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About Erin Hunter

Erin Hunter is the author of the bestselling Warriors series of cat clan adventures, as well as the new animal fantasy series featuring bears, Seekers. As they explain in their posts this month, "Erin Hunter" actually represents four writers who work on the series: Victoria Holmes (pictured above), the editor who oversees the series, Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, and Tui Sutherland, who all love animals (though some, you might be surprised to hear, prefer dogs to cats), and who all love creating the worlds of Warriors and Seekers.

Posts by Erin Hunter

How to Name a Warrior (Guest Blogger: Erin Hunter)

Happy Thanksgiving!

And hallo for the last time, as we’ve come to the end of our Guest Blogs. Huge Thank You Purrs to the lovely Amazon folk for letting us join you here for the last month. We always love talking to you!

One of the most frequently asked questions is: How do you come up with the warrior names? At the beginning of Warriors, we never imagined how much fans would love (and, sometimes, object to!) the two-part names that we created for our characters. Fireheart, Graystripe, Sandstorm, Yellowfang, Crookedstar, Russetfur, Pouncetail all contain a hint of the cat's appearance, or character, or habits. As the Clans have grown, and more cats have been born, we've had to come up with literally hundreds of new names, but we always try to stick to a couple of basic rules.

Firstly, both parts of the name can only come from things that occur in the cats' world. Colors, plants, other animals, textures, and the weather are all good sources, as long as we can imagine a cat having experience of the object, and therefore having a name for it. That's why we don't use precious stones like Jade or Diamond (although Amber, Gold, and Silver are acceptable because they are distinct colors). It's surprising how easy it is to slip up and include a name for something that wouldn't ever be encountered by the Clans. For example, did you know that Tigerclaw was called Hammerclaw in Book One: Into the Wild right up until just before the book was published? Someone outside the writing and editorial team glanced at the script and said, How would a cat know what a hammer is? Doh!

The two parts of the name should reflect something about the warrior, either their appearance or a particularly characteristic which the Clan leader wishes to acknowledge in the final naming ceremony. For example, Sandstorm's name comes from the color of her pelt (dusty orange) and her flashes of temper. Sometimes, cats take part of their name from a cat that has been important to them (just like a Twoleg baby being named after a grandparent). Crowfeather specifically requested the second part of his name in memory of Feathertail, whom he had loved.

We compile long lists of suitable name parts, and then match them up in different combinations to find complete names that aren't too long (a name with more than three syllables is cumbersome both to type and for cats to say!), and have a pleasant ring. There's no magic formula: quite often, it's a case of trying out dozens of combinations before you find one that makes you say, Aha! That's perfect! We also get lots of help from our wonderful fans (yup – you again) who provide us with more name suggestions than we could ever dream up on our own. So thank you!

006089214501_mzzzzzzz_ This is a particularly exciting week for us because Warriors Power of Three Book Five: Long Shadows [Ed: Phew – could these titles get any longer?] is launched! All new books are exciting, of course, but this has been one of the most eagerly anticipated titles in Warriors history. Because at long last, all those rumors about Squirrelflight and her three children are going to be laid to rest. Yes, the truth is out! The question is, are you ready for it? Some secrets have been buried in the Clan for so long, there will be uproar and upset when they finally emerge. More than one cat is going to be left wishing they had stayed buried...

Special congratulatory purrs to everyone who spotted the clues that we started weaving in as far back as The New Prophecy Book Five: Twilight--and well done for hanging on for six books to find out! As always, we're eager to hear what you think of the new story. And we hope the wait was worth it. :)

006154793x01_mzzzzzzz_ Is it too early to talk about Christmas lists? The holidays aren't that far away, you know! If you haven't started your wishlist yet, may I suggest some rather lovely reading matter? :) As well as Long Shadows (surely you can't wait until Christmas for that?!), Escape from the Forest, the second in Tigerstar and Sasha's gripping manga trilogy, comes out at the end of December, along with the paperback for Power of Three Book Two: Dark River. The paperback for Book Three: Outcast follows in March to add to your collection.

You'll be able to celebrate the arrival of 2009 with a brand new book about our wonderful bears: Seekers Book Two: Great Bear Lake launches on February 10th. The paperback edition of Book One: The Quest Begins comes out at the same time, so you’ll be able to catch up with all the action if you missed the hardback. Happy New Year from us!

