Talking Tales: Characters (Episode 2.5)

illustration of men talking

A “talking tales” episode about developing fictional characters, featuring interviews with five guest authors for children and young adults: Caroline Pignat; Jan Coates; Lori Weber; Rachel Eugster; and Amanda West Lewis. Hosted by Catherine Austen. 46 minutes. All ages. 

Listen to Episode 2.5:

“Author Interviews about Fictional Characters” (Cabin Tales Episode 2.5)

Read the full transcript of Episode 2.5:


[0:00] Introduction

[1:15] Interviews on favourite villains and protagonists

[2:00] Caroline Pignat on Darth Vader and Gollum

[4:10] Jan Coates on Skellig, The Nest, and Kate DiCamillo

[6:45] Lori Weber on Heathcliffe, Remington, and favourite characters

[9:40] Rachel Eugster on Miss Slighcarp and beloved characters

[12:20] Amanda West Lewis on the Terrible Trivium 

[15:50] Commentary and interviews on empathy

Excerpt by Colum McCann from Letters to a Young Writer

[18:00] Caroline Pignat on crying through a scene

[18:45] Jan Coates on sitting down with her character

[19:50] Lori Weber on loving her characters

[20:30] Rachel Eugster on acting and writing 

[22:25] Amanda West Lewis on making historical characters feel real 

[24:50] Exercises for young writers

[25:15] Amanda West Lewis on making historical characters feel real 

[27:00] Rachel Eugster on plotting characters 

[28:30] Lori Weber on discovering a character as she writes

[31:15] Jan Coates on living with a character in her head

[32:20] Caroline Pignat on connecting with characters

[35:15] Write your own tale

[35:45] Interviews on humans vs monsters

[36:55] Caroline Pignat on deceptive appearances

[38:10] Jan Coates on recent real-life monsters

[38:40] Lori Weber on scary humans

[39:00] Rachel Eugster on noble monsters

[40:00] Amanda West Lewis on humans and monsters

[40:15] Karen Krossing on monstrous humans 

[40:25] Monique Polak on writing monsters from life 

[41:25] Tim Wynne-Jones on monsters, humans, and monster stories

[43:30] Story prompt: humane monsters and monstrous humans

[43:45] Thanks

[44:50] Coming up on the podcast: Episode 0 followed by Episode 3: “Spooky Stories are all Around Us”

Thanks for listening. 


Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use). 

catherine austen

Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at

Guest Authors:

Jan Coates

Jan Coates grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia where her parents owned a bookshop and a music store. She has lived in Wolfville for most of her adult life. A teacher by trade, she’s been writing for young readers for close to 20 years, and she has published six picture books, six middle grade novels, and 18 levelled chapter books for emergent readers. Her first novel, A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk, was a finalist for the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Awards. She has two adult kids, both married and, sadly, both living in Ontario. One of Jan’s goals in life is to life within an hour’s drive of her kids. For now, she lives with her husband Don, and her Golden Irish, Charlie, in Wolfville. Other than reading and writing, she loves riding her bike, learning to illustrate, second-hand shopping, being outside and travelling. She does not like housework, cold weather and people who are dishonest. Blog:; Twitter:  @JanCoates13; Email:

Rachel Eugster

Rachel Eugster keeps her fingers in a whole rack of pies. She is the author of the picture book The Pocket Mommy(Tunda/Penguin Random House)*, and the Ingredients of a Balanced Diet series (Franklin Watts). She has written magazine articles for adults and children, and was formerly an editor at Walkingmagazine (published out of Boston), where she was a one-woman copyediting department. In a parallel orbit of her professional life, Rachel is a theatre artist, singer, and choral conductor. She is a co-founder and core artist of Bear & Co., a tiny indie theatre company that has produced 23 shows since its founding in 2012, and she conducts the SJCC Adult Choir and the Tamir Neshama choir for developmentally delayed adults. In 2015, Rachel premiered in her original play Whose Æmilia? at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Rachel is also an active member of Democrats Abroad, for whom she co-hosts The Blue Vote Café podcast with David Schellenberg. Website:; Facebook:; Twitter: ; Instagram:

Caroline Pignat

Caroline Pignat is the two-time Governor Generalʼs Literary Award-winning author of novels, non-fiction, and poetry. At age 16, she wrote a short story that years later became Greener Grass, winner the 2009 Governor General’s Literary Award. The Gospel Truth, a novel in free verse poetry, won her a second Governor General’s Award in 2015. With over 20 years’ experience teaching in schools, workshops, and at conferences, Caroline loves helping young writers find and share their unique voices. Website:; Twitter: @CarolinePignat

Lori Weber

Lori Weber is the author of eight young adult novels, including Yellow Mini, a novel in verse, and Deep Girls, a short-story collection; one historical middle grade novel, Lightning Lou; and one picture book, My Granny Loves Hockey. She has also published short fiction, poetry and non-fiction in several Canadian literary journals. A native Montrealer, she lived for several years in Atlantic Canada where she taught English in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Upon returning to Montreal, she began teaching English at Vanier College in 1994 before moving to John Abbott College in 1996, a position she recently retired from. She has represented Quebec twice for TD Canadian Book Week and has been offering classroom workshops around Quebec as a member of the Culture in the Schools program since 2005. She currently lives in Dorval, Quebec, where she hopes to do more writing, taking inspiration from her cat, Bogey, and the beautiful Lac Saint Louis which is at her doorstep, and which she loves to photograph daily. Website:; #lacsaintlouis (Instagram)

Amanda West Lewis

Amanda West Lewis has built a life filled with words on the page and on the stage, combining careers as a writer, theatre director and calligrapher. Her writing for children and youth ranges from historical YA fiction to craft books on the art of writing. Amanda holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, with a specialist certificate in writing picture books. She is also the Artistic Director and Founder of The Ottawa Children’s Theatre. She has dedicated her career to arts education for all ages. Website:;   Twitter: @AmandaWestLewis; Facebook:

Published by Catherine Austen

I am an award-winning Canadian author of books for all ages, including Walking Backward (Orca), My Cat Isis (Kids Can Press), 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 and 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6 (Lorimer) and All Good Children (Orca). I live with my family in Gatineau, Quebec.

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