Contest Author Interview – Adam Glendon Sidwell

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

I’ve only become acquainted with Adam recently, but it’s clear he’s a very funny guy with a lot of energy–perfect for middle grade readers! Also, I came to discover that he used to home teach my niece AND he lives right across the street from the apartment building where my husband and I used to live (and manage) in West Los Angeles. How’s that for small world stuff? While he used to have a day job in the movie industry, his new book, EVERTASTER, has been so successful that he’s working full time promoting it and writing its sequel.

Me:  Please describe one of the most formative experiences from your childhood, one of those that put you on this path to creativity and writing.

Adam:  I think it had to be due to going to bed early. I used to lie awake, dreaming of the books I’d read. It was a wonderful time to think, and going to my imagination was always a favorite place to be.

(I still do that, only now I do it with someone next to me snoring; at least he snores softly.)

Me:  At what point did you decide to get involved with movies and why?

Adam:  It was either that or engineering, and I had this feeling that if I became an engineer, I’d have to follow the laws of physics. As much as I love those laws, the laws of story were a stronger draw. I was in my sophomore year at BYU, and I saw a spinning 3D sphere on the computer screen and I thought, “Wait, you’re telling me I can make dinosaurs for a living?” Turns out I could! In fact, I built most of the dinos in this Nintendo commercial:

(Cool, eh?)

Me:  Which are more fun–monsters, robots, or zombies?

Adam:  Monsters. They have skin that wrinkles and muscles that flex, while robots are hard surfaces that are much easier to build. Ultimately, monsters are more of a challenge. And Zombies? Well, they’re really just humans with fewer limbs. Not quite as fun as monsters, but still better than sharpening toothpicks for a living.

Me:  Are you still working on movies and, if so, what’s your current project and who’s in it?

Adam:  I am currently working full time on writing an EVERTASTER novella and touring with EVERTASTER. Who knows? I may work on another film soon, but I’m having so much fun being an author, we’ll see. The most recent film I was working on was “Pacific Rim,” directed by Guillermo del Toro. Who is in it? Mosters. Giant robots. Man, that was a hard job to leave.

Me:  What does your wife think of your detour into writing?

Adam:  She thinks I better get home in time for dinner. This touring is an adventure! She’s been wonderfully supportive. We discussed this kind of scenario before we ever got married. And now it’s actually happening, so we consider ourselves lucky.

(Smart pre-nuptial verbal agreement!)

Me:  Were you a picky eater as a child like your main character, and what were your least favorite foods?

Adam:  I was not, actually. I ate everything. I even got paid 10 bucks to eat a moth in the 9th grade. But I did a lot of research and observation of picky kids to understand Guster so I could tell his story.

(First of all, I think you should consider trying out for “Survivor.” Secondly, my son, Jason, would have made an excellent research subject.)

Me:  Could you describe your writing process? I mean, given your background with film, do you storyboard or follow some kind of outline method?

Adam:  I do think in a traditional 3 act structure, but sometimes I’m not so sure I end up following it. I usually take months to brainstorm a project and take notes on it then when the log jam breaks, it all comes flowing out and I write an outline and begin work on the first chapter. After that, I write furiously at 2,000 words/day until I’m finished. Sometimes, when I’m trying to nail down a particular description for a character, I do my own “visual development” like we do in the film world. In my case, often a simple sketch suffices. I sketched out most of the characters in little thumbnails for EVERTASTER. It’s similar to how we did the cover art, as well.

Me:  What are you currently working on?

Adam:  Currently, I’m writing EVERTASTER – THE BUTTERSMITHS’ GOLD, a delightful and short novella about a couple of Viking ancestors many years ago who must defend their clan at all costs.

Me:  Finally, have you become a true Angelino and fallen into the sea yet?

Adam:  There was a magnificent earthquake the other night. After those we usually just go back to bed. I do fall into the sea at times, but mostly willfully. I’ve taken up spearfishing. It’s a great way to put food on the table in case people lose interest in buying mystery and adventure books.