Meanwhile, we're busy with the fourth Warriors series, which launches in Fall 2009. Unlike previous new series, we won't be leaping forward an entire generation this time. There'll be some familiar faces to welcome you in Book One, plus some brand new characters with challenges and passions of their own. Eighteen books into the series, we haven't run out of ideas yet. There must be at least a dozen new ways to kill a brave warrior, or a wise elder, or an adorable kit... :) And there are still some questions from Power of Three that need answering, particularly about the origins of StarClan, and what happened to the ancient Clan of cats after they left the lake. A moonlit path of adventures, doomed romance, battles, torn loyalties, and rivalry lies ahead of us.

Come, walk with us, and may StarClan light our way!

Until next time, all best wishes
Vicky, Kate, Cherith and Tui x

Four Erins in One (Guest Blogger: Erin Hunter)

This time, you get to hear from all four of us!

Hi from Vicky Holmes
006089211001_mzzzzzzz_ When I'm on tour, I often get asked, "What's it like being an international bestselling author?" Well, my everyday life isn't hugely different from being an author who hasn't sold any books at all: I still spend a lot of time thinking up stories and writing and discussing tiny character details with my co-writers and editors. Sitting at my keyboard, wrestling with a hundred different ways to kill cats or studying a map to figure out if four bears could really walk that far in a day, I never stop to think about hundreds of thousands of books being printed, packed in boxes, shipped in trucks, unpacked in bookstores and warehouses, and sold to long queues of readers.

And that's the difference: YOU. The readers who buy our books, and send them shooting up the bestseller charts, and make it possible for me to come on tour and have amazing experiences that I could never have dreamed of. I am constantly amazed by your response to each new book, or series, or character--and when you express your opinions, by mail or online or when I see you on tour, I really do listen! You are all part of the Warriors Clan, and I'm honoured to have each one of you as my Clanmate.

Hi from Kate Cary!
My goodness, here I am writing an Amazon blog! When we started Warriors we had no idea that it would be so successful. Watching the series grow in popularity (and in depth) has been enormous fun. The Warriors world has become so complex that, now, when I sit down to write a Warriors book, I have to begin by reminding myself of the family trees, romantic relationships, and Clan politics before I start. Which is great because, the more deliciously elaborate the Warriors world gets, the more I enjoy it. The cats have all become old friends. Characters like Firestar and Graystripe and Sandstorm have become so real that they almost speak for themselves while I'm writing. I just put them in a situation and simply record their reaction; nowadays I consider myself more their spokeswoman than their guide.

Of course the greatest joy is our connection with our fans. It's their excitement that fuels our creativity, series after series. They are so loyal and energetic and utterly brilliant with their RPG sites and fan fiction and art, not to mention their awesome YouTube animations [ed.: see below ]. I love it when Vicky returns from a tour and sends me a parcel of stories and letters and drawings she's collected. I can hear all the voices of all the fans who have put so much time and effort into their own Warrior creations. It's like being part of a huge, happy family. Thank you Warriors fans. As Vicky would say, "you rock!" Your enthusiasm has changed my life most wonderfully and I will always be grateful.

Hi from Cherith!
When Vicky first asked me to write a Warriors book, I was delighted, because I have loved cats all my life, and as soon as I saw the storyline I realised what awesome books these would be. But I had no idea how Warriors was going to change my life!

It has given me a tremendous sense of achievement to write my share of the books and watch how the series grows and becomes more complex as we add more cats and more settings. I don't know how Vicky continues to come up with so many fresh ideas, though it's great for Kate and me to be able to contribute ideas of our own. I was especially happy when my new kittens, Bramble and Sorrel, came to have roles to play in the world of Warriors as Brambleclaw and Sorreltail.

I was even more excited when I was asked to tour the US in the spring of 2005, which was a wonderful experience. I loved meeting our fans and talking about Warriors with them. Since then, I've been able to make contact with fans through online chats, and through the stories, letters and artwork they send to the Erins. I'm so impressed that we have such loyal and creative fans. A big thank you to all of you!

