Today on Big Book Little Book we are delighted to welcomeas he celebrates the upcoming release of Poltergeeks.
15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it’s pretty obvious to Julie there’s a supernatural connection.
In fact, there’s a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie’s high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it’s a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won’t just lose her mother’s soul, she’ll lose her mother’s life.
What was your inspiration for Poltergeeks?
I’m not sure if I had a specific inspiration for the book other than waking up one Sunday morning and thinking that POLTERGEEKS would be a cool title for a young adult project. Being the huge urban fantasy fan that I am, I thought about it for a while and considered how I would write something that might be attractive to young people – immediately ideas started rushing to my word processor as I started plugging away at a few paragraphs. The overall concept of a teen witch and her dorky best friend sort of spawned as a result.
What is it that attracted you to writing urban fantasy?
What attracts me? Very simply, urban fantasy is just plain old unbelievably cool. There’s no boundaries with the genre – we’ve got everything from demons vs. angels to wizards working for the Chicago PD to soul collectors for hell. It’s just a genre that offers up wild adventures where good vs. evil is played out in the back alleys of your home town. I just love UF.
Why did you choose to set Poltergeeks in Calgary, Canada?
Calgary is the city where I grew up so I’m writing about a place that I know like the back of my hand. As well, there’s not a great deal in the way of UF that takes place in Canada and all of my books with the exception of UNSEEN WORLD take place in Calgary.
How is work progressing on Student Bodies?
It’s done. My agent loved my revisions and I sent the full manuscript off to my editor Amanda Rutter at the end of August. I expect there will be more revisions, but it’s a tremendous story. It’s very dark where POLTERGEEKS is a wild ride.
As a Published author of three adult novels, what motivated you to write a YA series?
The challenge. I love the challenge of trying out something I’ve never done before. POLTERGEEKS is the book that landed me an agent and got me a book deal with Strange Chemistry Books. I’m really lucky that I woke one Sunday morning and thought it might be cool to write a YA book called POLTERGEEKS.
From “home-schooled” Julie’s training in witchcraft to the numerous nods to Star Wars, the Apprenticeship-master relationship was a reoccurring theme in Poltergeeks. What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your apprenticeship as a writer?
That the apprenticeship never ends. You’re always looking for ways to become a better writer. There’s always room to tighten up your dialogue or explore different directions. It’s a craft – it truly is a craft.
Who are your personal masters of story telling? Which Storytellers have most inspired you as a reader and writer?
Stephen King, obviously. But also John Saul who writes scary books that almost always involved children or teenagers. His earlier books are sort of milestones for my life in terms of what I read. I remember exactly where I was when I bought a paperback copy of WHEN THE WIND BLOWS – I was in Junior High and I bought a copy at a 7-11 on my way to school. But even now, at 45 years of age, I’m still inspired by the quality of a good book. Chris F. Holm’s THE COLLECTOR series is bloody well brilliant. Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black is one of the most messed up and darkly fascinating characters that I’ve read in a long time. I love the whimsy of Simon R. Green and of course, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden always entertains.
I understand from yourwebsite that you still maintain a “day job”. How do you manage to fit your writing around your work and family life?
Every writer dreams of writing full time and I’m one of them. But to make that dream a reality you need to sacrifice a lot. For me, I’m up early at around 3 or 4 AM and I write until I go to work. I write during long weekends. I write during vacation time. It’s hard to maintain the balance, but I’ve got a lot of support from my spouse and family, so I’m really very lucky that way.
Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
Does spell check count? You know, I actually envy those authors who can write a book with music playing in the background. For me, I need silence because I sort of zone out into the story and I can’t stand being distracted. Coffee helps. A good chocolate chip cookie goes a long way 🙂
If Poltergeeks came with a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
That’s a darned good question. I think there would be a lot of RUSH. A smattering of Iron Maiden. A bit of John Williams thrown in for good measure and probably a lot of kettle drums strings.
One of my favorite things about Poltergeeks was the realistic portrayal of the mother-daughter relationship. The way you captured the Juxtaposition of a daughters continuing dependence upon her mother and her need to express her independence and identity, really struck a cord with my memories of my adolescent relationship with my mother. As someone who is neither a mother nor a daughter, how did you go about creating such a realistic relationship?
Ha! I got batted in the head by my editor Amanda Rutter who reminded me that mothers and daughters have that love/hate thing going on. I think every teenager wants to be independent. I think every parent (myself included) fears for their children and wants to step in to shield them from the realities of life. I drew on my own fears as a parent and I think the friction between Julie and her mother is genuine.
In Poltergeeks Julie learns that the most powerful form of magic is that which is inspired by strong emotions. What inspires strong emotions in you?
Fear of one’s own mortality. I’m officially middle aged – I feel like I have so much to write and so much to say, I suspect that’s one of the reasons I write so much because becoming a successful author is pretty much my sole focus in life at this stage of the game.
When it comes to learning the truth from a protector spirit the skill appear to be in asking the right questions. If you could ask anyone, living or dead, one question and receive a completely truthfully answer, who would you question and what would you ask?
Where did they bury Jimmy Hoffa? No, actually I think I’d ask whether or not something comes next – you know, once we’ve lived out a full life. I’d want to know whether this is it or there’s something else out there. I’d like to believe there is – it’s one of the reasons I write UF.
Sean Cummings is a comic book geek, superhero junkie, zombie fan and a total nerd. (He’s also a gold mine of completely useless information about films made prior to 1960. Don’t get him started on “Arsenic and Old Lace” because he won’t shut up about it.) He’s been writing since his Grade Five teacher Ms. Flowers said that he might possibly have some talent and that he should continue writing…
…which he did and still does every single day.
His interests include Doctor Who and really, all Time Lords wherever they may be. He’s an English Premier League fan with a soft spot for Blackburn (Gah! Relegated!!), Norwich City FC and Tottenham Hotspur. (Although Spurs consistently break his heart more often than not.) When he’s not geeking out online or watching football (soccer) on the dish, he can be found in his home office, writing away like a man possessed.
Sean’s published works include Shade Fright (Snowbooks 2010) Funeral Pallor (Snowbooks 2010) and Unseen World (Snowbooks 2011). He is currently working on the follow up to Poltergeeks, STUDENT BODIES.
A huge thank you to Sean for taking the time to stop by Big Book Little Book and providing such deep and honest answers to our questions.
Poltergeeks will be published in the UK on the 4th of October 2012 and is available to preorder now via Amazon.