Return of the Dragons FAQ

Now that my book has been out for a couple of weeks, I figured I’d sit down to talk a little bit about it, and answer some common questions that people might have. If you haven’t read the book yet don’t worry: this post is spoiler free.

Where did you get the idea for the book?

In the first chapter, Miguel has a line about how you can trace the origins of dragons back to multiple societies, whereas other myths and legends normally have a single place they originated from. I can no longer remember where I heard this fact, and at the time I had no idea if it was true (still don’t), but all I remember thinking was that it would be a good hook for a story.

Flash forward a couple of months, and I had decided to write a novel, as I’d always liked the idea of being a writer. I often get ideas for stories that I think would make great movies or TV shows, but the dragon idea was the first one I remember having and thinking that the only way it could be told well, was as a book. I started writing the first chapter, and before I knew it I was spending every spare moment building the world in my head. I knew at that point that I had to write the whole story.

As far as how I developed the story and the characters, I’m a slave to my influences. I love the Harry Potter series, and I’m a big fan of Ian Flemings original bond novels, so what I tried to do was take the idea of a secret society filled with mystery and magic and combine it with an adventure story that travelled the world and had plenty of characters with questionable motives. I’m sure my critics would say I failed at both, but it was the intention at any rate.

What made you write a young adult novel?

Unlike a lot of people, I have absolutely no issue with reading books that are intended for a younger audience. I’d much rather read a book aimed at teenagers that has a great story than something that’s ‘adult’ but is boring beyond belief. Quite often, writers who aim their works at a very broad audience are just as talented as writers who focus in on an audience, because they find a way of capturing the attention of multiple types of people. There’s nothing wrong with books filled with adult themes, but I don’t understand people who need an adult theme in a book in order to read it. A compelling story is a compelling story.

All that said, I never actually set out to write a young adult novel, I just had a story in mind and started writing. I quickly found that I was writing with a particular tone, and it just felt the right way to tell the story. After a few chapters, I realised this could be nothing but a young adult novel, and so started writing the rest accordingly. I’m a very proud to have written a novel that’s very inclusive; I think a wide range of people can enjoy it.

Who’s your favourite character?

It’s not quite true that choosing between your characters is like choosing between your children, but it’s admittedly difficult when I like all of my characters for different reasons. Gun to my head though, Kendrick is my second place choice, and I feel obliged to mention him, but my favourite character to write (and to read back) is Sabina. While Dan is the main character, and we see events through his eyes, Sabina is really the centre of the book, and I spent a lot of time creating her back story and personality.  I loved writing her dialogue, and I’m really looking forward to writing more about her in the future.

What’s your writing process/schedule?

I was working part-time at a casino dealing poker when I wrote this book, so my schedule was a little haphazard to say the least. Usually I tried to write in 3-4 hours chunks on my day off, and then on days I was working I’d try to at least find some time to think about the book and what I was writing next. Motivation was often hard to come by, especially when I was busy with other things, but I found that if I went too long without writing, I’d get frustrated because I needed to get things out of my head and onto paper. If you’re not a writer, that may sound a bit crazy, but its surprising how strong the need can be to get something written.

When I first started the book, I was typing it out on my computer, but found that I would often take a ‘break’ after about an hour, and then never go back to it that day. To rectify this, I started writing on paper, by hand, with my computer off so I had fewer distractions, and this really helped get more done. Even though it took many hours to type it all up, I probably got the book completed a lot earlier by shutting out distractions. It also helped me know when I’d written enough for the day: after a few hours, my arm would start to ache and I’d know I’d written a good amount.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be a writer/was thinking of writing a book?

I’ll start off by saying that I don’t want to be negative and tell people not to write, as writing this book is one of my proudest achievements, and something I’m really glad I did. However, before you start writing there’s a few things you should definitely take into account.

Firstly, if the only reason you want to write a book is to make money, or become a full-time author, forget about it. “But, these people have done it…” True, some people have become extremely successful authors out of nowhere. Some people have also won the lottery, and I figure the odds are about the same. Most authors who write full-time have spent decades honing their craft and creating book after book. This is more important now more than ever, as even though it’s easier to become a writer with self-publishing, it’s much harder to get yourself noticed and actually make money. If you have a backlog of multiple books, you will have sales from new releases as well as new readers discovering you for the first time, which makes the chances of earning a living from writing a lot higher.

Unless you’re quite happy with the prospect of investing years into it without seeing any reward, there’s only one reason you should be writing: because you want to. With me, I write because I’m constantly thinking of stories that I want to get out of my head and down on paper. For others, writing is a cathartic experience and helps them relax, or it challenges them and provides mental stimulation, or it’s just something they enjoy the process of, and wouldn’t rather be doing anything else in their spare time. Whatever your reason, write because you want to, and write about the things you want to write about. If other people like it, great, but if they don’t, then who cares? You did it for you.

What are your thoughts on self publishing versus the traditional route?

I could probably talk about this subject in a lot of depth (and may decide to do so in another blog some day down the road), but generally my feelings are that self-publishing is a great tool for people who otherwise would never see their book in print (and I include myself in that group). Fact is, literary agents act as gatekeepers for traditional publishing, and the problem is that you can’t write a book that’s ‘good enough’ and get an agent. In order for an agent to pick up a new client, your work needs to be extraordinary. If you’re an amazingly talented writer, then no worries, but for the rest of us, we’ll never see our books published by a big publishing house – but that doesn’t mean that a lot of people out there wouldn’t enjoy your book.

Self-publishing gives us the outlet to show off what we’ve worked so hard on, even it if it’s not quite up the quality of ‘big’ publishing. I often see posts from authors (some traditionally published, others self-published) saying that if you do self-publish, you at least need to invest in a professional editor and cover artist. If you’re like me, however, you don’t have several hundreds of pounds to just throw around, and this isn’t an option. I would like to be able to afford these things, but seeing as I can’t, it seems unfair to expect me to not publish the book I spent the best part of two years working on. If you want to be an author who is going to be an overnight success, then yeah, you probably need those things, but for those of us who just want to share our work with people who might like it, I don’t think they’re a necessity.

It all comes back to who you’re writing for, and I think if you write for yourself, and want to show others what you’ve achieved, self publishing is the perfect way to do that. Many involved with traditional publishing might look at my book and scoff, but I’ve already had reviews from complete strangers saying they enjoyed it. If I can get my books out to people and make them happy, then why not?

Will there be a sequel?

Absolutely, but as writing isn’t the only obligation I have, I unfortunately can’t give you a time frame. Though, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been getting the itch to start writing about these characters again, and hopefully everything I’ve learned from writing/editing/formatting/publishing this book will speed up the process for the next one.

The one thing I have already decided, however: it will be called Bastion of the Dragons.

You heard it here first, folks.

I’ve got a question about the book/story/sequel…

Please feel free to ask me! You can ask me a number of ways, but I always try to reply as soon as I can, regardless of medium. Goodreads allows you to ask me questions, but you can also just message me on Twitter or on my Facebook page. Please don’t be shy: I love talking to readers!

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