006087122901_mzzzzzzz_ Hi from Tui Sutherland!
I am so thrilled and grateful to be part of this Erin Hunter team! A million thank-yous to Vicky and Cherith and Kate for including me, and to all the wonderful Warriors fans for supporting and loving these books as much as we do. I remember editing the very first book and how much I loved all the different new characters--I just wanted more of Sandpaw and Dustpaw and Lionheart and Tigerclaw and, of course, Firepaw! I also remember how exciting it was when we hit the bestseller list for the first time.
And somehow the stories just keep on coming from Vicky's magical giant brain! I do think it helps that we can have a new generation every couple of years--that's one of the many advantages of having cat heroes instead of people (another one: never having to describe what they're wearing). :) On the other paw, coming up with that many new cat names is a crazy challenge of its own! At least in the Seekers series there are many fewer characters to name. :)

But most of all, it's the terrific fans that help keep the series going. We love finding them all online; the YouTube tributes to the warrior cats are SO awesome, and if we ever run out of cat names, we know we can rely on the imagination of our Internet community to help us out. :) I had my first online encounter with Erin Hunter fans earlier this year, in a web chat at Wands and Worlds, and it was SO much fun! I love (and am so grateful for) how welcoming and warm and funny and brilliant everyone is. Erin Hunter's readers are the best! We love you all!

Until next time, all best wishes--
Vicky, Kate, Cherith and Tui x

[Ed.: I've added a sample of a pretty professional fan animation here:]

The Birth of Seekers (Guest Blogger: Erin Hunter)

Hallo!

2008 has been an incredibly exciting time for us, not just because we found out your choice for Ultimate Clan Leader, but also because we launched a brand new series. Seekers Book One: The Quest Begins was published in June, and to our delight, it shot straight to the top of the bestseller lists. Erin Hunter fans are the best ever! (That's YOU, by the way!)

Writing about North American bears instead of feral cats was like putting on a completely different set of clothes: It felt very strange at first, and we weren't sure if they fitted properly or even suited us, but after a while they felt as comfy (and stylish!) as our Warriors outfit! We deliberately wanted to write about an animal that was as different from feral cats as we could get, while still including themes of wildness, faith, violence, and huge challenges for our four-legged heroes.

Hunter_erin_kate Even before The Quest Begins was published, we received a lot of anxious letters asking if we'd stopped writing about cats. Never! Or at least, not for a very long time... Right now, Kate (pictured right) is writing another Super Edition (like Firestar's Quest) called Bluestar's Prophecy, revealing Bluestar's life up until the moment a certain kittypet named Rusty came to the forest. This will be in bookstores in September 2009. And I'm in the thick of planning the story arc for the fourth series (yay! six more books!). Book One comes out in Fall 2009, so there's not too long to wait before the next chapter in the history of the Clans begins to unfold. It's all about cats and bears from now on!

We started thinking about tackling a different animal about four years ago, after the first series of Warriors had clearly captured a lot of fans. Our publisher HarperCollins suggested we write a one-off title, like a Warriors Super Edition, featuring dogs. This made a lot of sense: I'm quite open about being a "dog" person more than a "cat" person, and it would be a very satisfying balance to books about felines. Plus dogs are the most popular pets in America! Go, dogs, go! But when we sat down and thought about it, we felt that dogs were not quite different enough than cats for a brand new series. They live in packs, hunt for food, mark out territories, and have a hierarchical power structure similar to Clan leaders and deputies. Maybe one day we'll get the chance to launch Canine Warriors, but for this series, we wanted to ring the changes a little more vigorously.

The next animals suggested by our publisher were horses. A canny choice, because I am officially Horse Crazy . Horses, dogs, and otters are my three favorite animals (no one suggested doing a series about otters, sigh). But horses, unlike cats and dogs, are flight rather than fright animals. If you ride horses, you'll know exactly what I mean. The second they perceive something scary--from a truck to a plastic bag flapping in a bush--their only desire is to run away as far and as fast as they can. That's not what we want from my heroes! The first sign of trouble, and they're a cloud of dust and small pebbles disappearing over the horizon! We need animals with a strong fighting instinct, who leap into danger to have the most gripping adventures. We were also concerned about the limitations of a hoof; we couldn't imagine a medicine horse doing clever little things with cobwebs or leaf wraps, for example. So we needed something different...

