Katherine Roberts (1962-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1962, in Torquay, England; Education: Bath University, B.S. (mathematics; first class honors), 1983. Religion: Church of England (Anglican). Hobbies and other interests: Skiing, cycling, horses, folk dancing, music.
Agent—Maggie Moach Literary Agency, 21 Dorville Crescent, London W6 0HJ, England.
Author, 2001—. GEC Measurements, Stafford, England, engineering mathematician, 1984-87; MPSI Systems, Bristol, England, analyst programmer, 1987-89; member of stable staff for various racing yards, beginning 1990.
London Society of Authors, Children's Writers and Illustrators, Scattered Authors' Society.
Raconteur award, 1995, for "Across the Water"; Story Cellar award, 1994, for "Mars Take Seed Make Man"; Grotesque Readers Award, 1996, for "Fatstock"; Broadsword Fiction of the Year award, 1996, for "Under the Eyemoon"; Branford Boase Award for outstanding first novel for children, 2000, for Song Quest.
Spellfall (novel), Chicken House (Frome, England), 2000, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.
Also author of short fiction for adults published in periodicals.
Author's works have been translated into several languages, including Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Romanian, Serbian, and Turkish.
NOVELS; "ECHORIUM SEQUENCE"
Song Quest, Children's Element (Shaftsbury, England), 1999, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Crystal Mask, Chicken House (Frome, England), 2001, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.
Dark Quetzal, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
"SEVEN FABULOUS WONDERS" SERIES
The Great Pyramid Robbery, Collins (London, England), 2001.
The Babylon Game, Collins (London, England), 2002.
The Amazon Temple Quest, Collins (London, England), 2002.
The Mausoleum Murder, Collins (London, England), 2003.
The Olympic Conspiracy, Collins (London, England), 2004.
Work in Progress
A book about Alexander the Great written from the viewpoint of his horse, Bucephalas.
British fantasy writer Katherine Roberts is inspired to write fantasy fiction by her interest in storytelling and invention. In novels such as Song Quest and her "Seven Fabulous Wonders" series, the realistic worlds Roberts develops shows her to have a vivid imagination, as well as a strong grounding in history and technology. While beginning her writing career penning short sciencefiction stories, Roberts gradually realized that the fantasy, rather than science, elements were her strengths, and that knowledge set her course in writing for younger readers. Her first effort, the 1999 novel Song Quest, was duly honored by the Branford Boase Award as an outstanding first novel written for children.
As Roberts told SATA: "My career as an author began at the age of seven, when I used to tell my little brother bedtime stories invented by myself. I did not write any of these stories down until I was about fifteen, when I typed my first science-fiction 'novel' on blue and yellow paper."
Although she continued to write, Roberts only started to write with publication in mind after she stopped working in the computer field in 1989. "This freed up the analytical part of my mind," she explained, "enabling me to concentrate on story plots and characters. I then worked part time in various horse-racing yards to support myself while writing." Although she had been publishing short fiction in British magazines since 1984, she "hit the spot with a young adult fantasy," the novel Song Quest, in 1999. Song Quest is the first novel in Roberts' three-volume "Echorium Sequence."
In the "Echorium Sequence" readers enter a world inhabited by humans and Half Creatures—beings who are part human and part animal, such as the half-fish merlee and half-bird quetzal. The world's tranquility is maintained by Singers, who are trained on the Isle of Echos, and whose song soothes pain and promotes healing and joy. In Song Quest a girl named Rialle develops a talent for communicating with the merlee, and she goes on a quest to discover an evil race that is hunting these half-fish creatures. Crystal Mask finds a young apprentice Singer named Renn drawn into a decades old evil perpetrated by avaricious former priest Frazhin and Yashra after he is assigned to calm the demons haunting a wild girl named Shaiala, who was raised by centaurs. Noting that Roberts' fantasy world is "original and detailed," School Library Journal contributor Trish Anderson praised the fictional protagonists of Crystal Mask for their ability to "respond realistically to extraordinary events." Noting that the plot contains some confusing "twists and turns," Booklist reviewer Lauren Peterson nonetheless maintained that the novel possesses "great depth as well as plenty of action and excitement."
