SIX MINUTES WITH ROYCE BUCKINGHAM:
Today Royce Buckingham joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author! Royce is the author of the YA book The Terminals, middle grade books The Dead Boys, The Goblin Problem and The Demonkeeper series, and the soon to be released novel for adults, Impasse. In addition to being an author, Royce is a prosecuting attorney.
How did you get started writing?
I loved movies, which are like straight caffeine shots of storytelling. I saw a lot of monster movies as a kid--Jaws, Alien, and the like. They certainly made me feel an emotion very strongly. Abject terror! I thought, “Hmm, when I grow up I’d like to share that emotion with other kids.”
Later, in the 80’s, I wrote bad poetry and alternate song lyrics for bands like Pink Floyd and Rush on napkins and my school folder. I thought I was deep.
Then I was an English major in college and read the classics. That was probably good for me. When I studied abroad in England, I finally took a creative writing class. Loved it. Took another one during law school (in my “spare” time). That class resulted in my first publication, a literary short story in a literary magazine. A couple of my books have a “literary” feel. The Dead Boys was on a number of reading lists, and it won Washington State’s Sasquatch award for Best Middle Grade Book.
After law school, I began writing screenplays, then novels. I’ve sold both since, but it took thirteen years after that short story was published to get a major publisher for my first novel and sell a script to Hollywood. Now I’ve done ten novels with such publishers as Penguin, Random House and Saint Martin’s Press.
Who influenced you?
Movies. They are pure storytelling. But also books, of course, ranging from Where the Red Fern Grows to The Hobbit. I used to go to the library every weekend in my little nuclear desert town (I grew up near the Hanford nuclear plant) and check out books. There wasn’t much YA back then (70’s), so after you got out of kids’ books the exciting boy fare pretty much jumped to Stephen King.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I’ve written monster stories mostly. My middle grade stuff is all monstery. The Mapper (Die Karte Der Welt) series that I wrote for Random House in Germany is medieval fantasy, which also has lots of monsters. Then, of course, there’s The Terminals. That’s a YA thriller. No monsters, but still lots of action. My next book is an adult legal thriller called Impasse, which is out in March ’15. So although monsters are my fav subject, I’m branching out.
One of my favorite books that I read as a kid was The Phantom Tollbooth. Lots of fun wordplay and some monsters. Great fantasy world.
As I grew older, I read a lot of comic books and Conan the Barbarian. Also played Dungeons and Dragons. Hence the medieval series.
I tend to do boy books, probably because I was a boy. Duh. But one of my modern favorites is The Hunger Games. I also read a lot of Stephen King when I was younger, and the set-up in The Hunger Games reminds me of the awful situations King drops his characters into. In fact, The HG is reminiscent of his novella The Long Walk.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Write. Repeat. Think before you write. Get your story straight in your head before you ever sit down. Tell it to friends all the way through a dozen times before you start. Edit one hundred times, but be sure to finish. Start with short stories so you learn to be a finisher. And be sure to move on to the next thing. Learn to ignore rejection. Well, not ignore exactly—learn from it, but don’t let it stop you, even if it’s negative. I still get bad reviews, even for my bestsellers. If I’d ever quit because of them, I wouldn’t have bestsellers. Write because you love it, not to get rich or impress people. If you don’t love it, do something you do love.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I write in my study underlooking my dragon skull, monster figurines, and beside my demon statue. I also have a life-sized goblin carved by a chainsaw artist to depict the cover goblin in my middle grade book The Goblin Problem. When I’m on deadline, I’ll write in bed and at the kitchen table—pretty much anywhere. I rarely write in the shower. Although…real writing happens between the times you sit down at the computer. I formulate stories wherever I am, and that’s a lot of the work!
What else would you like to tell us?
The Terminals was written specifically to be a movie, and a significant producer in Hollywood is currently shopping it to TV networks. In fact, the WB just passed because they have a similarly cool project…darn!
In the same way that I wrote my middle grade book The Dead Boys to be literary and win awards (which it did), I wrote this to be fast-paced and cinematic (which it is). In fact, several reviews have actually used the word “cinematic.” It’s also written about a guy from a guy’s viewpoint, like my middle grade boy books. Early feedback is that male readers love the fast-paced, plot-driven action. So it’s doing what we meant it to do. Yay!
On the flip side, I was surprised when a few reviewers loved the concept, but were openly hostile because the book wasn’t more character-driven (ie. first-person/introspective) with highly developed female roles. To that I can only say, “because it’s not?” I know that YA readers are passionate about their diaryesque, girl-centric fare, but demanding that books fit a POV style or gender mold is a bit censory for me and, frankly, makes the YA category (YA isn’t actually a single genre) feel a bit homogeneous. I hope there is room in YA for plot-driven male-centric stories (Maze Runner is a good example), because male readers who aren’t necessarily looking for The Fault in Our Stars (which I loved, btw) are traditionally underserved and less likely to read in their teen years. To those guys, here’s a fast-paced cinematic guy-spy novel for you. Read up!
Royce thank you very much for spending six minutes with LitPick! You are the first person we’ve interviewed who is an attorney and author!