Dolphins! As our publisher pointed out, these exquisite creatures are tremendously popular, and they certainly have enough intelligence to organize themselves into rival societies with complex political issues. But ... would it not be a little tricky to tell them apart? There aren't a huge number of color or shape variations in a single species of dolphin, however hard you look. We struggle to keep our cast lists in order when the cats are multi-colored and all different shapes and sizes! We also weren't sure about the possibilities for fighting among dolphins. Wouldn't the water slow them down? Would battles be as exciting as cats wrestling with teeth and claws bared?

006087122901_mzzzzzzz_ At this stage, I think we were all getting rather frustrated that we hadn't come up with the perfect animal for the new Erin series. At last, the inspiration fairy struck: bears! North American bears, to be precise: three different species making their way across the continent on a desperate quest to... to... to find out what it means to be a wild bear! Yes! And so Seekers was born, starting with a LOT of watching Discovery Channel and Animal Planet to learn about wild bear behavior, habitat, threats, and just how far they could walk in a single day (quite far!).

This was the animal we'd all been looking for: purely wild, solitary by nature and habit, fierce and brave and not used to being under threat from anything because they're at the top of the food chain (in other words, nothing eats them!). Unlike cats, they don't have any sense of community or hierarchy, and they have no reason to be scared of other animals or humans. Obviously, there weren't many stories to be found in a bunch of happy, triumphant bears, so we needed to come up with a conflict, a terrible reason for the bears' quest across North America and Canada. Oh yes--that's another difference: This series, unlike Warriors, is set in a completely real location, using existing maps.

That conflict came from the bears' environment, and the pressures brought about by human interference. A timely theme, as everyone becomes increasingly aware of climate change and difficult issues such as whether we should drill for oil in Alaska. We have set Seekers several years into the future, when all three species of bear--black, brown, and polar--are under even more stress than they are now. It has been a humbling experience to learn about these incredible creatures, and a real privilege to bring new characters to life, as vivid and various as the Warriors cast list.

We're already thinking about which animal we could do next... The Otter Campaign starts here!

Until next time, all best wishes
Vicky, Kate, Cherith, and Tui x

Hallo from Warriors (Guest Blogger: Erin Hunter)

Hallo!

Welcome to the first in a series of four special blogs from Erin Hunter - yep, all of us! We’re thrilled to have been invited here as a guest blogger, especially because this is such a hugely exciting time in history. Have you been following the election as closely as we have? It’s been a rollercoaster ride of triumph, soaring expectation and crashing disappointment, from the preliminary rounds through each stage of voting until now, the day when the result will finally be revealed. Obama vs. McCain? Well, obviously that’s pretty important, but what I’m talking about is the race to become Warriors’ ULTIMATE CLAN LEADER.

006089211001_mzzzzzzz_ Eight cats lined up at the start, leaders past and present of the four main Clans, and each stage of voting left just half standing for the next round. The shock finalist was Crookedstar, former leader of RiverClan, who bravely took on Firestar of ThunderClan. Who won? Check out www.warriorcats.com for the final result - and don’t forget to check the website in January for a free, exclusive short story about what happened when the brand new Ultimate Clan Leader took control...

Thank you to everyone who voted, and huge congratulations to those who supported their candidates right to the end. Every vote counted, and every voice, however small, was heard loud and clear.

006087122901_mzzzzzzz_ A successful election is about wearing your heart on your sleeve, believing passionately enough about something to want to make a difference, and joining up with other people who feel the same. It’s a celebration of individual voices as well as perfect teamwork, and having faith in getting the right result if you all pull together. Which is not a million miles away from how the four Erins work together on Warriors and now, super-excitingly, Seekers. What we share is a huge love of animals, which means we’re all rather obsessed about our fabulous pets. So let us introduce ourselves, and our current four-legged companions, and reveal a few of the mysteries about how we create the stories. (Actually, it’s not very mysterious, but it is a lot of FUN.)

