What has your experience as a debut author been like so far?
It’s been a gas. Lots and lots of work, but very satisfying. Being a debut author now is like starting your own small business. There’s so much to do, so many relationships to cultivate; agents, publishers, designers, website makers, marketing people, bloggers, social media organizers, store managers, and more. I’m working with a small but very experienced publisher, and but I’m told by authors with large publishing houses that they have to participate a lot more in the marketing of their work too now-a-days. It’s just the state of the publishing business.
What has been the best part of the publishing process for you? The worst?
The best part of the experience has been meeting a lot of smart people, both in the industry and the readers. Of course, they must to be smart if they choose to read my work. The worst part of the experience has been I decided I must stop writing for two months before the initial release of my first book, The Lens and the Looker. I mean, I’m still writing, but it’s blog interviews and promotional articles. But I don’t resent it. It’s a necessity and so I don’t let it bug me. It’s funny, but I remember at a Backspace Writers Conference, when an author told all us unpublished writers to enjoy our unpublished times, because we could write anytime we want. He warned that when we got published it would actually be harder to find the time to get our work done. I had no idea how right he was.
Where did your ideas for The Lens and the Looker come from?
They say a person is a collection of all their experiences blended in with their natural tendencies. I would say that this is true when it comes to determining where an individual gets ideas from. I’ve always been drawn to stories about the future. The books that had the biggest impact me, in my youth, and made me want to be a writer were Lord of the Flies, The Chrysalids, Brave New World, and 1984. As an adult I was also very involved with the Green Party political movement all across North America. You can see a direct correlation between all those titles and the political and social interests in my stories.
The Lens and the Looker is both futuristic and historical. What was it like writing about the distant past and future from a contemporary twenty first century point of view?
By the way you phrased the question, I think you get it. The fun of the whole project is that, as an author, you are writing for 21st century readers about 24th century characters who go back to the 14th century to be taught a lesson. The conventional way to do this story would have been to send 21st century kids back in time. But sending them from the future allows us to think and speculate about what it will take to get to that almost utopian world while we’re learning from the past. One feeds the other and broadens our perspective on life. I really learned a lot from writing this book. I think it gave me insights into the world and myself. I hope the reader will be able to say the same thing.
Edmund Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” This seems to be the rationale behind the History Camps. Why do you place such an emphasis on history?
The flippant answer would be to say, “Because those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” The straight answer is that by studying history, not just the “heroes” of history, but the everyday people and the regional leaders, we learn so much about ourselves. We learn about want, need, jealousies, avarice, consequences, etc. And by studying history, either in fiction or non-fiction, we get to learn about mistakes without having to suffer them or pay for them with a loss of time, money, energy, or worse.
And the thing that’s great about historical fiction is, done right, it’s more real than real. This means, if your research and characterizations are true, you can pack a lot more true events and emotions into a fictionalized framework and come up with a story that really teaches the reader in an entertaining way.
Time travel is certainly a fascinating topic! Why did you choose to write about it?
I really didn’t write about time travel. I use it as a writing device to put characters from different eras into the same arena to butt heads. I don’t explain how time travel works in my stories. How it’s done is secondary.
Like my character from the 31st century, Arimus says, “Technology is all. It’s just technology.” We are so often blinded by the dazzle of technology. And while we certainly must appreciate the genius and hard work that goes into every invention and breakthrough, fiction is usually the stories of the misuse of technology because of human failings and the belief in a short-term philosophy.
So, time travel, love it, but, even if it were real, it would only be technology.
What is the most interesting thing you learned while writing The Lens and the Looker? (This can be about yourself, about writing, or anything at all).
The thing that I really learned to appreciate writing this book was how tough and how lucky people had to be in the past and how easy we late 20th and 21st century North Americans and Europeans have it. I mean, I knew it intellectually, but by immersing myself in the history of the 14th century so heavily, I got to feel it in my bones. It’s like I had reinforced in me the lessons that the protagonists in the story were sent to learn.
What is the most rewarding part about being a young adult author?
I don’t think about myself as a YA author, just an author. But I’m told I have a writing voice and approach which appeals to young people. But many adults like my work too. I guess this makes sense, when you figure that most of the literature I like to read is young adult. It’s fresh, hopeful, angsty and moves quickly. I also like young people. As a young man, I was a children’s-theatre actor, writer and director, so I guess it’s always been in me.
If there was one thing you could change about The Lens and the Looker, what would it be?
I finished The Lens and the Looker well over a year ago, and I’m told that when any writer looks at work that’s been out of their hands for a time, they want to change something about it. It happened to me too and it stands to reason. After all, I was looking at it with eyes that were a year older.
But to answer the question directly, I told a friend who had just finished reading the book, that if I had to do it over again I would consider condensing the first 80 pages more, to get the kids off on the big part of their adventure faster. This friend protested, saying he really liked it the way it was, the way I set the story up. He said the first section of the book was perfect. When I said the same thing to another person, she commented that she would have liked the beginning to be longer, to learn more about the 24th century. So there you have it, proof positive, that all one can do is work your hardest all the time, do the best you can, and then get on with life.
That being said, when I do reread The Lens and the Looker, I must say that I am very pleased with it and proud that the initial responses to it are very promising. Several of my early readers called me up and said they really wanted to know what happens next for the characters and begged for a copy of its sequel, The Bronze and the Brimstone. It’s now finished and going to layout soon.
What are you working on next?
I’m about a third way through the outlining the third book in The Verona Trilogy, which is tentatively entitled The Loved and the Lost. I’ve also been working for two years researching and writing snippets for a completely new History Camp adventure. It has the working title of The Olive Tree and is about a boy from the 24th century who is taken back in time 5000 years to early Mesopotamia, to the court of King Sargon the Great. Sargon was the first recorded leader of an extended empire, as opposed to the leader of a city state.
So many people in our European and North American societies believe that our bibles are the beginning of real civilization. I want to write about some vibrant cultures that were in existence for several thousand years before Abraham. The ancient technology that is involved in this book is the olive industry, which apparently was as important then as the petroleum industry is in our current time.
You can read more about the History Camp series at www.history-camp.com. You can also “like” the History Camp Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/historycamptrilogy?v=info.
What has your experience as a debut author been like so far?
Munched by Rachael Stein on 3/08/2011