at 11:11 am

    Let me know what you think when you read Dragon Skin.

Debra Tidball
September 26, 2022 at 2:33 am

Lovely interview! I’m in the slow reader and big TBR pile category too 🙂

M.J. Gibbs
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