My guest today is Canadian children’s author Simon Rose. His novels include The Doomsday Mask, The Heretic’s Tomb, The Emerald Curse, The Clone Conspiracy, The Sorcerer’s Letterbox, and The Alchemist’s Portrait. He’s also a contributing author to The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume One and founded the almost legendary networking group Children’s Authors and Illustrators on Facebook. Thank you, Simon! Here’s what Simon has to say about his work.
Kathy: Welcome, Simon. Let’s begin by learning a little about your books.
Simon: My books are in the science fiction and fantasy genre for middle grades, around ages eight to twelve. You can see full details of each of them, including excerpts and synopses (and you can even listen to recording of my readings) at the Books page at simon-rose.com. The Alchemist’s Portrait is a time-travel story, in which Matthew journeys through the centuries using magical paintings which act as doorways into the past, in order to save the world from the clutches of an evil alchemist. The Sorcerer’s Letterbox, another time-travel tale, is based on the famous mystery of the Princes in the Tower about Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, who were supposedly murdered on the orders of Richard III in 1483. The Clone Conspiracy is a science fiction thriller involving clandestine laboratories and secret experiments, while The Emerald Curse, based on my own reading of comic books while growing up, concerns Sam’s adventures in a bizarre, and at times deadly, superhero universe. The Heretic’s Tomb is set in the medieval period once again, this time during the Black Death in 1349. My latest novel, The Doomsday Mask, was published in the spring. It’s once again for ages 8–12 and in the science fiction and fantasy genre. It’s a fast-paced adventure about ancient civilizations, mysterious artifacts, and shadowy secret societies.
Kathy: How long have you been writing books for children?
Simon: One of the best things about writing for kids is that I can write about the kinds of things that fascinated me when I was young. Stories can be very imaginative if they are for children, which makes writing them so much fun. And, of course, in science fiction or fantasy, more or less anything you can imagine is possible, as you craft stories involving ancient mysteries, the unexplained, the paranormal, science fiction, time travel, parallel universes, alternate realities, weird and wonderful characters, and a multitude of “what if” scenarios. Once I had children of my own, I came into contact with children’s books again for the first time in many years. Picture books initially, of course, but then early chapter books and novels. When I decided to try my hand at writing novels and stories, I found myself drawn to the types of things I used to read as a child. I read lots of science fiction, as well fantasy writers and ghost stories while growing up. I also read a tremendous number of comic books, in which the stories took me across the universe, into strange dimensions, into the land of the Norse gods or had me swinging from the New York rooftops. At high school, I studied a lot of history and have retained my interest in the subject up to the present day. I also read voraciously on ancient civilizations, mysteries, the supernatural, and the unexplained.
Kathy: Do you offer school and library visits?
Simon: Yes, I offer a wide range of presentations, workshops, and author-in-residence programs for schools and libraries. I cover such topics as where ideas come from, story structure, editing and revision, character development, time-travel stories, history, and research. You can learn more about them here and I offer study guides for all the books. I also conduct virtual author visits via video using the Skype network, and you can get some idea of how it works from my videos on YouTube.
I also offer workshops for adults, both in person and online, as well as online workshops for children, which are proving very popular. I did a lot of work in summer camps this year, some of which you can learn about here. In addition, here in Calgary I work as a writing instructor with home school children, the local school board’s continuing education program, the University. I am also an instructor with the National Writing for Children Centre and will be presenting at schools libraries in the UK as part of the Off the Shelf Festival of Writing and Reading this fall.
Kathy: What are you working on now?
Simon: I have another completed novel on a paranormal theme which I am seeking a home for, if there are any interested editors and publishers reading this. I’m working on a number of editing projects for other writers, have numerous projects of my own for future novels, and I am collaborating on several picture books with a local illustrator. In addition to novel writing, I offer copywriting services for business, such as editorial content for websites. I have a few of those types of projects, as well as upcoming articles for magazines and online publications on a wide variety of topics, such as the articles written for Dark Roasted Blend on a bewildering variety of incredible and fantastic topics You can search or my articles on the Dark Roasted Blend home page. I’m also involved in a large local event on November 14, 2009 called the Calgary Children’s Book Fair and Conference.
Kathy: Any advice for aspiring children’s writers?
Simon: Writing is in some ways the easy part. It can be a very long process not only to write a book, but also to get it published. A book is a marathon measured in years rather than weeks or months. Don’t be afraid to revise and revise over and over again. Most authors go through many revisions before their work reaches its final format. Remember, too, that your book will never be to everyone’s taste, so don’t be discouraged. A firm belief in your own success is often what’s necessary. After all, if you don’t believe in your book, how can you expect other people to? Read as much as you can and write as often as you can. Keep an ideas file, even if it’s only a name, title, sentence, or an entire outline for a novel. You never know when you might get another piece of the puzzle, perhaps years later. You also mustn’t forget the marketing. You may produce the greatest book ever written. However, no one else is going to see it if your book doesn’t become known to potential readers. Be visible as an author. Do as many readings, signings, and personal appearances as you can. Get your name out there and hopefully the rest will follow. Especially for newly published authors, books don’t sell themselves and need a lot of help.
Kathy: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
Simon: Autographed copies of my books are always available from me directly, but they are also available at all the usual places such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other places online — and details can be found for each book here. You can also easily order any of the novels from your local bookstore if they don’t have copies on the shelf. You can stay up-to-date with me and my work by visiting my author site and blog, connecting as a friend on Facebook, joining Children’s Authors and Illustrators on Facebook or my own groups for each of the novels or following me Twitter.
Thank you, Simon! You’re an inspiration to all of us with the wonderful work you do, including online and face-to-face promotion. Well done!