(Since that is not likely to ever be the case, I bet the spearfishing will remain a hobby.)

Come on by my Facebook page and check out some of the cool concept art that led to the book cover. It was done by Dreamworks artist Goro Fujita. He did concept art for “Megamind” and “Madagascar.”

(Ahhh, that’s why your cover seemed kind of familiar.)

Check out Adam’s awesome trailer for EVERTASTER, made with the help of some of his movie buddies:

If you want to buy the book, click here, and you can always learn more about Adam and his writing on his website.

Originally posted 2012-09-07 08:35:57.

Braden Bell’s “The Kindling” Full to the Brim

Present word count of WIP:  60,134

Back Cover Copy

Loud shrieks sliced the air, followed by the smell of burning cloth. Conner looked over in time to see Geoffrey jumping up and down, yelling and shrieking. Smoke poured from the seat of his shorts while blue and yellow sparks snap-crackle-and-popped all around the heater.

All thirteen-year-old Connor Dell wants to do is pass pre-algebra, play lacrosse, and possibly kiss Melanie Stephens. He didn’t mean to set anyone’s gym shorts on fire or make school lunches explode. But now that the strange powers inside him have been ignited, Connor’s normal teenage life is about to go up in flames!

Homework? Of course. Crushes? Sure. But who knew seventh grade included superpowers?

My Review

Bell has created a wizard’s concoction of characters, magical powers, and a world beyond our own set in the middle of an average (or maybe not so average) American prep school for middle graders, plus an entertaining (and dangerous) side trip to Disneyland.

(I knew my father was on to something when he said that the “It’s a Small World” ride was good for nothing but a migraine.)

The book started out with a bang (or, rather, a fire) but then took a while to get rolling for me. Once it did, however, it seemed as if every page introduced either a new character or extraordinary ability, or danger. I almost felt as if Bell had tried to pack a whole series into a single volume.

If you want an imaginative, action-packed read in middle grade fiction, I can recommend Braden Bell’s The Kindling.

In fact, the author is offering a special deal from his website. You can get a signed book there for less than an unsigned version on Amazon. All you need is a PayPal account.

In any case, it’s available in paperback or on Kindle through Amazon. It’s also available at Barnes & Noble and through his publisher, Cedar Fort.

Originally posted 2012-07-16 06:00:43.

Revised Beginning of my Middle Grade Fantasy for Blogfest Contest

Okay, having read and absorbed the comments, plus the comments last night of my own critique group, I’ve rewritten my opening, which is a prologue, and am re-classifying it as YA Fantasy. I’ll leave the original below for comparison’s sake.

(New Version)

Title: School of the Guardians

Genre: YA Fantasy

Eight miles from Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs.

No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide. The adults in the group hung on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

Though not tall, and despite his high-pitched voice, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . “

There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if the boulders were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground, and they treated it as such, much to the exasperation of Ralph and the security guard.

All save one boy who appeared to be sniffing the stones.

 

(Original Version)

Title: School of the Guardians

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Eight miles north of Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs. No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide, and hanging on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

Though not tall, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them, despite his high-pitched voice. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . ”

There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if they were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground. But then Ralph said something that stopped them in their tracks.

“You see, Stonehenge in Saxon means the hanging stones.” The beefy guide in his mid-fifties pointed to one of the inner archways.

Originally posted 2011-09-21 11:32:33.

Great Blog Contest

I came across a terrific blog contest, hosted by Brenda Drake on her blog, for writers of YA and middle grade fiction. Check it out here. Perhaps you’re wondering why I’d be interested in such a contest, particularly since, up to now, I’ve only written adult fiction. Some of you may be aware, but I’ll explain more fully in tomorrow’s posting. I also promise to clear up the mystery behind my lack of content here over the past two months.

Originally posted 2011-09-07 13:44:33.

