Cabin Tales Author Interview #15: Kari-Lynn Winters

An interview with Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters, associate professor of language arts and author of more than 27 books for the very young. Hear about her love of unreliable narrators, her balance of many writing projects at once, and her fear of dogs, horses and ghosts. 25 minutes.

Read the full transcript:

Show Notes

[0:00] Intro

[1:10] Interview with Kari-Lynn Winters  

CA: Do you have any suggestions for young writers on how to get or organize ideas?

KLW: Oh, organize. Don’t do it! Don’t organize. …Stay playful.

On my Walk cover

[2:30] CA: Do you have a favorite plot twist?

KLW: I love plot twists. … Even if you think way back to The Monster at the End of this Book… That’s a great book to model after…

[3:00] CA: Do you have any favorite techniques for building tension?

KLW: … Not focusing on the thing that’s scary but focusing on the responses people are having. … I think what’s really important is to slow those moments down and really focus…when it’s the scariest part….

[4:25] CA:. And do you have a favorite first line from your own books?

KLW: … from Bad Pirate…: Barnacle Garrick was bad natured and horrible, which most pirates would say was good, very good. Augusta Garrick was good natured and kind, which most pirates would say was bad, very bad…

[5:10] CA: And have you ever opened with a piece of dialogue?

Jeffery and Sloth cover

KLW: … I like to start with dialogue, although … a lot of times you’re writing a picture book for a child that can’t read … Sometimes you need to … establish character before you can go into the dialogue.

[6:10] CA: And do you have advice for young writers on how to begin a story? …

KLW: … write about having nothing to write about. … Or you might also think about finding different things and just putting them together and meshing them together and just asking the question “What if? What if this happened?” …You could also riff off a story that you really love and take that story further.

[6:55] CA: And what about endings? …

KLW: The ending needs to connect to the beginning. …

Best pirate cover

[7:50] CA: Do you have a favorite fictional settings…?

 KLW: I love the setting of Best Pirate. Oh, it reminds me of Saint Lucia… I also love the settings that Chris Van Allsburg creates… they’re so detailed and beautiful. …

[8:50] CA: And do you have favorite fictional characters…?

KLW: … from my own books, I love Barnacle Garrick. …I like all my characters. …. I love like Wimpy Kid …. I love Pigeon. …. I love Scaredy Squirrel. … I love characters that are really dynamic. … Scaredy Squirrel ends up being brave at some point, and Wimpy Kid ends up being strong at some point, and Pigeon is less demanding…

[10:15] CA: And do you have any exercises that you would recommend to young writers for either developing a setting or a character?

Hungry for Science cover

KLW: Why not try drawing it or creating it with plasticine or… photographs….

[10:45] CA: Do you work on one project at a time?

KLW: Oh no. …. I would be 90 years old by the time I got two books published if I did that. …. There’s lots of ideas that I’m slowly working on…. obviously the process works for me. But it’s not a quick process. …

[12:35] CA: Do any of your stories include memorable objects?

KLW: … I have a manuscript that I’m working on called “The Masterpiece” and an important object in “The Masterpiece” is the pen that she uses…. I love pens. …

[13:10] CA: And what do you think is the hardest thing about writing a story?

KLW: … working on your ideas. …how do I make this story unique? …Sometimes finding the ending is the hardest part. …

No matter what Friend cover

[14:30] CA: And do you have a favorite point of view to write from?

KLW: I love writing from second POV, like being bossy to the readers …when they’re done well, they’re done so well, it’s just like, Oh, I love this book.

[15:10] CA: And have you ever made a book about monsters?

KLW: I’m working on a book about monsters right now as we speak, called Can’t Sleep. …

[16:20] CA: And did you tell stories around a campfire as a kid?

KLW: Of course. …, I told stories everywhere. … Like I was the kid that was always telling stories…

[16:45] CA: Do you have a favorite scary story?

KLW: I just really like the way Joel Sutherland tells scary stories because I love the fact that it’s nonfiction. … I do love characters that are monster-like, … characters that you just can’t believe they would behave like that. … I also love characters that you kind of are unsure of….  I like unreliable narrators too….

Gift Days cover

[18:30] CA: And do you have any phobias?

KLW: I don’t like guard dogs. …. I get kind of scared when I’m beside horses … I also don’t like if there’s a bat and it gets too close to your head….

[19:50] CA: Do you collect anything?

KLW: I collect illustrations ….

[20:05] CA: And what do you think is scarier: humans or monsters?

KLW: They can be the same thing. …, I think humans are a little more scary because they are unpredictable… If you had asked the question, “What’s more scary: spirits or humans?” I would say 100% spirits….

[21:40] Kari-Lynn Winters introduces herself  

KLW: Hi. I’m Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters. And I’m a children’s author, a playwright, and a performer.  I’m also a scholar. I’ve been working at Brock University as an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education. And I have authored over 27 books. I really am interested in arts education, children’s literature, and embodied literacies. And I live here in St Catharines, Ontario, with my two awesome kids and my three incredible cats. So that’s me, Kari-Lynn Winters.

[22:25] Find out more about Kari-Lynn Winters  

You can hear more creative writing advice from Kari-Lynn Winters on Cabin Tales Episode 3, “Spooky Stories are all Around Us,” about getting ideas; on Episode 4.5, “Author Interviews about Plotting”; and on Episode 8, “The Never-ending Story,” about revision.

You can learn a whole lot more about Kari-Lynn Winters from her website at

[23:20] Thanks and coming up on the podcast  

I’ll be back next week with leftovers from my interview with Cary Fagan, the multiple-award-winning author of picture books, middle-grade novels, and novels for adults.

Thanks for listening. 


Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use).

Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at

Visit the Cabin Tales home page.


Guest Author:

Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters is an award-winning children’s author, playwright, performer, and academic scholar. She is an Associate Professor at Brock University and the author of French Toast, Jeffrey and Sloth, On My Walk, Gift Days, and many other imaginative picture books. Find her online at


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