Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Man With the Boy in his Pen

My guest today is a hard-working, hard-writing educator and author of numerous novels for children and teens. He's also got a line of craft books for writers. Welcome, Simon Rose. 

How long have you been at this writing game? How long professionally? 

I always had lots of ideas for stories but never thought about creating my own novels until I became a parent. Around that time the Harry Potter books appeared, as well as The Golden Compass and its sequels, and these books inspired me to create stories about the topics that interested me. The first novel was The Alchemist’s Portrait, which was published in 2003, followed by other novels and books on a regular basis ever since.

You’ve written fiction and non-fiction, history and fantasy, novels and short stories. Got a passion for any form over the others? Why/not?
I’m mostly drawn to science fiction and fantasy, but will most likely always return to historical fiction on occasion or incorporate history into the novels. I have no shortage of ideas in these genres and will hopefully see all of them turned into stories at some point. I’ll probably create some more guides for writers too and have a number of stories for young readers, including picture books, that I hope to publish one day.

Series or Stand-alones?

Until recently all the novels have been stand-alones. Sometimes this
was due to a lack of interest from the publisher in further installments and at other times the story had simply run its course. With some of the novels I considered sequels but was then soon busy on the next project instead. The most recent novels have plenty of potential and these days I tend to plan for at least a trilogy. Flashback will be three books, Future Imperfect may have two sequels, and my recently completed parallel universe saga is a trilogy. The Sphere of Septimus will have at least two sequels but I suspect that may become a longer series, time permitting.

Do you work on one book at a time or multiples? Does the idea for the next book occur in the midst of the current work, or not until after The End?

If it’s a trilogy I try to work on all three books at once, obviously focusing on the first part but keeping in mind how the rest of the story will unfold. If I’ve completed one novel but feel there’s more to the story, I write the next installments at the same time. I’ve sometimes worked on two unrelated stories simultaneously but they’re usually in separate genres and at different stages of completion. 

You do many school visits in person and virtually. What do you find most interesting and challenging about those? What do you hope the students – and teachers - take away from your presentations?

Meeting your readers can be one of the most enjoyable elements of a school visit. Younger students especially are almost always thrilled to meet a published author, especially if they’ve read your books. School and library visits offer an invaluable opportunity to connect with readers on a personal level and in some cases you can make a real difference in children's lives, stimulating their imagination or simply getting them more interested in books and reading. For many of the students an author visit can be inspirational, boosting their creativity and encouraging them in their own writing.

Teachers like to have authors visit the school and share their experiences with the students. They always appreciate any valuable insight into the generation of ideas, the writing process, and the importance of editing and revision. Most of my books can be used as classroom resources and as the basis for workshops and creative writing exercises. Many of these are featured in my book Where Do Ideas Come From.

Awards; you’ve seen a few. Your books have been finalists for noteworthy awards in several provinces, starting with The Alchemist’s Portrait for the 2004 Golden Eagle Book Award and as recently as the 2016 Alberta Book Publishing Awards Book of the Year for Children and Young Adults. In addition, you’ve served on literary juries both provincially and nationally, including for the Governor General’s Award. Talk to me about what awards and shortlistings mean for an author. Is it all about the win or…?

It’s always nice to be nominated for or win an award. The impact this has varies depending on the type of prize or award. Some will make a significant difference in terms of sales, others not so much. The higher profile awards such as the Governor General’s Award obviously make a big difference for the winner, but those on the shortlist might also benefit from the increased visibility for their work.

All authors today have to conduct their own marketing and promotion and even a nomination for an award can be used to raise your profile on social media, generate interest in the nominated book or your other work, get you noticed by the local media, attract interest from organizations or individuals regarding workshops, presentations, or services that you provide for writers, and so on.

However, it’s always wonderful to have your work recognized, either by your peers, people in the publishing industry, teachers or librarians, and of course readers. Some of the awards, such as the Silver Birch Award and the Golden Eagle Award, are selected by school students. If you’re writing for children and young adults you know that you’re doing something right if your readers really liked the book.

Your latest book, Future Imperfect, came out earlier this year. What’s that book about?

Future Imperfect is an exciting adventure featuring technology, teenage geniuses, corporate espionage, and mysterious messages. Most kids these days are very familiar with laptops, tablets, and video games, and don’t go anywhere without their cell phones, so the technology and gadgets that feature in the story make the novel very appealing for young readers. It’s also a very compelling adventure story, with lots of cliffhangers, twists, and turns. 

In the novel we’re introduced to Andrew Mitchell, who was one of the leading experts in highly advanced technology in Silicon Valley, until he vanished following a car accident, which also injured his son, Alex. When a mysterious app later appears on Alex’s phone, he and his friend Stephanie embark on a terrifying journey involving secret technology, corporate espionage, kidnapping, and murder in a desperate bid to save the future from the sinister Veronica Castlewood.

What’s next for you?

My paranormal novel, Flashback, was published in 2015 and two sequels are coming out next year, one in the spring and the other in August. I also hope to start work on two sequels to Future Imperfect. The novel has proved quite popular so far so I want to explore the possibilities of further adventures for Alex, Stephanie, and the other characters that appear in the novel.

I completed a science fiction trilogy about a parallel universe earlier this year that will be published soon. I’ve had the concept for quite a while, but it’s one of those stories that continually improved as it was being written. I’m currently working on a historical fiction adventure set in seventeenth century England. I’m also considering at least two potential sequels to my fantasy novel, The Sphere of Septimus, which was published in 2014. In addition, I’m continuing to work with other writers in all genres, not just those writing for children and young adults, as an editor and writing coach.

You can visit Simon’s website at or subscribe to his newsletter, which goes out once a month and has details of his current projects and upcoming events.

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