“Wednesday Writer” – Mikey Brooks

It’s hard enough to write a book. Imagine having to illustrate it, too! I think the last time I tried illustrating my own story book was in kindergarten or first grade . . . and the result was not pretty. A little Picasso-esque . . . but not pretty.

Not anything like the efforts of Mikey Brooks, who has a brand new book out, THE DREAM KEEPER. He has authored and illustrated several books now. Indeed, his art has been seen in many forms from picture books to murals for community art productions. He creates full-room murals and loves to doodle on almost anything. He also works full-time as a cake artist and decorator at a bakery.

profile picME:  Did you ever draw on the walls as a child growing up, and, if so, what did you draw? How did your mom punish you, or could she tell you had talent even at that young age?

MIKEY:  I didn’t draw on the walls but I did have a pretty naughty imaginary friend who did. He was constantly getting me into trouble. Cleaning the walls was my mom’s form of punishment. I don’t know why my imaginary friend always disappeared whenever there was work to be done…hmm…

Mikey age 5(Mikey at age 5 . . . see that imaginary friend he’s leaning his arm on?)

(Oh, those imaginary friends and the things they made us do…)

ME:  Tell us about the first picture book you ever attempted, and how old were you at the time? (Also, I’d love a picture of you at that age.) What was the story about?

MIKEY:  When I was eight my grandpa told me a wild tale about how half his family saw an alien space ship one night at a big family gathering. (Maybe they’d had a little too much you know…) (Those must have been some gatherings!)

He described the ship to me and I drew it for him. That was the first time I’d ever been told I had some talent with drawing. My grandma, however, thought the picture was rubbish and then decided to teach me how to draw real stuff. My grandma was my first art teacher.

Mikey age 8(Mikey at 8 . . . he looks like he’s seen a space ship, doesn’t he?)

ME:  If you had to choose one over the other, what would it be–writing or illustrating? And why?

MIKEY:  I think I’d choose writing. Although I love doing both, I made that decision a long time ago when I decided to get my degree in writing and not illustrating. I believe it’s because writing is a form of art that can only be pictured in the minds of others. It’s an ever changing form of art because one person will see a story differently than another. It’s so dynamic. (Good answer! Of course, everyone perceives art a bit differently too, but still, I like the thought behind your response.)

ME:  You say you’re always doodling on things. What is the strangest object or medium you’ve ever doodled on?

MIKEY:  I’ve doodled on anything from sidewalks to cakes. Once I did a doodle on some toilet paper—yes, you can even get inspired while in the bathroom. (That’s true, which is why they sell illustrated toilet paper nowadays. Someone else took your idea and ran with it.) 

When I was in grade school I used to doodle all over my sneakers which in the end turned out pretty cool. They were a mixture of black, blue, and red ink of all sorts of things. I wish I still had those shoes.

(And I wish I had a picture of them.)

ME:  Who was most instrumental in your youth in terms of helping you see yourself as an illustrator and writer?

MIKEY:  My grandma was the biggest instrumental force. She had worked for a short time as an artist for the Walt Disney Company before she had my mom. (Cool! My son would be so jealous.) She taught me how to draw and paint in oils and water color. Unfortunately, she now has a nervous disorder which doesn’t enable her to paint. As for writing, I was moved by stories by L. Frank Baum and C.S. Lewis. They became the foundation for my love of reading, which helped me become a good writer.

(All good influences!)

ME:  Since you work full-time as a cake artist and decorator, I was wondering what your most challenging cake decorating job has been so far. Also, have any of your jobs given you ideas for picture books or novels? (And we must have a picture of a couple of your decorated cakes. While you’re at it, I’d love a couple of photos of your full-room murals, as well.)

MIKEY:  Unfortunately, I don’t work full-time as a cake artist anymore. And I really miss it sometimes. Now I work as a freelance illustrator and do most of my writing in my free time. The most challenging cake for me was probably my own wedding cake. I did not want to let the expectations of my future bride down. In the end it turned out pretty good.

cake(I’ll say! Or is it this one…)

cake2

(Either way, I’m sure she was satisfied.)

