WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER?
I loved reading, movies, and storytelling as a child, so all these areas had a huge influence on my life. Some of my favorite books growing up were The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary; James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl; and the Hardy Boys series.
As I grew older, I enjoyed Charles Dickens and his ability to take a Shakespearean cast of characters and seamlessly weave them through his stories (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations). I was heavily influenced by C. S. Lewis, with his amazing depth and creativity as an author. Jane Austen captured the aristocracy, the intrigue, the forced etiquette, and the psychological games and hypocrisies of the upper classes. The Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne wrote mysterious, romantic gothic novels that are powerful, moving, and deep, such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Thomas Hardy took simple characters living in a rural setting and created complex, multilayered stories, and Daphne du Maurier, with her epic novel Rebecca.
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUIRKY OR FUN WRITING HABITS?
Not really, although everyone is different and whatever works for you—do it. I like to get up early and begin writing or editing around 7:00 AM. On a good day, I can go for about eight hours. I take breaks, have lunch, work-out or walk and then wrap up around 5:00 or 6:00 PM. I do like to walk around the room when I am brainstorming and creating a scene—movement helps me think and frees the mind. When I am doing my final rounds of editing, I will print 2-3 pages at a time, relax on the couch with a pen and a highlighter, and start reading through. The printed work reads very differently from the computer screen—very differently.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD-WINNING BOOK?
I was working at an investment bank in Boston and was at a boring weekend seminar in Providence, R.I. I started to drift so I began to doodle. I simply drew an image of a circle (balloon), three lines, and a basket with a boy and a girl. The idea for Britfield suddenly hit me—two orphans living at a horrible orphanage (Weatherly) in Yorkshire, England escape the awful conditions, commandeer a hot-air balloon, and head towards London. However, they are relentlessly chased by the illustrious Detective Gowerstone, who is renowned for finding missing children and runaway orphans. Four years and 2,500 hours later Britfield & the Lost Crown was completed. From conception to finally launching the first in the 7-book series (15 August 2019), it took ten dedicated years of patience and discipline.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LINE FROM YOUR AWARD-WINNING BOOK AND WHY?
“Tom knew too well that talking violated the sacred Weatherly Rule Book, a seventy-five-page document of laws and regulations all orphans had to memorize when they arrived. Any violation of these rules resulted in punishment, the penalties varying in length and severity. However, some rules were made to be broken; it was the orphans’ only way to survive here. They did what they were told and got away with what they could.”
I had to set up this last line (Italic) with the paragraph, but I always loved this quote. I think it connects with many children (rules and regulations) and transcends into our adult life: doing what you are told and often getting away with what you can—perhaps it’s the small, rebellious nature in us all.
WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL GLEAN FROM YOUR AWARD-WINNING BOOK?
While Britfield & the Lost Crown is a fast-paced, fun adventure novel, it’s about family and friendship. What does it mean to be an orphan (you could teach an entire college semester on this)? What does family mean? Could you imagine not knowing your parents or having any brothers and sisters? However, family can mean many things—a connection, an understanding, and a bond with others who you can always count on. That is what the Weatherly orphans are all about—looking out for one another. They are family, perhaps not by birth or blood, but by something stronger. They shared a special bond that nothing could ever break.
IF YOU WERE STARTING YOUR JOURNEY AS AN AUTHOR TODAY, WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY?
I would spend more time outlining my story before writing it. Often, we jump in and start writing something, which is great to get moving and write. But I have learned that by spending more time at the beginning working on the story, the structure, the plot, the twists and the characters, that when you begin to write your story, it moves faster, more smoothly and you have already navigated many details, problems, and questions. When I am writing a movie script (first draft), I will spend three weeks on the structure and outline, which is usually 2-3 pages of bullet points (each bullet point representing a 1-3 minute scene); then I will spend three weeks and produce 117 pages of work. This is the power of planning and outlining.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST TIP FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
The process is long and difficult. Everything from finding a proper literary agent, to finally getting a publisher. The little secret that no one tells you is that publishers do relatively nothing to help authors sell their book (it’s all up to you), an archaic publishing model fast becoming extinct. It becomes a full-time job if you want success, such as marketing, media, book signings, and events.
I have heard three important things about writing: Write about what you know, write about what you love, and WRITE! I believe that for every final, published page, it will take an author around 4-5 hours to complete. This means a 100-page book will take between 400-500 hours to complete. Also, writing is 10% writing and 90% rewriting (editing). If you asked most writers what is the one thing that they most need, it’s uninterrupted time.
Story is everything. It can be simple or complex, but it must be interesting and well told. Find a unique story and start writing. First create your structure: beginning, middle, and end. It’s easier when you think about the story in chapters: where’s the book going, what happens next and how will it end? Develop your characters and know them well—give them depth and obstacles that they must overcome. Do your research and master the subject you’re writing about. Also, read. Enjoy reading and understand what’s out in the market. Find writers you like and learn from them: how they tell a story, the way they structure or pace their narrative, how they describe things. Analyze these books and figure out what makes them interesting or compelling—why they’re successful or why they work as a novel.
Remember, nothing happens overnight. It takes commitment, discipline, and endurance to produce an engaging and inspiring novel. To write and finish a book, you must first begin and spend time with it. Don’t worry about your first draft; just get your ideas and words onto paper (or the computer). Challenge yourself each day to produce a certain amount, perhaps two or three new pages. If you’re stuck on the next chapter, but you know what happens in another section, then jump to that scene. Just keep writing. If you can’t think of anything new, then start editing what you’ve already written, but just keep writing.
This is the discipline and commitment needed to finish a book. However, it’s one thing to create your story, structure, characters, and a compelling narrative; it’s another to edit. The more you edit, the better your story becomes; the more you edit, the more polished your writing becomes. Nevertheless, there is a time when you must finish and let it go, so you can move onto your next story. Most importantly, have fun. Write because you enjoy it.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK?
It is a full-time job, period. Not many have the luxury of dedicating this amount of time, but it is what is truly needed. Here are a few basics:
· You need to put together a marketing plan and strategy. Find someone with business savvy who can help you. Put together at least a 1-year plan, with goals and objectives.
· Create your own story and continue to tell it: Why this book and what does it mean to you?
· Apply for book awards: this is a great way to achieve recognition and exposure.
· Set up a dynamic website that tells your story and captures emails/comments
· Create a blog that you can share with other authors: tips, promotions, insight
· Set up your Amazon platform and learn all the tricks about exposure and rankings
· Do as much media: social media, radio, and television as you can (email contacts, networks, and other platforms). What is your hook? Why would they like to interview you?
· Try to do book presentations (or readings), not just at bookstores but also organizations and schools.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT?
I believe Britfield & the Lost Crown. It took four years and 2,500 hours to write, finish, and polish. It represents ten hard years of work and dedication: from concept 2009 to national launch 2019. Many other books will follow. I finished Britfield & the Rise of the Lion, Book II last year (3,000 hours to complete). However, the first book in the series means the most.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ASPIRATIONS?
To complete the seven-book Britfield series.
DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS?
I will soon begin writing Britfield & the Return of the Prince, Book III