Kyrja is the author of the Rupert's Tales series of books. The author has generously agreed to share some insight into her world and the creation energy behind Rupert and his stories. This popular pagan centered children's book series has been published by Schiffer Publishing.
Can you tell us about Rupert's Tales and how the idea developed? Where did you draw your inspiration from?
Rupert’s Tales started because I first wrote “The Monster Got Mom.” My family was gathered for one holiday or another, with my brothers reminiscing about their childhood adventures in seeking out a monster in the dead of the night. They claimed they were up because they heard some scary sounds. Everyone was delighted with their silly stories. But then it happened - one relative laughed, saying “Someone should write a book about that!” Another said, “Kyrja, you’re the writer in the family ....” So that’s what I did. Like Rupert’s Tales, it rhymes all the way through and is delightfully ridiculous to read – with a surprise ending.
If you’re a writer, perhaps you know the feeling of the “pressure” you get when one of the voices in your head is wriggling more than the others. The story (or parts of it) pops up through the whirling chaos of creativity more and more often, until you simply have to stop what you’re doing to listen. That’s what happened with Rupert. I’d been getting glimpses of him off and on – and I still had all this rhyming stuff in my head. At the time, I was working as a laborer and heavy equipment operator in the construction industry. I had been at work for two hours one morning, when I knew I could stand no more. I told my foreman I had to go home to write. He was probably the best foreman anyone ever had anywhere, so he let me go. I wrote “Rupert’s First Beltane” that day. Then created a series of Rupert’s Tales by writing another story about our furry friend for each Sabbat that followed. It has been impossible not to keep writing them.
My inspiration for Rupert and what he will learn next is derived from my own life; how I understand and celebrate the sabbats, what things are important to me, and the desire to share the wonder of life and magick with others.
What age group is Rupert's Tales created for? Who can be a Friend of Rupert?
As far as I am concerned, Rupert’s Tales are for everyone, from cradle to grave. These are the stories you wish you would have had as a kid, because you can pull them out each and every sabbat to find out how Rupert celebrates, and what he learned this time. They are specific enough to be useful, while general enough to allow for a wide variety of traditions. One of the most-important things about Rupert’s Tales is that they make a point of saying there are many ways to celebrate – and they rhyme; making them a lot of fun to read out loud.
What I envision is parents reading to their children, then they read the stories for themselves, as they grow older. As a child becomes more aware of the world at-large, and their own path in particular, the lessons Rupert learns in his tales become the child’s own lessons. They provide a beginning place for discussion and education. A parent might say, “This is how Rupert celebrates, but we do something a little different.”
I think it is very, very important to include children from the earliest moments in life in our celebrations and in our everyday magickal workings. Rupert can help, but if parents want their children to have choices, then they must teach their little ones what their own choices are.
Everyone can be a Friend of Rupert! While the first two books are about the eight sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, you do not have to be a Pagan to be enchanted by Rupert and the magick found in his tales. All knowledge is worth having.
What messages do you want Rupert's Tales to bring to its readership?
Primarily, acceptance. It’s okay to worship, celebrate and serve in the way that you feel resonates as “Truth” and “Good” within you. I specifically prefer to not use the term “tolerance,” because that word denotes a negative feeling towards whatever it is that you are tolerating. Acceptance that I do things “this” way and you do things “that” way, and that’s all right. It is also my hope that Rupert will help to teach people, both young and old, what it is that we Pagans do celebrate. And a little bit of why.
The third book, “Rupert’s Tales: Rupert Helps Clean Up” features four tales about reducing, reusing and recycling. Children are being taught the importance of these activities everywhere, which is terrific and important. Rupert will provide readers with information as to why these things are important, and why each of us is important in doing these things.
Future Tales will include stories about the tools of the craft, the elements, the phases of the moon, and even some of the different paths and traditions within the loose structure of the Pagan faith.
It is my intention to provide a starting point, not only for children, but for those new to the path, and even to those who may simply be curious.
