Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Originally from Calgary, AB, Madison Farkas is an author, media critic and editor. She graduated from Mount Royal University’s Journalism program in 2016 and has written for
CBC Books, Global News, Avenue Magazine, the Calgary Journal, Victoria Pink Pages and Best Version Media, among others.
Her background is in magazine publishing and local investigative journalism and she is a yoga lover, amateur chef and sometimes painter. She lives with her partner and many houseplants in Peterborough, ON. The Three Tree is her first book.
Headshot Photo Credit: Photo by Wendy Parkin
Social Media Links:
YouTube: Madison Farkas – Author
Goodreads: Madison Farkas
Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
The Three Tree was originally a bedtime story created by my father, Randy Farkas. My parents were at a party one night when I was very young. The hosts didn’t have any kids, so when my bedtime rolled around there were no picture books to read – and heaven forfend tiny me should go to sleep without a story! My dad had no choice but to come up with one himself and he improvised it on the spot. The Three Tree soon progressed to my younger brother, our cousins, and other children in my family’s circle of friends, to universal acclaim (especially when told around a campfire). My dad gave me his blessing to turn it into a real book.
What themes does it explore?
Self-reliance and self-esteem are the big ones. Part of the reason the The Three Tree has endured for over 20 years in its oral form, across multiple generations of listeners, is that the child protagonist has so much agency in the story. Her choices are what drive the plot. The reason she can do what she does is because she has confidence in herself and her abilities and the adults in her life take that seriously. It’s something kids, who are so often deprived of agency, find really appealing – even if they’re too young to consciously understand why.
Why is the main character never named?
In the original bedtime story, my dad would always substitute in the name of whatever child
happened to be listening at the time, placing them in the protagonist’s role. That was an element I very much wanted to keep in the book’s printed form, so young readers and particularly girls could more easily imagine themselves as the main character.
What makes this book important right now?
Books for children are always important. Reading and being read to at a young age improves concentration, expands vocabulary, develops imagination and teaches kids about the world around them. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without the deep love of books and reading that started when my parents read to me. Beyond the fact that The Three Tree was originally my dad’s story, that’s what inspired me to become a writer.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing?
Writing is hard. That’s something people don’t talk about enough. I don’t think most casual readers realize just how much technical craft goes into the books they enjoy, from story structure and character development to the down-in-the-weeds details of word choice and sentence construction. More than that though, I tend to get in my own way when it comes to writing. I struggle with impostor syndrome and the nagging doubt that any of my ideas are original or interesting. I also have to stop myself from editing too much as I write. I often catch myself only wanting to write perfect sentences. Lacklustre writing can always be improved, but you can’t edit what you didn’t write down in the first place.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I often see something I call “first novel-itis” in aspiring and debut writers. It happens when someone tries to cram every topic or theme they’ve ever wanted to write about into a single book, and when characters are underdeveloped in favour of excessive worldbuilding and infodump exposition. It’s a really easy thing to do and I’ve had to consciously avoid it myself.
How many hours a day do you write?
Not as many as I would like. I write a lot for my full-time job and that tends to use up a lot of my energy for it. Being able to write fiction full-time is the dream.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep going! Write that Eragon fanfiction! It doesn’t matter how good (or not so good) it is; you will get better with practice. Appreciate the time and the boundless energy you have now as a 14-year-old with no adult obligations or responsibilities and write as much as you possibly can.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Right now, just one. In a complete departure in format and tone from a children’s picture book, it’s a queer coming-of-age fantasy novel for adults that I’m working on with my partner. We’re about halfway through the first draft. In addition to that, my dad has several other original bedtime stories that I may turn into picture books too.
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