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TMCNet:  CATSWITH ATTITUDE: ?Warriors' series of books for young readers use fearless felines to entertain, teach important lessons

[April 18, 2010]

CATSWITH ATTITUDE: ?Warriors' series of books for young readers use fearless felines to entertain, teach important lessons

Apr 18, 2010 (Albuquerque Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- "Warriors: Omen of the Stars No. 2: Fading Echoes" by Erin Hunter Harper, $16.99, 296 pp.

Victoria Holmes may not have the celebrity of J.K. Rowling, but Holmes is producing bestselling books just as Rowling has done with the "Harry Potter" series.

One apparent reason for Holmes' lack of fame is that she doesn't write under her own name. Holmes is one of three women who write the Warriors series for young readers, all under the pen name of Erin Hunter. The characters are cats.

"Back then, that was in about 2001, they wanted a book once every three months. So I immediately enlisted the help of a writer, Kate Cary, a professional acquaintance," Holmes said in a phone interview from Aylsbury, England.

"I was working as an editor of children's books, and I knew Cary because I edited her and she loved cats. And I knew I needed someone who loved cats." Holmes isn't crazy about the felines.

Holmes said her job is to come up with the detailed storyline and the characters of each book. She does the same regardless of who "breathes life into it." For the third book in the initial Warriors series, Holmes realized that she needed to speed up to maintain the publishing schedule.

"So I'm also working with Cherith Baldry, and she loves cats. Her natural writing style was quite close to mine and Kate's, so I knew that Cherith's voice would fit," Holmes said.

"Fading Echoes" is the 20th and newest release in the Warriors series.

The core audience of the Warriors and Seekers series is ages 9 to 14, with a good mix of girls and boys. But once readers begin, many continue reading through high school, she said.

The publisher, Holmes said, has left the idea of the books' story ideas to her.

To make it interesting for herself, Holmes injects the subjects she's passionate about -- death, religion, politics, betrayal, doomed romance, prejudice. There have also been two Warriors super editions, which are longer books and can be read out of sequence of the main series, plus three special editions, which Holmes described as nonfiction guides to the world of Warriors. She wrote those on her own. In addition, Holmes generated the idea for the separate Seekers series, which is about North American bears. She asked another writer to do that series. "That came about because HarperCollins wanted a series about a different animal," Holmes said. "We've just finished book six of the first Seekers series, and there will be a second series." She thinks that Warriors has a bigger online community than the followers of the "Star Wars," "Harry Potter" or "Twilight" books have had. "Why is ours so popular? There's a lot of role playing, where readers create their own characters that interact with each other online in role-playing games," Holmes said. "These are all new characters, but inspired by the (series). There are also a lot of discussion forums concerning the books and the mistakes I've made." Mistakes? For example, she said, some characters have unintentionally changed genders. Today Holmes will talk about the main theme of "Fading Echoes," which is sibling rivalry, and will invite audience members to chat about their own rivalries. She reserves the right to not answer certain questions. "Sometimes they ask what happens next, and I won't give anything away," Holmes said.

To see more of the Albuquerque Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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