In the world of Sierra Rouge, Me’tik Ventures is a fictitious organization founded by characters Jesse Aguilar and Ann Fischer.
Me’tik Ventures, however, is also the real-life creative partnership and publishing company behind the Sierra Rouge adventure stories and other media designed to inspire young changemakers and adventurers.
Life and creative partners, Stormy Sweitzer and Will Swanepoel, have spent the last eighteen years traveling the world, starting businesses, and exploring possibilities together. They created Me’tik Ventures as a way to educate young people about complex global issues in a highly-entertaining way, while, at the same time, encouraging and equipping them to take real-world action.
They are no Jesse or Ann, but Stormy and Will are as dedicated to making the world a better place. They just go about it in a different way.
EXTRA CREDIT INTERVIEW WITH WILL SWANEPOEL:
Joining LitPick today for an Extra Credit interview is the writing team of Stormy Sweitzer and Will Swanepoel, authors of The Drowning Shark: A Sierra Rouge Adventures.
Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?
Both. Because we both need to be on the same page, it’s kind of a back-and-forth process. We always start with an idea of the setting and topic we want to write about, a little research, and a discussion of characters and their goals. Once we are both clear on the book’s direction, Will starts outlining the major scenes and their purpose, conflicts, details we want to consider, and action sequences. We discuss it and make changes, but the outline is loose enough to allow for a lot of expansion. As Stormy writes, she fills in a lot of detail and character interaction; we discuss as we go and add new characters and plot points as we need them. In the case of The Drowning Shark, what was a 25-chapter outline turned into a 43-chapter book.
Has someone you knew ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?
Often. And, usually consciously. So do places. We never outright create a character who is a cookie-cutter image of someone we know, but there are certainly characteristics, words spoken, mannerisms, etc. that make their way into our characters. For example, Stormy was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova, a former Soviet Republic. One of the major characters in the book--we won’t say which one--looks and dresses almost exactly like her former landlord. Will’s cousin, a Cape Town radio host and event emcee, makes a cameo appearance. And, there is a fair amount of autobiographical detail in our characters and stories. You might say that much of our research is experiential.
What do you do when you get writer's block?
Read, go for hikes, take a break, get outside input. Reading gave us the idea to shift our book from past to present tense. Hikes, any outdoor exercise actually, gets us away from our computers so our minds can rest and problem-solve. We took a year-long break after writing the first draft; something didn’t feel right and we just stopped working. It was okay. We came back to the book refreshed. And then we asked for feedback from half a dozen teen readers...that shook our writing up a bit and made the rewrite more interesting.
If you could live in a book's world, which would you choose?
Stormy: Oh, boy, that’s a difficult question. I have a serious case of wanderlust; I read to travel from world to world.
Will: I love the world J.K. Rowling created for Harry Potter and would definitely be up for a game of quidditch.
What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
Stormy: The Wizard of Oz (nostalgia) and the Swedish film versions of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy (because they did such a great job of representing the story and its characters).
Will: I loved both reading and watching The Martian. I thought Peter Jackson did a nice job with The Lord of the Rings, even though I was disappointed that Tom Bombadil was left out!
If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?
Stormy: Alan Bradley who writes the Flavia de Luce mysteries. I want to pick his brain about his wonderful characters.
Will: Andy Weir (author of The Martian). He is an I.T. geek like me and a self-publisher, so I would love to chat about his writing process.
Wild Card Question: The two of you wrote The Drowning Shark: A Sierra Rouge Adventure together. Have you written anything else together, and how do two people write a book? Did you each write specific parts?
We have not written anything else together, but we have started a business and worked on a number of long-term projects together. It is not easy, and it requires a huge amount of communication, but after a lot of trial and error, we think we’ve figured out the best way for us to write a book together.
Before we start a book, we spend a lot of time talking, researching, playing around with ideas for characters and plot, and trying to understand how the books fit together...the BIG story. For example, we have been thinking about book 2 in the Sierra Rouge Adventure series for almost as long as we were writing The Drowning Shark (Book 1).
Once we are on the same page, Will drafts the story outline and builds out the action scenes and sequences. We discuss and change. At first, we each tried writing different sections, but our writing styles are so different that it is was difficult to blend them into a single book. So, now, Stormy takes the outline and writes so the story is all in one voice. Will reviews the draft along the way to make sure we both like the story direction or make changes if we disagree on things. There is a lot of back-and-forth to make sure it works. In the end, we get the best of both of our experiences, skills, and interests.
Stormy and Will, thank you for visiting LitPick! It was very interesting to read how two people work together to write a book.
SIX MINUTES WITH WILL SWANEPOEL:
Today LitPick is interviewing Stormy Sweitzer and Will Swanepoel, the authors of The Drowning Shark: A Sierra Rouge Adventure. Stormy and Will have been life partners for over eighteen years and creative collaborators for almost as long. Together, they have started businesses and traveled the world. The Drowning Shark is the first in a series of books focusing on the topics they care about: social change, compassion for the world around us, and a good dose of adventure.
Stormy is a writer and leadership development consultant with a love of food, animals and the natural world. Will is also a writer and is an information technologist with a passion for animals, travel, adventures and motorcycling. Together, they are on a mission to inspire young people to make a positive difference in the world. The Drowning Shark is their first novel together.
How did you get started writing?
Stormy: I have kept a journal on and off since I was ten years old. When I journaled, I focused on observing, reflecting, and documenting my experiences. It wasn’t until I was in college really that I started writing poetry and stories. That evolved into many other types of writing over the years.
Will: I excelled at creative writing in Junior School, but in High School my time was kidnapped by sports and being a teenager. I started writing again when I began traveling internationally at the age of twenty. Keeping a journal was an important task for me as I tried to capture the feelings of living in the moment and experiencing something new every day.
Who influenced you?
Stormy: It might be better to ask “what influenced me?” International folk tales, fairy tales, mystery and adventure novels. I have a degree in Russian literature and spent a lot of time in Latin America and Europe, so I would say I am also influenced by global authors.
Will: I am influenced more by my environment and the experiences I personally go through. Most of what I write is usually rooted in these experiences. I am also a very visual person and enjoy watching and critiquing movies, which may lead me to do screenplay work in the future.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
Stormy: I devour books. No favorite. But these days, I do love a good mystery.
Will: I like to read fast-paced mystery, action and thriller novels. I love a story with a good twist. I enjoy reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Lee Child and Harlan Coben.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
It’s never too late to start. The Drowning Shark is our first novel. Both of us are in our 40’s. We used to think that was too late, but today, we have so much more to say than when we were younger.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Stormy: Our kitchen table.
Will: We have a wonderful county library in our neighborhood. It has many nooks and tables for me to situate myself, put my earphones in, and write.
What else would you like to tell us?
The Drowning Shark combines our love for animals and other cultures, our desire to create awareness about issues we care about, and a good dose of adventure. Writing about what inspires us made all the difference in creating a book we are proud to share.
Stormy and Will, thank you for joining LitPick for six minutes! People will be inspired by your advice that it is never too late to start!
Me’tik Ventures is publisher of the Sierra Rouge adventure novel series for young adults and other media for young changemakers and adventurers. Our mission is to inspire young people–through educational media that also entertains–to make a positive difference in their own lives, as well as to have a positive impact on the lives of others and places and creatures they care about. Visit them at www.metikventures.com and on social media @metikventures. (Note: Will and Stormy are co-founders of Me’tik, an independent publisher. Please contact Stormy for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org)