How did you decide upon an illustrator for your work? Tell us about Tonia Osborn and how you collaborate together?
Tonia’s brother has long been my best friend. Shaun and I worked together in the construction industry. It was his suggestion that I ask her for help. And Wow! What a partnership we have forged! Not to mention a true and lasting friendship. Tonia is a professional artist and has her own gallery – The Red Z Gallery – in Mount Vernon, Ohio. She’s no starving artist and didn’t have to agree to work with me in order to make ends meet. To say I have been impressed is a true understatement. I think she delights in making me cry though. When she’s working on one of my stories, she sends me pictures of each illustration by email as she finishes. Sometimes she will call as she sends a picture, so she can hear my reaction over the phone. I swear I can hear her chortling with amusement as I cry out in delight, completely enchanted with each work of art she produces.
From the very beginning, Tonia has been completely respectful of every aspect of of Rupert and his tales. One of the first phone calls I received from her was when she was painting “Rupert’s First Beltane.” She told me that since the story called for moonlight, she looked up the phase of the moon for the coming Beltane. She asked if I had a preference for which phase of the moon she depicted, since that year (2009) there would be a full moon, but not every Beltane would feature that phase of the moon. I was absolutely delighted. She has been completely “in tune” with every aspect of every story, always asking questions as to what I wanted to see. She makes me draw the stories before she paints them, so she can “see” what I have in mind.
My favorite story is when I asked her if she could, maybe, not be quite so incredible with her paintings. I told her I was afraid that the publisher would have to increase the price of the book to accommodate the incredible scope of her illustrations. She said, “Should I ask you to dumb down the stories?” Um ... no. From that point on, we agreed that I would do the words and she would do the pictures. And I have to say that it works quite well!
We had worked together for more than two years before we met. We got to spend a few days together in September, 2011 when my husband, Randy, and I flew up to meet her in Ohio before we all headed to Schiffer Publishing for a company picnic together. We were a little worried about how we would get along in person, since we got along so very well long-distance. I am delighted to report our concerns were totally unfounded. She’s a bit more reserved and quiet than I am, but who isn’t? I am looking forward to a very long and very happy professional and personal relationship with Tonia.
You often provide public readings and performances, how do you "get into character?"
This is a great question, and a little hard to answer. Most people who see me in public think of me as silly and loud and pretty much fun to be around. At home, I am very quiet and often very serious about my work, my faith and life in general. As a Libra, this life’s challenge is to find balance. The best way I’ve figured out to achieve this unreachable goal is to live in the extremes. Either I am bouncy, bouncy or very still. And it seems to work for me. It’s very difficult for me to leave my work behind, let alone the colorful home we’ve created, but once I do, then I am completely “on.”
On stage, on camera, on the roof tops! Both versions of me are completely real and really who I am. There is no effort required on my part to “get into character” (as it were). I simply step outside the door and I am ready to roll. I really must say though, that spending my life with someone who not only “tolerates” me and my eccentricities, but sincerely celebrates all things Kyrja, makes all the difference in the world. Randy doesn’t love me in spite of the fact that I’m such a goof, he loves me because I am such a goof. He doesn’t love me in spite of my long, drawn-out serious conversations, he loves me because of these things. When you love yourself first and best, then you have more of the best of yourself to share with others. We all want to feel important and loved, and even when you feel good about who you are, where you’re headed and what you have – you may sometimes still feel as though you aren’t good enough. In one way or another. Maybe not good looking enough, or smart enough, or not “something” enough. My life’s partner is always there to remind me how “more than enough” I am. And so I am able to celebrate each breath, each heartbeat, every tear, and every step with joy.
I will admit that my own enthusiasm for our furry friend has sometimes caused me to overextend myself and to schedule more events than what is comfortable. And there are things that I do for Rupert that I wouldn’t necessarily do for myself. I would often rather stay home than to go just about anywhere else. But I have been called upon to bring Rupert to the world, and so off I must go. I have always – always – considered myself nothing more than the envelope in which the message arrives. Rupert is not so much “my” creation as he is the message from God and Goddess using my voice. On those days when Randy may be tempted to get a rope to drag me out the door, I always manage to remember what it is I am doing and why. Once I get outside the door, it’s all good.
