The author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is David Butler.
Change the setting of your favorite story by selecting a random page in an atlas. Write the opening paragraph from this new perspective. How does the setting influence your story line and the characters?
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An Interview with author David Butler
1. How long have you been writing? What made you decide to become an author?
I knew I wanted to be an author when I was eight years old and my dad gave me a copy of The Lord of the Rings. What made me want to write novels, and specifically fantasy novels, was the ability to tell truths about human beings by redrawing the world in which human beings live and act.
I took some detours on the way, including going to law school and working for more than ten years as a lawyer. I decided it was time to take my chance, and for two years I wrote full time. I found and lost an agent, wrote books alone and with my wife Emily, published in the indie space, found an agent again, and finally got an offer to publish The Kidnap Plot.
2. The Kidnap Plot is book one of your series, The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie. Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea for your book and your series?
Well, I have to be careful here, because if I tell you all of my sources of inspiration, it will give away some secrets in the book: spoilers! But I will say that I lived outside London for five years, so some of the places described in the book are real (or mostly real). For instance, there’s a platform in a train station which is real, and where I really caught a train home after work every day for two years.
3. At Society of Young Inklings, we often talk about ways to approach the creative process playfully. Do you have favorite exercises or activities that help you stay creative?
I think it’s really important to keep putting new inputs into your head. Creativity is what we call associating two or more things together that haven’t been associated before, or associating them in a new way. To be able to creative consistently, you need to consistently put new things in your head. That means new experiences, so be willing to try new foods. It means new people, so be willing to make friends wherever you go. It means new places, so look for opportunities to travel. And above all, read books.
If you find yourself stuck, I recommend this: deliberately associate things by force until your creative juices start working again. Pick up two objects, and ask yourself what is the story that involves both these objects? Pick an existing story, and open an atlas to a random page, to ask what would this story look like if I set it in this different place?
4. Do you have any tips for how to create a fast-paced plot?
I have two tips. One, conflict creates interest, so get conflict into your story as early as you can. That doesn’t have to mean a fight, but it means two people who want different things from each other and who will each try to get what they want.
Two, write in short units. Short scenes or short chapters that each end on a question or a new decision or a discovery or a cliffhanger will create the feeling of a very fast story that drags you along with it.
5. Are there authors who influenced or inspired your writing?
Yes. The stories I read over and over when I was young were written by J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Leguin (The Wizard of Earthsea), Susan Cooper (the Dark Is Rising Sequence), Isaac Asimov (the Foundation Trilogy), Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain), Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time), Katherine Kurtz (the Deryni books), and Patricia McKillip (The Riddle-Master of Hed).
6. What’s your favorite thing about writing? Least favorite?
The best thing about having published books is when a stranger comes up to you and says she’s read your book and it was important to her. That makes it all worth the effort. The worst thing about having published books is reading your reviews. Even when they’re positive, I get nervous reading them. I try never to read reviews.
The best part of writing is when two things fit together in your book that you didn’t see coming so you see something new and exciting about the story you’re writing. My least favorite part is the minute right before I start writing, when I’m trying to psych myself up to put eight pages onto paper.
7. What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
I think the hard thing is arranging my schedule so that I have consistent time to write. When I am most successful, it’s because I am making myself write in airports and hotels, and on planes, and sitting at the park while my kids play. It is very easy to surrender and tell myself that I don’t have enough time.
8. If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?
Write a lot. If you are a young writer, your biggest advantage is time. Write lots and lots of words, and accept that many of them will not be amazing. But keep trying to write your best, because your best will become better and better as you go, until everything you write is fantastic.
A special thanks to David Butler!
Locate your local independent book store to purchase The Kidnap Plot, it is also available at most other nationwide bookstores or online.