Reviewed by Faryal Jabbar (age 15) for Reader Views (2/17)
Award-winning children’s author Pat Frayne is the creator of Topaz the Conjure Cat books. These fast-paced adventure fantasies about Topaz, a large cat descended from a breed endowed with unique magical abilities, will thrill children of all ages. Topaz lives in a magical kingdom, a world filled with wonder and peril, inhabited by fairies, elves, and other mystical beings.
Frayne’s grandchildren have been her biggest creative inspiration. Her books are enjoyed by parents, grandparents, and children alike. Retired from a long career in nursing, Frayne devotes herself to her passion for writing and creating new adventures for Topaz and his companions.
Her love of nature and the many hours spent hiking the Grand Canyon have had a powerful influence on her writing. A native of Pennsylvania, Frayne now lives in a small town in Arizona with her husband, Ron. Besides writing, her favorite pastimes are long walks, and spying on the local wildlife.
Sheri: Welcome, Pat! Thank you for being with us today. Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Pat: Hi, Sheri. You are welcome, and thank you for giving me this opportunity to share. I grew up in Philadelphia, and after graduating from Overbrook High School, I entered Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia School of Nursing. From the age of nine I always knew I wanted to be a registered nurse, so for me this was a dream come true. Shortly after graduation I married a young man I’d been engaged to for two years. He had been discharged from the Marine Corps a few weeks before. Naturally, nursing and family became my focus. This left little time for anything else. It wasn’t until the end of my nursing career that I began to write. Had it not been for my grandchildren, Sam and Cait I may not have begun to write at all. They could make up a story on the spur of the moment. That was the spark that set off my imagination. Now that I’ve retired from nursing, writing has become my full-time passion.
Sheri: What is Topaz and The Green Fairies about?
Pat: Topaz and The Green Fairies is an uplifting tale about the courage and survival of a young Green Fairy who’s searching for help to save his folk from their eroding, storm-ravaged island in the great Slewnecky River. After a heroic journey of unimaginable, life-threatening challenges, he finally reaches his destination, the Land of Knownotten. But it’s not what he expected.
When Topaz, a Yellow Conjure Cat, and the new King of Knownotten encounter this Green Fairy in the forest, their relationship is off to a rough start. However, they soon become friends.
The king and some of his pals are more than willing to help rescue the Green Fairies. But for the plan to work, the Green Fairy is asked to agree to do something he fears more than anything else in the world. Accompanied by Topaz and his ward, Daisy, a young fawn, the Green Fairy finds the overland road back to his home on Cottersdamp Island even more treacherous than his journey up river to Knownotten Kingdom.
Meantime, conditions on the island worsen as major mudslides begin to take their toll.
Sheri: What exactly is a Yellow Conjure Cat?
Pat: I was hoping you’d ask. A Yellow Conjure Cat is a large, lean, muscular cat about the size of a cougar. They’re usually a buttery yellow with pale orange stripes and intense luminous eyes. These cats are born with a unique power that allows them to do extraordinary things. However, the use of that power must be taught, and teaching these skills must start at an early age. Young conjure cats begin training when their Elder decides they are ready. Before this training can begin, a conjure cat must pledge to abide by The Laws Of The Code. The first law states that under no circumstances must a conjure cat use his power for evil.
Sheri: How many other books are there in the Topaz the Conjure Cat series?
Pat: There are two other books before Topaz and the Green Fairies, and each tale is a complete book. This allows readers to begin with any book in the series. The first book is Topaz and the Evil Wizard; the second book is called Topaz and the Plum-Gista Stone. Both of these books have been recently revised as our hero Topaz has evolved. He’s grown in size from his original forty pounds.
Sheri: What was your inspiration for writing the series?
Pat: As I mentioned earlier, my grandchildren lit the spark for my imagination. Once that happened, Topaz and the Kingdom of Knownotten took on a life of their own. This world and the characters that inhabit it became an alternate reality. After the first story, I knew these characters – what they thought, what they felt, and how they’d react in any given situation. The original story came easily. It was finished within a matter of days. This story was written for Sam and Cait for Christmas. I wrote the second story for my granddaughter’s birthday. The beginning of this tale was a bit of a struggle. Cait unwittingly helped me overcome the block by sending me a two-page letter. The first page had been typed on her mom’s computer.
