Getting To Know Our New YA Author
Join us as we chat with Blue Moon Publishers author Brian Wilkinson about his writing process and his upcoming YA novel The Golden Slate, the first in the young adult “Battledoors” series!
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
In some ways, this is a strange question because I can’t honestly remember a time when I wasn’t a writer, nor do I remember actively planning to be one. When you’re young and look to the future, you sometimes talk about what you want to be when you grow up (and for the record, I said ‘train conductor’) but no one really asks you what you already are.
I remember at one point telling my mother that I was a writer. She asked me what I had written. “Nothing,” I said. She looked puzzled, naturally, but let it go. But all the same, it was the truth. I was a writer who didn’t write. It was a skill I knew I had but one I hadn’t yet bothered to exercise. And, to be honest, one that I was afraid to fully try out in case I found myself to be completely deluded.
Turns out, I’m not crazy. I can write!
At the same time, I’m still not fully the writer I’m supposed to be or that I think I’m supposed to be. Not yet, anyway. I have miles of road to put behind me and many new things to learn. I don’t even do it as a full time job (I’m a teacher and librarian) so I also feel, from a lifestyle and economic standpoint, that I still have some miles to cover.
What inspired you to begin writing the “Battledoors” series?
I was a writer who didn’t write and I needed incentive to begin. Like most things, my writing began out of necessity, or the feeling of necessity. When my wife and I found out that we were expecting our first child, I was beyond thrilled. Being a father is the most important job I have and will ever have and I wanted some way to mark it and make sure that it counted. I would stay up and think about my unborn son and wonder what it was that I would leave to him one day as a token of my love for him. I found myself looking around my house, and rather morbidly, wondering what here would matter to him if I died. What would he want to keep? I thought about my own father and what I would want to hold on to after he passes on and couldn’t think of anything tangible.
I wanted to leave my son something that would matter. Something that was for him that represented who I was and what I could do and how much I cared for him. I started writing in the months before he was born and finished The Golden Slate the day before he was born. The main character is named for him and many of the lessons, thoughts, and experiences in that book (not literally, of course, as I’ve never fought a man who can blend into shadows), come from my own life. If anything were ever to happen to me, at least my son would have this book.
When my daughter was born two and a half years later, I had to repeat the task. Paramnesia features a character named after her and takes place in my home town, and references many things that again mean something to me. Both books are love letters to my children.
Along the way, I discovered that I was a writer who COULD write and who took extreme joy from writing. My stories were good and were worth listening to and sharing. Hopefully, even though these books are for my kids, they won’t mind sharing them with the rest of the world.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Most of the time, I write in silence (or as much silence as my very-barky dog will allow). I sit, I think, I do other things. Background noise and details all fade away.
That said, if I’m going for a particular emotion or head space, then music is key. As an art form, music is emotions given bass, treble, and rhythm. There are sad songs, energetic songs, angry songs, and the rest. It can get you going if you let it and then you let the words flow from that space.
I remember when I was in high school and we had a creative writing project where we could tackle any form we wanted. I actually wrote my first book then (it was terrible) and included a playlist/soundtrack at the end. Music was a way for me to show what I was thinking or feeling back then before I had the words or courage to put them out there and not fear them. I still have that book and the CD.
If there was a film version of my books, there are definitely tracks or artists that I would push to be included. I just think that would add another level of immersion into what I was thinking.
Do you have a writing routine?
Most of my writing comes during the summer when I’m on break from school. There’s still lots of routine, as I have to drop my kids off at various programs while my wife heads off to work. I do all the driving, so often I’ll think about the book I’m working on and where it is and where it might be going. Then when I get home I have to start working right away or else I won’t get to it for hours.
There’s a window of good writing, at least for me. It seems to mostly be between 8:30am and about 12 – 1 pm. After that, I’m no good. I need to stop. During that time I can get between 2500 – 4000 words and feel really good about where things are going. If I do more than that I’m really forcing myself and then the pleasure is gone and the crispness of what I’m doing is lost.
I might not write any more after that, but sometimes I’ll work ahead on plot points or details for upcoming chapters. I do my best to save the notions or ideas that came to me while I was writing and tuck them away for future use.
What have you learned through your writing?
I’ve learned that I can do it. I will never claim to be the best writer on Earth nor do I expect to be the most successful. But I can say with confidence that I love my stories and I believe they will have earned their space on the shelf.
I learned that the best kind of legacy I can leave is the one that isn’t tied up in a few photographs, hazy memories, or the impressions of others. It’s the words on the page that I put there. That will stand and last long after I’m gone. That my children get to hold part of my expressed soul in their hands for the rest of their lives.
How can you beat that?
What have you learned through your writing?