As for me.........I look after my two girls, and when they're at school I'm a teaching assistant. I love playing hockey, and help coach kids, mine included. Other interests include reading, building computers, squash, cycling, great days out with my wonderful wife and kids, as well of course as WRITING! I've just published my second book in the series, called 'Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation' It continues the story from my debut book, 'Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Threat From The Past'.
1. What/who got you started in wanting to be a writer?
Oddly it just happened. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my elder daughter was just a baby (she's not far off 11 now) I had the single most realistic dream I've ever had. I didn't remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my head.....so graphic, so intense, so.....mesmerising. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, "You have to write it, you just have to." At the time I just laughed her idea off, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story.......sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose looking back it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly.....3 months, and then, well...........I began. At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn't a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I've learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. It has taken a long time, and I was surprised how hard and crucial the editing process was. But in the end it was most definitely worth it.
2. Who are your favorite authors today and who were your favorite authors when you were younger?
When in my late teens, I mistakenly ordered a Tom Clancy book.....Debt of Honour. I was too lazy to return it, so it sat on my bedside table for weeks. Until one evening, when I picked it up and started to read it. Many hours later I put it down, only because I needed a few hours sleep before I went to work. I was hooked. After finishing that, I went out and bought all the other Tom Clancy books I could find. It was also about that time that the Star Wars expanded universe books started to appear. I caught sight of the first one while working in a book shop in my role of service engineer. I can remember it clearly: Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. It had a striking blue cover with some of the Star Wars characters on it, and I had to buy it there and then, in the middle of doing my job, much to the amusement of the owner of the bookshop. My love of the expanded universe has continued ever since, and as soon as the next book comes out..............I have to have it. It seems my love of books goes in phases. If I have nothing to read, I wander around a bookshop until I find something I like the look of and then read it. If I get hooked, I go back and find other books by that author. Examples of this for me are Terry Goodkind and Christopher Paolini............I love all of their books. The detail, the plot......the characters....are just all amazing. I can only dream of writing as well as they do. Other authors I've found and loved this way include Robin Hobb, J.V. Jones, David Gemmell and Trudi Canavan, to name but a few. I love the way they use their imaginations and the worlds that they create on the pages of the book. They're all very easy to visualize. My favorite author of all though, is the wonderful Terry Pratchett. If you haven't read one of his books you really should. While I love pretty much all the books he's written, the ones about the guards of Ankh-Morpork, Captain Carrot, Sam Vimes, Corporal Nobbs, Angua and of course the Lord Vetinari, are easily my favourites. The characters themselves are described in magnificent detail, all with their own funny little ways. The plots twist and turn like a raging river, and the humour..........well, let's just say that is exactly on my wavelength. I've cried with laughter on many occasions reading some of Terry Pratchett's books, and I can't recall doing that for any other author I've read. If you're a reading fan, you really must try one of his books.
3. What would you be doing if you weren't writing gripping dragon tales (pardon the pun!)?
Well, writing dragon tales is just one of three jobs I have on the go. The first is I look after my children. I've done this since they were both born, because I was made redundant from my job as a service engineer at exactly the same time. Both are now at school, but I drop them off, pick them up and look after them in the holidays. While they're at school, I work as a teaching assistant at another school. So I drop my kids off and then shoot off to work. As well as that, I try to do most of the housework, cooking, etc. My wife likes her job, works incredibly hard at it, and I think together we make a pretty good team.......in my mind, the basis of a good marriage, and a solid family base.
4. In Bentwhistle The Dragon you write about dragons obtaining human form. How did you come up with that idea as it is not exactly common?
