New York Times best seller, author of 35 books, ukulele player and one bear of a story…
When did you know you were a writer?
It was a gradual awakening for me. I started to write songs when I was 17. That was whenI first knew I had a creative streak. I turned to writing around the age of 32, just for something different to do. My first story was a Christmassy thing about polar bears, which I wrote as a gift for my wife. It was intended to be short, no more than a few pages long, but realising I knew very little about polar bears, I went to my local library and read some books about them. Before long, my ‘little’ story became a 250,000 word Arctic saga. I got hooked on the writing process while I was doing it. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer.
How long did it take to sign your first publishing contract?
Although the polar bear novel was a decent story, it was very rough from a writing point of view, and having spent two years on it I wanted to try something different, rather than go back and redraft a quarter of a million words. So I wrote some short stories – for adults. I won a few small competitions, which gave me confidence. Then one day someone showed me a competition leaflet to write a short story for children. I couldn’t think of a thing to write. So I took an adult story that I’d never been able to sell and redrafted it from a child’s pov. I didn’t win the competition, but a friend suggested sending it to a children’s publisher. The publisher liked it and picked it up. In other words, I was successful with my very first submission. I got an agent shortly afterwards. I rang two, told them I’d got a contract, and they both offered to put me on their books.
What are the most important lessons you learned along the way?
That writing is a business. Every wannabe writer needs to know this. Publishers exist to make money, not just for the author but for themselves as well. This means that author and publisher will occasionally clash over their ‘vision’ of a book. This particularly applies to covers, titles and market placement. The author has very little control over these areas and might sometimes be asked to alter things to achieve maximum sales potential.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The answer to the last question pretty much covers it! A very well known author once told me that if I wanted to get rich I should follow the wishes of my publisher to the letter. He added that if I wanted to be happy – and have only an outside chance of getting rich – I should write exactly what I wanted to write and fight for my artistic integrity! LIke most authors, I suspect I’m somewhere between the two.
Would you ever consider self-publishing – why?
I have thought about it. Every professional writer has stories they believe in that for one reason or another are rejected by publishers. I might self-publish the polar bear novel one day.
What are you currently working on?
Two things. First, a middle grade series called THE UNICORNE FILES. (This is not a misspelling of UNICORNE, by the way). The UFiles are a kind of ‘X-Files for kids’. They are about a young boy called Michael Malone who discovers he has the ability to alter his reality. As a result he gets sucked into a secret organisation called UNICORNE who investigate paranormal mysteries. The first book, A Dark Inheritance, is already available. Book two, Alexander’s Army, comes out in the USA in May 2015 and the UK in June 2015. I’m working on the third book, A Crown of Dragons, right now. I’m also developing a brand new dragon series. The first book, The Wearle, will be out in the UK first, in October 2015.
What’s something your fans may not know about you?
I play the ukulele in a band.
My literary agency is Johnson & Alcock, Clerkenwell Green, London UK. I’ve published around 35 books but I’m best known for The Last Dragon Chronicles, which made the New York Times bestseller lists. They were published by Orchard Books in the UK and Scholastic in the USA.