A week or so ago I had the pleasure of joining the readers at Reddit r/books subreddit to do an 'Ask me Anything.' The clue is in the title on this one. The readers of r/books could ask me anything and I had to answer. I had a great time chatting with people, and I thought I'd write up some of the questions. So, without further ado:
How did you start writing for children?
I started writing eleven or so years ago with serious books for adults. None were published, though I enjoyed writing them. But as time wore on, I got an urge to write more exciting plots, and that's when I turned to children's books. I like bigger than life characters and lots of breathless action, so children's books seemed like the place for me to be. Now I wouldn't write anything else.
Congratulations on publishing the book! You must be so happy :) How long did it take you to write from inception to final draft? Which part are you most proud of?
Thank you. I'm pretty chuffed. :) I started writing the book about five years ago, and it went through a bunch of changes before it ended up in the hands of an agent. I'm a lot quicker now I can dedicate more time to writing, and can normally get a book done in about five months. Thankfully! Really tough, the question about which part of the book I'm most proud of. There are a few small pieces of emotional writing in the book which I like, but to talk about them would be spoilers so I won't. I will say there's a great action sequence at the end of the book that still brings a smile to my face now, so I'll say that.
How do children read these days?
- Parents reading for them
Do you write thinking of how they will read?
I think for the most part kids still read paper books. I'm sure some read ebooks, but for the most part I think it's paper. I still like to read my nephew stories when I can, and I'm sure many parents read their kids stories too. At the same time, I know from my job at the school that some kids love to read when given the chance. Some just hate it. The second part of your question is a really good one, the first time I've been asked that. When I'm writing, I don't tend to think of how a kid will read the book, as in will it be on ebook, or paper? I do tend to think of how the reader will respond though, and tweak the writing so as to get the maximum effect.
Any specific games that gave you inspiration for your series? Could you ever envision it becoming a game someday?
I play a bunch of computer games, so many have fed into the stories either directly or indirectly. I'm a big fan of JRPGs, so things like Final Fantasy, the Tales games, Chrono Trigger, etc have been big influences in ways that are probably obvious. I've learned a lot about storytelling from games, too, so pretty much everything I play feeds into the books. In terms of whether I'd like my book to be made into a game: I would absolutely love it. In fact, I think I'd be beating down the door of the company asking if I can help in some way, (tea-makers, pencil sharpener, anything!)
What's your least favourite part about writing?
Oh, definitely the toll it takes on your body. Now, I'll preface this by saying I know that working on a construction site is going to take a bigger toll. But when I write I tend to do it for the entire day. Sitting in one position, typing for that length of time, has really started to take a toll on my shoulders and wrists. I've tried all sorts of tweaks to my office to improve the ergonomics, but don't think I'll ever get it perfect. Us humans just weren't made to be in the same position for that length of time.
I'm writing a novel and wonder how I go about getting an agent. Any suggestions? I know the first step is to finish my book, but I don't even have a clue on where to get started and even be proactive with an agent hunt.
This is so much easier than it used to be. A few years back, you had to buy a big book with a list of the agents in it and send it each in turn. Pretty much randomly. Nowadays, each agency has a web-page, and often list their agents along with their likes and dislikes. Twitter is also a great source of information about agents, if you can find their handles. From there, it's a case of identifying the ones most likely to enjoy your manuscript, getting their email address and sending that baby off!
What were the books that really made you love reading as a kid?
Good question. The first books I can remember reading were those thin Ladybird books. I remember we had quite a few of the Disney tie-in ones. I used to read those over and over. Then, when I started going to the library, I really got into a UK series of books called the Hardy Boys. These were detective books, where a couple of (I think) brothers would go about solving crimes. I used to devour them. Then, I remember seeing the Jurassic Park movie in the early nineties and bugging my mum to buy me the book. After that, I was hooked on adult books.
You mention that you've played Final Fantasy. Which is your favorite and why is it X?
Haha, that made me chuckle. Nope, not X I am afraid. Honestly, I've loved every FF I've played, but my favourite is VII. It was the first, and I also think it's the best. (That story!) I also like VIII, in a kind of 'black sheep of the family' way, and love IX. X, I really thought was average when I first played it. Over the years, I've come to appreciate it more. Especially the story. It's a really well-developed tale that, (without wanting to give anything away,) packs an emotional punch.
What are the biggest differences writing for children around the world?
I've not really written anything with other geographical locations in mind, but I guess one of the biggest challenges would be the cultural differences. The ideas and experiences that formed my childhood in the UK are not the same as the experiences that formed someone's childhood in Brazil, or France. I guess some subtleties might be lost in translation there.
Hi Dan, firstly - congratulations on the launch of your first book! Do you have any unpublished books? If so, ho many unpublished or half-finished books do you have?
Thank you. I've have a couple of unpublished adult books, as well as a couple more kids books which I'm hoping to get published in the next couple of years. I'm currently working on a YA sci-fi book, but I'm only half way through that, so a long way to go yet.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on the book, and my knowledge-base about the subject-matter. Some books require more than others. I've just finished a book about pirates in the 17th century, and I had to do quite a bit of research for that one - reading books, internet, etc. Sky Thieves, on the other hand, I had to do very little research for, just a little on ships.