Most of it comes to me while I'm asleep in the form of dreams as I've previously mentioned. I think a lot of the influences are just based around my life.......all the crazy things that zip in and out of my head. I have a love of gaming, when I have time. I've played some online games in the past........again, most have dragons and those kind of figures in them. As well, on occasion, the writing, or the words, who knows which one, just suddenly take over. It's happened on a few occasions, I've sat down to start to write, and the words just flow out. You think half an hour's passed, and you look up to see that it's been nearly three, you've written three or four times what you'd hoped, and the story has either gone off at a tangent, or gone briefly in a different direction all together. As for dragons being able to take human form, I suppose originally it was all a twist on the 'George and the Dragon' story. I can remember being told the story as a child, and whenever I see a dragon, whether it's a toy one, or in a game, or book, (there's one made up of plants, about eight foot high in Salisbury city centre that I pass regularly that has his own twitter account) that's what has always sprung to mind in the past. Turning the tale back on itself so that things weren't quite one sided really appealed to me. So in my book, the real story of 'George and the Dragon' is recounted, from the dragon perspective. It makes me smile just thinking about it.
5. You put quite a lot of contact sports in your work. Were you or are you a hockey/lacrosse/rugby player?
Hockey plays a big part in the story, and the plot, and has probably been the biggest influence on my life. I started playing when I was eleven years old (old by today's standards, but young back then). I'm hesitant to tell you how long ago that actually was. But through that sport I have met some of the most amazing people, most of whom I can count as friends, and had the best time on and off the field. I feel that playing hockey has also taught me valuable life lessons. Playing a team sport shows you how to work as part of a team. How you can accomplish more together than on your own, how to pick people up around you, how to inspire and be inspired. These are valuable lessons that can be picked up from any team sport. As for the lacrosse and rugby, one of my best friends was England ladies lacrosse captain for some time. I once had the honour to go and watch her play for England at the lacrosse world cup when it was based here. The pace and skill needed to play the game in general and particularly at that level astounded me at the time, and still amazes me to this very day when I think back. I should also mention that the person in question is an amazing hockey player, and I have played alongside her in a touring team many times. And she was always one of the best players. Choosing rugby wasn't hard. I only ever played at school, but when I watch it on the television, I admire the strength, power, commitment and passion with which it is played. The players are all so professional, not least towards the referee, which is much the same in hockey and is as it should be. It wasn't difficult to want to add it as a sport to my book. As for the hockey, I still play when I can, despite being more than a little long in the tooth, and I'm proud to say both of my children play. I help coach them every Sunday during the hockey season.
6. Why dragons? Out of all the mythical creatures why did you choose them?
I don't think I chose them, I think they chose me.
7. In many novels, dragons are portrayed as killers who are either indifferent or hate humankind, but you make them into creatures who took a vow to protect them. Why did you stray from the norm in that aspect?
I'm not really sure it is the norm. In a lot of the books I've read, and I suppose my imagination, I always think of dragons as a friendly race. When you think of the Eragon series of books by Christopher Paolini, the dragons are a fabulous race, revered by all, and the most powerful of species. Terry Goodkind paints this kind of picture, albeit a little darker than the Eragon series. Other little pointers in this direction include the Harry Potter books and the television series Merlin. As for why it was this way with me, I think again I wanted a little twist on a story.....as you've mentioned mostly they are portrayed as killers, but twisting things round and making them protectors of human kind appeals to my sense of humour, as well I think for making a great and unusual story. As for how, and why, they are the protecting the humans........you'll have to wait for all to be revealed in the later books.
8. The dragon friends become "addicted" to their human lives and human sports. What is it, do you think, that draws us humans so much towards sports (I myself am an avid hockey fan!)?
I think it's probably the friendship. When you think of all the solo sports..........golf, tennis, squash, etc, playing in a team is very different. In some way it makes the achievements of all the golfers, tennis players all the more impressive. It's their mental strength alone that sees them through. For me, playing in a team means friendship, camaraderie and all the banter that goes along with it. First and foremost it has to be fun, and if it's fun, you'll try harder, and therefore be better at it. But as well, when things aren't going your way, you can turn around on a windswept rainy day, look at all of your soaking team mates and give that little bit extra, not for you, but for them. And how good is it to be able to give encouragement, put an arm around a shoulder and support one of your friends if they've made a mistake, and for them to do it to you if you've lost the ball. Aside from all of that, there's the excitement of balls and sticks flying in everywhere during a hockey match, the physical contact and danger sending your adrenaline sky high. What's not to like? Playing in a team is the best thing, and if you haven't tried it, you really should. It could change your life just like it's changed mine.
