What first got you interested in writing? What was the initial spark for Andy Smithson?
Since age 8 when I read C. S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe I have wanted to write a series like Andy Smithson. The worlds Lewis created (London, Narnia, and a meaning layer) piqued my fascination and I wanted to write something with multiple layers, as well. I guess I saw it as a personal challenge.
That experience, mixed with the Harry Potter series with the seven books that all build on each other, gave me some direction/refinement as to how I could build the series.
When I first started writing the Andy Smithson series, the basic idea was boy comes from another world to rescue it in some way. The whole story arc was not clear in my mind so as I wrote, I gave myself lots of room/artifacts to build off of, like the trunk in Andy's attic or all of Andy's sword's capabilities that manifest throughout the series.
What is it about writing for a middle-grade audience that you enjoy the most?
I focused on writing for middle grade based upon the lessons I wanted to teach my target audience, namely, responsibility, diligence, and dignity are the keys to true success in life. Along with that I wanted to help them understand how to overcome fear, frustration, impatience and more. These themes are woven throughout the series in a practical, non-preachy way and readers have mentioned that they appreciated my books with these positive values in the sea of books written purely for entertainment. I believe if kids this age can be exposed to these principles and get a small taste of how they can positively impact situations, perhaps they can incorporate them into their lives and make their lives better as a result.
Has your writing process changed as you wrote the sequels?
I think the biggest change has been the time needed to write a book. The first book took me a year to write. I was figuring out how to write, understanding the indie publishing space and so much. I refined my writing process and the last book I wrote in 3 months. It got easier and faster the more I got to know my characters and how they thought and what they cared about. Just like meeting someone new, it took me time to develop a relationship with each of them.
What has been your favorite part of writing the Andy Smithson series? Do you have a favorite scene or line from your novels that you would like to share?
My favorite part of writing the series is when the characters take the plot line in a direction I could never have anticipated.
There is a scene in book 2 that illustrates this very well and is one of my favorites because of it. Andy and Alden visit the library of Oomaldee. As they're looking around, they see a portrait of the king when he was 15 and it's nearly a mirror image of Andy, so immediately a whole host of questions arise. When I started writing that scene, I didn't have any notion what that scene would evolve to become in the story line, and if you remember it, you know how pivotal it is. That scene shifted how I had planned to develop the characters and their roles - namely, Andy was not originally going to be king. But from that scene, he told me he wanted to...so I put him through his paces and developed him to be a good sovereign.
I also love the scenes that send goose bumps up my spine even as I reread them today. One scene, in particular, is when Andy and Father are discussing that the king might be related, although we don't yet know how at that point. The vulnerability between the two in that scene is priceless.
And there are others...the scene when Andy is about to cut off the unicorn's horn and he understands the nearly sacred nature of what he is about to do.
There are so many...
The Battle for the Land's Soul has some wonderful action sequences and I was curious how you prepared to write those battle scenes? Did you act them out as you were writing them?
My objective for the epic conclusion was to allow readers to see what was happening both at the castle as well as with Andy and the company in the cave. Knowing this was coming, I'd taken care in previous books to develop Andy's inneru to be able to see into someone's thoughts/vision as well as Abaddon's ability to hijack it. With these tools available then, I had all sorts of fun flipping back and forth between the two scenes.
The battle scenes themselves needed to put Andy through a more rigorous test than ever before (it was to be the EPIC conclusion after all LOL). I did not act them out. I merely envisioned them as they needed to happen logistically as well as conceptually, as in what all attacked him and the company, etc.
Also, there is a fair amount of Alden needing to patch up his friends, did you need to do any special research for this?
I did a limited amount of research in terms of understanding what herbs were used in medieval times. As well, I researched the various gemstones and worked to understand what uses/strengths each is credited with. It is these details I wove into the tale. In doing my research I also discovered the word "lapidist" an actual word, Ha.
In looking back at your series, what do you feel you've learned as a writer?
Oh goodness, what haven't I learned from writing the series? LOL! When I started writing the series, I knew I didn't know anything about writing, never having done it before. I deeply appreciate my editor who taught me how to tighten up my writing, showing vs. telling, paying particular attention to the emotions of a scene and writing it to help readers identify with those emotions, and so much more from a craft perspective.
Then I also learned the marketing side of the indie publishing business which has allowed me to have the success I have, building from nothing, and growing my fan base to where it is today. Am I satisfied with my progress? Absolutely. One can only grow so fast. DO I have more to learn? Absolutely! There will never come a time when there isn't more to learn in the publishing space. It's changing quickly in this day and age. And to sit still, is to be passed.
What are you working on now?