Dear Readers, today’s post departs from Victorian England to introduce you to my good friend, author and fellow Maker Keely Parrack! Keely’s debut novel, Don’t Let in the Cold, comes out tomorrow, September 6, so we’re celebrating with a project you can make!
Very astute Myrtle fans might recognize Keely Parrack as my expert reader on all things Sussex, England, from How to Get Away with Myrtle. Keely and I met at a writers’ retreat and immediately bonded over memories of those rocky shingle beaches! (And we were too busy bonding to get a photo together, evidently.) Originally from Brighton and Hove on the southern coast of the UK, she now lives near the rocky shores of San Francisco (on the Western Coast of the US), where she writes, cooks, tastes food professionally (!), takes long walks in nature, and Makes incredible original artwork.
Keely’s picture book, Morning, Sunshine! celebrates backyard wildlife with haiku—it is a charming and magical journey seeing the familiar world through new eyes with Keely’s masterful verse and the delightful illustrations of John Bajet. Learn more here.
Today I have a double treat for you—first up is an interview with Keely about her debut young adult thriller, Don’t Let in the Cold. Then Keely shares the secrets behind her beautiful block prints, in a Making project anyone can try at home.
This chilling survival story is also a thrilling mystery for older kids. Here’s a bit more about tomorrow’s big new release.
A claustrophobic, high-stakes thriller that will have you fearing what waits out in the cold.
It was supposed to be just one night in the cabin: one night for Lottie and her brand new stepsister, Jade, to try to get along. When a solar flare causes a massive blackout―no power or cell signal―Lottie knows they’ve got a long night ahead of them.
Then, in the dark, someone else shows up at the cabin―a stranger named Alex, claiming to be lost and needing shelter from the coming snowstorm. But later that night, Lottie spies him in the driveway talking to two mysterious men in a pickup truck, and she’s sure he’s lying about why he’s here.
Before Lottie can find out more, a fire forces her, Jade, and Alex out into the blizzard, where they must rely on one another to get to safety―wherever that is. In the remote, freezing Tahoe wilderness, they have to survive more than just the elements. Soon it becomes clear that Alex’s accomplices are hunting for all three of them, in a scheme that’s gone too far and taken a chilling, deadly turn.
Tell us a little about the origin story for Don’t Let in the Cold. What inspired this thrilling adventure?
When my son was about eight, a wonderful friend lent us her Tahoe cabin to stay in. It is gorgeous, out there in the trees, close to the mountains, and the lake and we had a brilliant time, except at night! It was a big cabin, built into the hill side, so the main door led straight into the living room, and the bedrooms are all downstairs. And downstairs there is also a mud room and living area, and a back door. There were a lot of huge windows at the back of the cabin, which let in the sun and looked out onto the forest during the day, but at night it felt like we were in a goldfish bowl and anyone could be watching us. So basically, we freaked ourselves out and ended up sleeping in the lounge area. And that got me thinking what it would feel like for a lonely teen, who had a hard time trusting anyone, to be forced to stay somewhere like that, and then what would happen if someone tried to get in downstairs?
And it snowballed from there!
(ecb: Snowballed! Hahahagroan.)
This book chronicles the worst trip to Lake Tahoe ever! Are you concerned about how it may affect tourism in the area?
It is such a stunning area, I would hate for people to not come because of my story! I think it’s unlikely as in winter it has so much snow and stunning mountain scenery and great skiing, and après ski. And in the summer, it is beautiful, with all the mountains forests and wildflowers, hiking, mountain biking and of course the lake, which is just incredibly lovely any time of year!
You are a wildlife aficionado, frequently posting your encounters with California creatures on social media. What is the most thrilling or harrowing one you’ve had?
To answer both – thrilling would have to be swimming besides green sea turtles (not too close!) in Barbados, and harrowing would be the time an alligator slow-motion walked out in front of us then lunged at a passing cyclist! You can bet we picked up our lovely chunky toddler super-fast! That was at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida, – which is an amazing place! In California it has to be the fox I made friends with a few years back at the start of lockdown, (not sure the fox would agree we are friends!) and the otters that swam up our local canal a few months ago.
Your love for wildlife extends into your artwork. Talk to us a bit about your life as a Maker—what kinds of things do you make? How does your other artwork inform your work as a writer?
I love walking and paying attention to all the wildlife around me, and I think being an immigrant gives me that extra wonder – wow, it’s a real hummingbird, etc. It’s totally thrilling to see something like a rattlesnake snake or a bear! (We don’t have those in the UK!) I am also lucky enough to live near Monterey Bay – and to see sea otters and whales and sharks and dolphin is amazing! I’ve always tinkered about art wise, but when I had Mimi, my sweet cat, I got really into sketching her. Then after visiting Japan, I got into using brush ink pens. There’s something about jumping in and risking that it won’t come out right – it’s all or nothing – with a black brush pen!
Then I started drawing other animals, and making them into cards for friends, along with haiku about that animal. I still make these cards for family and friends. They have been known to be quite disappointed to receive a regular card instead!
I love that feeling when what you’re drawing, where it becomes its own thing with its own attitude and personality!
Do you have a project for our readers to make today?
I do! This is how to create your own card – the haiku I will leave up to you!
You will need:
An animal sketch, tracing paper, colored printing inks, a printing roller, scratch card or polystyrene card, (cut to the size of print you want to make) a couple of small trays – I recycle polystyrene fruit or vegetable trays, and paper towels, blank cards. A dull pencil (or a charming one that’s not sharp!)
- Trace your chosen animal sketch.
- Then flip it over and using a dull pencil trace it directly onto the scratch card.
- Go over any lines with the pencil that haven’t quite come through.
- Mix up the color you want to use in one of the trays.
- Use the roller to get a nice smooth amount of ink on it.
- Roll onto the scratch card making sure it’s not too dry or too sloppy! Use the extra tray to roll off any excess.
- Flip the ink covered scratch card onto the blank card. Press down firmly but gently using the paper towel.
- Peel the scratch card off and there you should have a lovely print image – I usually take a test image first just to get an idea of how much ink works best!
Watch Keely demonstrating the steps with tremendous efficiency in this video (you can tell she’s done this before!):
You are fortunate to work under the supervision of a Feline Muse. Tell us a bit about your writing buddy!
Sadly, my most excellent writing buddy, muse, and sweetest cat ever, Mimi, passed away this May. But I have a whole sketch book of her and over 1000 photos, and no regrets of all the time I spent with her – which was a lot every day as she was my shadow. No time with a cat is ever wasted! And yes, I did a Mimi card – a few years ago!
This is sweet Mimi, actually sitting on a Save the Cat Beat Sheet – she loved to watch/help me work!
To see my occasional wildlife reels and art, and cocktails – follow me on Instagram @keeylinkster, or Twitter @keelyinkster or check my website: keelyparrack.com
Thank you so much!! I can’t wait ‘till we meet up for an adventure again!
Thanks for stopping by! Good luck with your release tour!