Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m originally from the UK and am now based in Calgary in Western Canada. I’m an author of science fiction and fantasy novels for children and young adults, including The Alchemist’s Portrait, The Sorcerer’s Letterbox, The Clone Conspiracy, The Emerald Curse, The Heretic’s Tomb, The Doomsday Mask, The Time Camera, The Sphere of Septimus, and Flashback. I’m also the author of The Children’s Writer’s Guide, The Working Writer’s Guide, The Social Media Writer’s Guide, and many non-fiction books.
I offer a wide variety of presentations, workshops and author in residence programs for schools and libraries, covering such topics as the writing process, editing and revision, where ideas come from and how writers turn them into stories, character development, historical fiction and historical research, story structure, the publishing world and more. I’m an instructor for adults with the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University and offers a variety of online workshops for both children and adults. I also offer a number of services for writers, including manuscript evaluation, editing, writing workshops and coaching, plus copywriting services for the business community.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest novel is Flashback, which was published in 2015. It’s a paranormal mystery adventure for young adults involving psychics, ghosts, and mind control experiments. With regards to the inspiration for the novel, this is another of my favorite themes in the science fiction and fantasy genre. The initial idea was one of the first that I had when I began my writing career but the novel took a while to develop to my satisfaction.
In Flashback, Max, a fourteen-year old boy, experiences strange dreams and visions, which appear to be from someone else’s life. He also sees a ghost and fears that he might be losing his mind. However, following an encounter with elderly private detective John Carrington, Max learns of government conspiracies, secret kidnappings, and mind control experiments conducted by a rogue scientist and his psychic accomplice.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I do tend to mostly write late at night but many writers do that, so I’m not sure whether that would be classed as unusual. I also sometimes go to coffee shops to work on outlines for stories, specific parts of chapters, and so on, or occasionally just to get away from the home office for a while.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I have favorite genres or stories rather than favorite authors and mostly read science fiction and fantasy.
When I began my career as a writer I was influenced by the earlier books in the Harry Potter series. However, I didn’t want to write about wizards, dragons, or magic, but rather about the things that I was interested in, such as time travel, the paranormal, superheroes, ancient mysteries, or history. I was also influenced by Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, along with some other excellent fantasy and science fiction works.
What are you working on now?
As of February 2016 I’m working on the final installment of a dystopian novel set in a dark parallel universe, sequels to my upcoming novel Future Imperfect and my previous novel The Sphere of Septimus, along with a screenplay and editing and consulting on a few books for other fiction and nonfiction authors. In addition I’m working on the second installment of The Children’s Writer’s Guide and some more nonfiction books featuring tips and advice for aspiring writers.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I have a website, blog, and am very active on social media and while these are very effective I still find that promotion in person seems to be the best method for books written for children and young adults. I do a great deal of teaching and conduct writing workshops for both children and adults, which helps to promote the novels and other books. I also do many book signings at local bookstores throughout the year. This not only helps to sell books but also to promote my other services for writers, such as editing, coaching, or online workshops and courses.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Writing is in some ways the easy part. It can be a very long process not only to write a book, but also to get it published. A book is a marathon measured in years rather than weeks or months. Don’t be afraid to revise and revise over and over again. Most authors go through many revisions before their work reaches its final format. Remember too that your book will never be to everyone’s taste, so don’t be discouraged. A firm belief in your own success is often what’s necessary. After all, if you don’t believe in your book, how can you expect other people to?
Read as much as you can and write as often as you can. Keep an ideas file, even if it’s only a name, title, sentence or an entire outline for a novel. You never know when you might get another piece of the puzzle, perhaps years later. You also mustn’t forget the marketing. You may produce the greatest book ever written. However, no one else is going to see it if your book doesn’t become known to potential readers. Be visible as an author. Do as many readings, signings and personal appearances as you can. Get your name out there and hopefully the rest will follow. Especially for newly published authors, books don’t sell themselves and need a lot of help.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Probably to keep writing, read as much as you can, and always be open to new ideas. After all, you never know when you’ll get a really good one.
What are you reading now?
I’m always reading a wide variety of things, either online or in books and magazines. Sometimes this is for research purposes or during the editing process for clients but at other times purely for pleasure, either fiction or nonfiction and either new material or books in my own collection that I refer to every now and then.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’ll be working on the dystopian trilogy, followed by two potential sequels to my fantasy novel, The Sphere of Septimus, and for my upcoming YA novel Future Imperfect. I’ll also continue to work on my screenplays, guides for aspiring authors, and on promoting myself and my work as much as possible.
What is your favorite book of all time?
I don’t think I could select just one, there are so many.