9. You created an entire world full of dragons. How hard was it to come up with the varying details or did it flow on the page as you wrote?
I can remember having a distinct passion for writing around the age of nine or ten. I used to be glued to comic books, and let my love and imagination for the Star Wars universe, then quite new, run away with me. But it was at about that time that I found my love of hockey, and so from then onwards all I ever wanted to do was chase the stupid ball about with the stick as part of a team. Much as I still do now, despite my age. My very active and vivid imagination has never really left me. I think it may have been suppressed for a few years, but has come back with a vengeance since I started writing.....thank goodness.
10. Your characters vary in personality and looks. Did you base them on anyone you know in "real life" or are they purely imaginary?
The main character, Peter Bentwhistle, is loosely based around me. The lacrosse playing dragon called Richie Rump is based on one of my best friends who was captain of the England lacrosse team and is also a fantastic hockey player. A dragon shopkeeper who sells the best mantras in the world shares the same name with one of my best friends. An important human businessman who is duped, is also named for one of my best friends. Other more minor references feature other friends and acquaintances. When looking for some of the character names I used references from everything around me at the time, while sitting working at my desk. There's a dragon called Axus....his name was gained from my Canon camera at the time, with just a tiny amendment. Also one of the bad characters is a combination of one of my favourite author's first names and surnames combined. I now have a long list of dragon names tucked away in my computer somewhere, that I can use whenever I need.
11. One of the characters you simply call "Old Man". Was that intentional to throw off the reader to his true purpose in the novel?
Ahhhh.......yes, the 'old man'. It was kind of to throw you off the scent, but you do discover who the 'old man' is, right at the end of the book, and I think it all fits into the plot seamlessly, and hopefully surprises as well as entertains.
12. The book is labeled as "Young Adult" but I find that a lot of your readers are over the age of 18. What do you think it is that gives it such crossover appeal?
I think it's probably the humour. While I'm not sure you'll need a surgeon to stitch up your sides, I do hope there's enough of my warped sense of humour in there to make you smile occasionally as well as keep you entertained. I'd like to think that the twists and turns of the plot keep readers of all ages on the edge of their seats, not knowing which way things are going. Also, the dragons are leading young adult human lives, albeit in a very naive sort of way. I think pretty much most of us can relate to that at some time during our lives - perhaps that has something to do with it.
13. The story has a lot to do with DNA. Is science and/or biology of an interest to you?
Where possible I have tried to be factually accurate. For instance, in the opening chapter I had to work out the route dragons would fly from England to Antarctica underground. Not only did I have to work out which way they'd go, but at what speed they would fly, and how long it would take them. Never thought I'd be calculating how fast a dragon could fly. Then there's the dragon transworld monorail network. How far it stretches, which cities it reaches out to, the routes, the stations. For the second book, 'Bentwhistle The Dragon In A Chilling Revelation', I've had to study up on Antarctica, and part of Australia, to mention but a couple of things. A combination of fact and fiction. But I've learned an awful lot about science in the process of writing these books!
14. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I'd really love to say earning a living from my writing. I don't mean rich and famous, just earning a good enough living to look after my wife and kids comfortably, doing something I really love would be tremendous. If not that, then I'd like to be working with kids in some sort of environment. I love working as a teaching assistant. It is easily the most rewarding job I've ever had. Oh..........and living by the sea somewhere.
15. Thank you so much for the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
1. I don't drink alcohol. That's why my blog is called thesoberhockeyplayer..........it sums me up perfectly. I'm the only sober hockey player I've ever met....and I've met loads, on tours, playing alongside and against. It makes me unique and is something I'm very proud of. I'm not against people drinking by the way......it's just not for me. As well, I think this is up there with my sense of humour as one of my best character traits.
2. I once got the words pottery, and hockey mixed up.................and in that instant, it totally changed my life, forever.
3. I always endeavour to treat people how I would hope to be treated, but more than you would expect, find myself let down.