So, thanks to Randy, and the many blessings the Universe continues to bring us, public readings and performances are a delightful way to share the joy Rupert has brought to my life.
Aside from the initial illustrated book, there is also an activity book and merchandise like T-shirts, what other future additions can we expect to the Rupert line?
As you mentioned, our first book, “Rupert’s Tales: The Wheel of the Year – Beltane, Litha, Lammas and Mabon” was released in February 2011. Our second book, with stories about the other four sabbats, “Rupert’s Tales: The Wheel of the Year – Samhain, Yule, Imbolc and Ostara” will be released in February 2012.
“Rupert’s Tales: The Wheel of the Year Activity Book” will be released in Spring 2012 – with images to color from both of the Wheel of the Year hardcover books, as well as a few games and other activities.
Our third hardcover book, “Rupert’s Tales: Rupert Helps Clean Up” will be released in fall 2012 – featuring four tales where Rupert learns about Reducing, Reusing and Recycling.
I have also created a “Rupert’s Tales: The Wheel of the Year Board Game” which I hope will be released in 2013, along with a “Huggable” Rupert which we also hope will be released within the year.
Although they are available through Cafe Press on our website, Friends of Rupert T-shirts are available exclusively at Mystikal Scents in Thonotosassa. Books and posters are also available at Enchanted Earth in Dunedin and there are even two copies of our first book at the Progress Energy Art Gallery in downtown New Port Richey. You are also welcome to check out the copy on the shelves of the New Port Richey Public Library. And, for local Friends of Rupert, you are always welcome to stop by our home – the Glitter Dome – for an autographed copy. Friends outside of our area, who desire an autograph can get a nifty bookplate designed by Tonia featuring our furry friend, for the price of a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
How do you use social media to bring awareness to Rupert's Tales and Friends of Rupert? Can you provide links?
The Friends of Rupert fan page on Facebook gives us the opportunity to let those who have subscribed be the first to know where we’re going to be, what’s coming out next, and all kinds of fun pieces of information. I have shared song lyrics and even You Tube videos of me in costume, singing the songs I’ve written for “Rupert’s Tales and Tunes” performances. I have also asked for suggestions for names of some of Rupert’s friends as I was writing some of the stories. I especially enjoying posting pictures of Friends of Rupert in our photo albums. Here is the link to our Facebook page: Friends of Rupert on Facebook.
The other thing we get to do here, is to advertise our Rupert Road Clean Up events. We’ve taken our furry friend out of the pages and illustrations of the books and formed an official Pasco County Clean Up Team. For almost two years now, we have cleaned the 2.3 miles of Rowan Road between Massachusetts Avenue and Trouble Creek Road four times a year, often in conjunction with local events like Coastal Clean Up and the Great American Clean Up. We have an event scheduled for January with others in April, June and September this year. It should be noted that we do offer certificates for Community Service volunteer hours.
Our Facebook page is directly linked to our Twitter account, so every time I post on the Facebook fan page, I Tweet too. I was delighted to learn that the Human Resource Campaign organization recently began following our Tweets. The other thing I really enjoy about having a Friends of Rupert fan page is that I can share other resources I come across for Pagan children. That’s one thing that I hear repeatedly, is that there are few resources and fewer quality children’s books for Pagan children. So I share as often as I find them.
Another essential resource is Witchvox. I’ve had quite a few people contact me through my profile at this website. Friends of Rupert has been an official sponsor of Witchvox for a couple of years now and we loudly applaud their work.
Finally, if a coordinator would like to schedule you for an event, how can they reach you (and Rupert) for an upcoming event?
There are several different ways, including Facebook, Witchvox, and our website, but the most-direct route is via email either through email@example.com or through firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, we’re always happy to give tours of our delightful home, so please feel free to stop by!