It all starts with me, Vicky Holmes. I come up with the storylines and characters, and then work with the others on each script to make sure it sounds exactly “Erin”, and fits in with the rest of the series. So I’m part-editor, part-storyteller, part-co-author, and totally Evil Controller of Hapless Cats! Yes, I’m the one responsible for killing all the young, pretty cats. And for making it just a little bit difficult to hate the villains - is anyone going to dispute that Tigerstar was the bravest of all the warriors? Or that Scourge of BloodClan had some pretty impressive leadership skills? It probably won’t come as a surprise that I’m not really a “cat” person; I think they’re gorgeous to look at and fabulous to write about, but if I were on a desert island, I’d rather have a dog to keep me company. Luckily for me, I don’t have to wait to be shipwrecked, as I have an adorable Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Missy who makes a great canine cheerleader in the dark hours when I’m struggling to pull stories out of my head.

At the start of each series of six books, I come up with a “story arc”, an idea for what needs to happen in the overall sequence of books, and who the central characters will be. Once this has been approved by the publisher, I create a very detailed storyline for each book. I figure out what needs to happen in each chapter, how the characters will develop, and most importantly of all, which cats must DIE. <<evil laugh>> Then I pass the storyline (which is about one-third of the length of the finished book) to one of the other Erins, who will expand it into a full-length script. Often my co-Erin will suggest handling a scene differently, or making a character do something else in response to a dramatic event. We have some very intense telephone conversations and e-mail exchanges then, as we figure out exactly what a certain cat would do, and how they would do it! That’s the best part of being an Erin, for me: getting into the most detailed discussions with another Erin about a world that feels completely real to us, even though it only exists in our imaginations…

That script, known as the first draft, comes back to me and I go through it very carefully to check that the story unfolds as I imagined it would, the characters say what I hoped they would, and it all sounds suitably “Erin”. It’s a bit like speaking a different language that all four Erins share! Sometimes I ask my co-Erin to make some changes to scenes or characters at this stage. Once the script is polished and shining and reading well, I send it to our editor at HarperCollins. She usually asks for a few more changes, which either I or my co-Erin take care of. One more read-through, and that’s it! Another book is ready for your delectation and delight - although it takes several months, and even up to a year, for the book to appear in bookstores after this point. It needs a gorgeous cover, blurb on the back to hint at what happens in the story, and lots of marketing so that everyone knows to expect another episode in the history of the Clans.

Hunter_erin_miumiu_flower_2 Kate Cary was the first of the Erins to work on Warriors. She wrote Into the Wild and Fire and Ice, Books One and Two in the first series. That seems like a long time ago now! Kate has two (rather floppy, cuddly) warriors of her own: Miu-Miu (who is a HE, in spite of his name!) and Flower (pictured here). They were part of a litter of four kittens who were rescued by an animal welfare in Scotland, where Kate used to live.

Cherith Baldry joined the team for Book Three, Forest of Secrets. She owns the only two warriors that feature as themselves in the books: Brambleclaw and Sorreltail. The real Sorreltail is as playful and loving as her literary counterpart, but it has to be said that the real Brambleclaw is probably a bit more straightforward and openly affectionate than the current ThunderClan deputy. Sorreltail’s favourite trick is to lie on Cherith’s keyboard when she’s trying to write!

Hunter_erin_sunshine_2 Last year, we welcomed a fourth Erin to the ranks: Tui Sutherland, the only Erin who lives in America. Tui wrote the Warriors Field Guide: Secrets of the Clans, and then took on the challenge of starting off the brand new series about bears, with Seekers Book One: The Quest Begins. In fact, Tui has been involved with us right from the beginning, because she was the very first editor of Warriors when she worked for our publisher, HarperCollins. I was very glad when Tui officially became an Erin because now I’m not the only “dog” person! Tui owns an adorable bundle of fluff, part-Yorkshire Terrier, part-poodle, called Sunshine (seen here).

So that’s the team: four writers, four cats and two dogs. The advantages of having four Erins are that we can produce more books than one person working on their own, and that there’s always someone to talk to if you get stuck on an idea. There are NO disadvantages: We’re a team, each of our voices counts as much as the others, and we all have a limitless amounts of passion for the worlds, cat and bear, that we have created.

Until next time, all best wishes
Vicky, Kate, Cherith and Tui x

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