Welcome to We Do Write, Kevin. Tell us a little about yourself.
What is the name and genre of your manuscript?
The Legend of Nicholaus & Co.: A Creature Most Foul
Young Adult/Middle Grade Fantasy. My focus is the boy and boy-at-heart. Girls can come over and play too.
That's nice of you, lol. Here's the part where you pitch it. What's your story about?
A boy hears the voice of a woman, and it will change his life forever:
“The Roanes lie about their true intent. They enter the city of Huron at the peril of us all.”
Sometime in the distant future when every kid owns anti-gravitational boots but white jumpsuits are worn only by biohazard teams and runway models, Nicholaus is living on the planet called Earth, and he hates it. He has done everything legal to escape and find his way back home, Colony 10D, southside of the moon (Well, maybe not everything legal, but Nicholaus didn’t mean it. Besides, he solemnly pledged to the fire chief and forest ranger that for every tree that had died, five more would be planted in its place). Then, Nicholaus hears her. He discovers that every city has a voice, and she will speak only to her steward. The city of Huron has chosen him.
Nicholaus, his brother Tim, and a band of friends are swept into the distant past when Beltara (the moon) and Earth are bound together by the Tether. On entering Huron, a creature with a severe case of halitosis leaves Nicholaus’ good friend Xanthus for dead, he learns that the good merrows bear a dark secret, and Sheriff Cyrus schemes to bring Huron under his rule. Still, Nicholaus isn’t short of help. Wizard monkeys, blue cheek buccaneers, and Jack, with his coat-of-potions, join him in unraveling this twisted plot. Even cla’nu, the mysterious air of Beltara, is on their side. Then, the unthinkable happens. The Voice tells Nicholaus that the creature most foul is living under their very roof, and it may be his good friend Jack.
Nicholaus faces mystery, intrigue and holy-cow-I-can’t-believe-he-still-has-full-upper-body-motor-skill danger, all to protect Huron. But how much can she ask of a thirteen-year-old boy?
Sounds intense. How did the idea of the story come to you?
Three events contributed to the story, but I can only share two. The third is related to a 9th century religious sect responsible for JFK’s assassination and emo. I’ve already said too much.
The first idea that contributed to the story came when I was twelve. We grew up in the countryside of the San Joaquin Valley, CA. My sisters and I were stretched out on the back deck of our pool watching a brilliant meteor shower. My mother always encouraged us to use our imagination. Looking up at the stars, she asked us: “Use your imagination. Tell me about the moon.” I remember suggesting there was a war between the Earth and the Moon. The Earth won. The craters on the moon were left from that epic battle.
Did I tell you I had a hard time getting a date in high school? Oh, I asked. Asking is the easy part…
The idea that contributed to the story was about five years ago. I was sitting with my wife watching television (I had managed the whole dating thing by then). An image flashed in my mind’s eye. A boy in a ship - a Leonardo Da Vinci type ship. The ship was traveling along a cloud, from one planet to the next. I mused the boy was travelling between the Earth and Moon.
Very cool. So, is this epic tale of a manuscript complete or still a work in progress?
The first and second draft is done. Technically, the third is done, also. But 3rd doesn’t seem to agree, and I’ve had a discussion with him. It’s going like this: “If you don’t knock it off and finish up, I’ll abandon all of you and write a thousand page love story about an angler who has to choose between his passion for fishing and his love for a woman whose father was swallowed whole by an oversized cat fish in the Ganges river. I’ll even make sure the angler dies at the end by choking on the very catfish that ate his lover’s father. Maybe even finish it off with a 20 page epilogue where she gives birth to the angler’s son. He will be named ‘Cat’.”
Seriously though, I hope to be done by September.
You must have a monster of a word count from world-building. How long is your book?
The current draft was cut from 130,000 to 112,000. I’d like to keep it there. Even get it down to 100,000. The storyline and world is pretty epic, but still, this is my first novel.
What will be your next step?
Self-publishing. If you had asked me 3 years ago, I would have said querying and traditional publishing. But the publishing world is changing. Brick and mortar distribution was the greatest reason to sign up with most publishing houses. But with Kindle, the Ipad, Lulu’s print on demand, distribution opportunities seem endless now. And with enough financial resources and talent, a writer could put together their own team and offer to the reader the book they believe in. I have some brilliant friends who are freelance editors and illustrators (for example http://www.justingerard.com/; http://www.c3cre8ive.com/NewImagMachHub.htm).
Some might think marketing would be another reason to sign with a publisher, but it has become obvious that unless you are a best-seller, publishing companies want you to do most of your own marketing. And we can! With YouTube, Twitter, etc., we can do a lot of it ourselves. Lack of credibility for self-publishing might be another factor, but if you write a great story with great characters, the book will override those concerns. So I’m taking the plunge for my first book and doing self-publishing. It will be released near Christmas. We’ll see after that.
Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?
I have a couple of writer friends. Luke Navarro. Jennifer Dyer. My wife. But they only get to see the 3rd or 4th draft. At first, I let just about anyone read and review the WIP. But now, my rule is that I work on the first couple of drafts by myself before I send it to anyone. Otherwise, I’ll be writing to my critique partner instead of just telling the story. Eventually, I want to get the book into the hands of beta readers.
What's the hardest part of writing for you?
It’s a slow process. Takes forever. Have you ever had a writing session where it takes an hour to get your character to pick up a fork?! Getting the different character voices down too. That’s tough. Every character is unique.
Any tips you've learned about writing you'd like to share?
Read, of course. Read a lot to be a better writer. Be diverse in your reading. Also, when you are putting your story together, understand the “emotional journey” of your protagonist. I call it the emotional story. My story didn’t become clear until I was able to grasp Nicholaus’ emotional story.
Do you have an idea of your book's cover art?
I definitely want epic, sweeping. I want the kind of book cover at which you want to stare. I would like to see Nicholaus watching as Huron is being overrun by monsters. He and his friends stand overwhelmed.
Here is an example from Justin’s work. Something I’d like to see:
Who are your inspirations?
Rowling (of course), Road Dahl, Edgar Allen Poe, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, O’ Henry, Mark Twain. Charles Dickens, J.J Abrams, Superman, Batman, Drop Kick Murphy’s, Celtic music. Where the Wild Things Are. Kermit the Frog.
That's quite a diverse list. Let's get to know you on a deeper level. Can you name three things
about yourself people may not know?
- I’m half black, half white, but most people can’t tell. My Dad and grandparents are from the hood, south central LA. When I visit them it’s cornbread and fried chicken. Most people look at my picture and guess I am a thousand different ethnicities (typically their own). We usually have a good laugh about it. Except a few Israeli guards at the Tel Aviv Airport. They didn’t think it was funny.
- I was chased by a bull moose last fall in New Hampshire. When standing next to you, they are big, scary looking animals. All the little, cute moose drawings and pictures now raise up a primordial emotion within me. Moose are the enemy.
- I don’t like coffee in a paper cup. Only mugs. Paper cups bug me. Unless they were edible...(Man, glad I chose fantasy writing. No other genre would have me).
Here's the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?
Jenny (my wife)
Kevin and Denise (Dad and Mom)
And finally, where can people find you online?
Great! Thank you so much for chatting with us, Kevin. Good luck in getting your book finished in time for the date you'd like to self-publish it, and make sure to let us know when it's available.