My favorite time to make cakes was Halloween. I was able to incorporate my illustrating into cake. You can see lots of those cakes on my Pinterest board.

(I’ll be sure and check it . . . after dinner.)

Ark Painting(And here’s his Noah’s Ark wall mural…)

DSC_0051

(…and a castle scene on two walls!)

ME:  Tell us about the books you’ve authored and what you’re working on next.

MIKEY:  I have several picture books out including the bestselling ABC ADVENTURES: MAGICAL CREATURES and BEAN’S DRAGONS.

promo2(The covers of his illustrated picture books)

And my newest book, an upper-middle-grade fantasy adventure novel, THE DREAM KEEPER, just came out on June 1st. It has already hit the top bestsellers on Amazon and is getting great reviews.

case5.500x8.500.inddThis is my first novel so I am very proud of it. It’s about a nightmare trying to take over our world and two kids have to stop him. It deals with all sorts of things from bullying in schools to standing up for who you are in a social environment that doesn’t encourage such things.

I have just finished the sequel and another middle-grade standalone, THE STONE OF VALHALLA. Currently, I am working on a super fun series about 5th grade witch hunters. It’s very exciting!

(Great stuff! I’ll have to check all these out.)

ME:  Please describe your process in creating a picture book and how it differs from your writing process when it comes to middle grade and YA fiction.

MIKEY:  I sometimes feel there is a lot more work that goes into writing a picture book than there is with a middle-grade or YA book. One thing is you are trying to entertain more than one reader (a child and the adult reading to the child). I get most of my of my ideas for picture books from my kids. They have wild imaginations and I try to play make believe with them as often as I can. It’s there that I find the great stories to tell. Once I have the basic idea of the picture book I’ll create storyboard and try to see how I want to tell the story. Do I want this part shown or told?—stuff like that.

When I write for older readers I start with an outline and work from there. I find I can write a lot faster when I know where the story is going. Sometimes it changes along the way, but then I just adjust the outline and continue.

ME:  And what about where you write? Could you describe your writing and illustrating space in the voice of one of your favorite original characters? (And provide a picture or two.)

MIKEY:  That nut-ball, Mikey, asked me to write a few words about his work space. Like I have time for that! I am trying to make sure my boss isn’t running into any snags with those brats that somehow found a way into Dreams. Oh, let me see. Mikey’s got two places he works. A small desk up against a black wall—I don’t know maybe the guy is morbid or something? And the other place down in what he calls “his studio”. Fancy word for a desk covered with papers with a bunch of random sketches. So that’s about it. How else you want me to describe a desk? Sheesh! Until I see you in your nightmares, this is Cato, fire pixie and loyal follower of Fyren and Mab as seen in THE DREAM KEEPER.

(Terrific, Cato, but where are the pictures? Boo-hoo.)

ME:  Finally, how did you come to be involved with the Author’s Think Tank Podcast, and what is its purpose?

MIKEY:  I was approached by Jennifer Bennett, my friend and the founder of the Authors’ Think Tank Facebook group about doing the Podcast. It started out as just a group of us shooting ideas back and forth. We decided we also wanted a blog to accompany the show and divvied out who would do what.

The podcast itself has been awesome! It’s a show by writers for writers. So I and the other hosts get top authors, agents, and editors on the show to answer some of the things writers might have concerns with. If you are a writer you will LOVE the content we have to share. Visit: www.foreverwriters.com to read the blog and listen to the show.

(Thanks! I think I’ll do just that.)

If you want to know anything more about Mikey, check out his website, blog, Amazon Author page, and a profile of his new book on Goodreads. Or you can follow him on Twitter @MIKEYBROOKS or Facebook. (And if those aren’t enough, he’s also on WattPad.)

See you back here next week when I interview YA author Margot Hovley.

Margot Hovley

 

Originally posted 2013-06-12 06:00:29.