Title: Topaz and the wizard 2 (typed in large dark letters)
“Wake up Topaz wake up yelled daisy. Daisy was a young white fawn. When Topaz awoke he silently ate his breakfast, for his owner King Kittle had passed away. Then Bumper came in and broke the silence Topaz he yelled Ollie has been stuck in a tree and cant get down you have to help him. So Topaz followed Bumper when Topaz got their he soon saw ollie he yelled up to Ollie are you okay Ollie replied: I need help I cant get down.” (sic)
The second page was written with a fine point, purple marker:
“Dear Nannies, I’m not sure what to say next so I want you to finish it for me.” (big hand-drawn heart) “Caitlin”
I have copied her letter just as it was written. Cait was eight and a half at the time, and she knew I was going to write a story just for her. Bumper and Ollie were characters from the first story. Bumper is a raccoon and Ollie is a great horned Owl. Their names changed to Dooly and Otis when the stories were revised two years later. Daisy, however, was a completely new character. Ollie’s dilemma was a bit of a stumbling block for me. I now had to come up with a credible reason why a great horned owl would be stuck in a tree. A day later I had the answer.
After that, the writing seemed to flow.
However, at this point I didn’t know I was going to publish. My sole purpose for writing the stories was to entertain my grandchildren. My daughter had other ideas. She began to encourage me to publish. When I didn’t, she called a subsidiary publisher and gave them my phone number. I did publish the first book through them. However, once I decided to create a series, I made contact with a good formatter and began to publish through CreateSpace. Once I’d published the first two books, it was only natural that I should write a third.
Sheri: What was your biggest challenge in writing the series?
Pat: In the third book Topaz began to evolve. He needed to be about the size of a cougar if I intended him to accomplish what the story demanded. I struggled with what to do about this until I finally decided to start from the beginning again and revise the first two books.
Sheri: What is the best part about being an author of children’s books?
Pat: I enjoy writing the kind of children’s books I liked to listen to my mom read to me when I was a youngster. Reviews from readers are another bonus I did not expect. While reading through my reviews on Goodreads back in March, I came across one that made my heart glow. Here are the first two sentences: “I thoroughly enjoyed reading Topaz & The Green Fairies with my young niece. She has a cat and insisted on renaming him Topaz!” (sic)
Sheri: Is there a lesson in each of your books?
Pat: If there is a lesson, it was never intentional. These books were written for the enjoyment of the reader. However, as with all of the Topaz the Conjure Cat Books, there is a strong emphasis on the value of friendship, loyalty, and courage.
Sheri: What is it you hope young readers take away from your stories?
Pat: I hope readers will enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoyed writing them. And I hope it will encourage them to read other books for the simple pleasure of reading.
Sheri: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?
Pat: The best advice I’ve ever received about writing or life, in general, is this: “You have to work at it every day.” The other thing I learned is “You must have heart.” Heart equals passion. An author must feel passionate about writing in order to succeed.
Sheri: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Pat: My advice to aspiring authors is this: First, write every day; keep your passion alive. Second, learn how to market. That begins with branding yourself on social media and making useful connections with others. Third, build a website. Write articles that pertain to your genre and your writing. Do this on a regular basis. Most importantly, remember to brand yourself; get your name in the public eye. One way to do this is to include your name in the link to your website.
Sheri: What do you like to do in your free time?
Pat: I enjoy long walks. And I love to observe the local wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see a herd of javelina or a coyote walking down the road in front of my house or through parts of my yard. We see lots of roadrunners; deer sometimes come to visit. They like my neighbor’s rose buds. Once in a while tarantulas, snakes, and scorpions show up. I don’t mind as long as they don’t hang out in the garage too long. I like to read, too, mostly fantasy and mystery. At the moment I’m reading a series by Peter Tremayne. He writes historical mysteries about a fictional female lawyer, and her partner Brother Eadulf. They lived in Ireland during the seventh century.
Sheri: So, what’s next? Will Topaz continue to take young readers on his exciting adventures?
Pat: Yes! I’m thinking about a new story. Nothing is on the computer yet. But, I plan to start soon.
Sheri: Do you have a website or blog where readers can learn more about you and your works?
Pat: I sure do. The address is www.patfrayne.com. There’s a page for each of the Topaz books and there’s a blog as well. You can also reach my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads pages from my website or send me an email if you prefer. You can do this by clicking on the icon on my website. I’d love to hear from you.
Sheri: Where can readers purchase Topaz and The Green Fairies and your other books?
Pat: All of my books are on Amazon, and there’s a buy button for each book on my website that will take readers directly to the Amazon page.
Sheri: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?
Pat: Yes. It’s an honor to be here and to have this opportunity to tell all of you a little about myself and about Topaz and the magical kingdom he lives in. I hope you and your children will enjoy these tales for years to come. Before signing off, I’d like to mention how much I enjoy reading reviews from children. If there’s a new Topaz adventure you’d like me to write about, please take the time to email. I’m never too busy to answer.
Sheri: Pat, thank you so much for spending some time with me today! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about you and your books and look forward to see you have in store for readers next!