Dark Quetzal concludes Roberts' "Echorium Sequence," as young Singer Kyarra uses her talents to aid her imprisoned mother, one of three interwoven plots in the novel. Centering on the quetzal, who have been drawn into the worship of Frazhin, who has risen to the level of Starmaker, the novel follows the downfall of Frazhin after his efforts to enchant several human tribes go awry. While noting that the novel's human protagonists are often "abusive, ineffective, or just plain unpleasant," a Kirkus Reviews critic maintained that Roberts' Half Creatures are "endearing" and added that the author "weaves her narrative skillfully." While noting that the series should be read in its entirety, School Library Journal contributor Mara Alpert praised the "Echorium Sequence" for bringing to life "an intricate and intriguing world, memorable characters, and a satisfying conclusion."
Other novels by Roberts include the stand-alone work of fantasy fiction Spellfall, which finds twelve-year-old Natalie able to escape her abusive family after finding a spell lying on the ground in a supermarket parking lot. Drawn into an alternate world, Natalie draws on her strengths in battling an evil Spellmage named Hawk and learns that she possesses special powers given her by her Spellmage mother. Booklist reviewer Sally Estes praised Spellfall as a "fan pleaser … filled with adventure and magic," while Natalie's "plucky charm, the fast-paced plot, and the unusual setting" drew positive notice from Beth Wright in a School Library Journal review. Popular with readers in Roberts' native England, her ongoing "Seven Fabulous Wonders" series are inspired by the accomplishments of the ancient world, such as the Great Pyramid at Giza and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, as well as ancient myths such as the legend of King Midas, which inspires the mystery in The Mausoleum Murder.
Discussing the craft of writing in an online interview posted on the W. H. Smith Web site, Roberts explained the genesis of her "Seven Fabulous Wonders" series. The idea "appealed to me because I've always seen ancient history as bordering on the fantastic—even the experts don't know everything that happened or exactly how people lived, so there is a lot of scope for imagination." Regarding the writing process, she takes about six months to produce each of her books. "Some weeks I work long hours to meet deadlines," Roberts added, "though there are different phases to a book, and the physical feeding in of words is just a small part of this. I find I also need time for plots to develop, characters to come alive, and problems to resolve themselves. This is what I call 'dreamtime' spent away from the computer, when to other people it might seem as if I'm not working at all, but in fact this is the most important time creatively.
"Ancient lands, peoples, and religions particularly inspire me," Roberts further explained to SATA, "as do societies in the modern world that are different from our own. Many of my stories use the traditional SF alternative viewpoint, though I find fantasy a better medium for exploring—from a safe distance—the social issues that interest me. I aim to make my readers think about the issues raised in the story, and hopefully come up with some answers of their own, rather than be preached to by me, the author."
Roberts' advice to fellow writers? "Keep enjoying it. Then there is a good chance your readers will enjoy your story too." For her own part, she hopes to "develop my craft until I can do justice to some of the more powerful ideas I have been keeping for when I feel confident enough to tackle them."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, November 15, 2001, Sally Estes, review of Spell-fall, p. 574; April 15, 2002, Lauren Peterson, review of Crystal Mask, p. 1418.
Kirkus Reviews, February, 2002, review of Crystal Mask, p. 187; May 1, 2003, review of Dark Quetzal, p. 682.
Kliatt, July, 2002, p. 31; July, 2003, Stacey Conrad, review of Spellfall, p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, October 1, 2001, review of Spellfall, p. 62.
School Library Journal, October, 2001, Beth Wright, review of Spellfall, p. 168; March, 2002, Trish Anderson, review of Crystal Mask p. 236; August, 2003, Mara Alpert, review of Dark Quetzal, p. 164.
Katherine Roberts Web site, http://www.knibb.org/roberts/ (February 4, 2004).
W. H. Smith Web site, http://www.whsmith.co.uk/ (February 4, 2004), interview with Roberts.
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