Sunday, 11 April 2010

Interview with a Debut Author: AG TAYLOR

Hi Andrew and welcome to tall tales & short stories.
Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! I was born in New Zealand, grew up in England and now live in Melbourne, Australia. For the last ten years I’ve been working as a teacher, in primary education, language schools and colleges. It’s been a lifelong ambition to be an author, however. Meteorite Strike is my first book and I have a sequel, Alien Storm, on the way.


A meteorite has struck earth without warning, unleashing a deadly alien virus. Thousands fall victim... but not Sarah and Robert. Instead they develop strange side effects – psychic abilities. And that makes them a target for HIDRA, a rogue international agency determined to turn them into lab rats, just like the other kids they’ve already captured – kids who can control fire, create storms and tear steel with their minds. If they can work together, these kids might just stand a chance...

What inspired you to write METEORITE STRIKE and how long did it take you from initial inspiration to finally achieving the publication deal?

Inspiration came from my first year in Australia and my long-term love of superhero stories. It probably took a couple of years from starting the first draft to signing on the bottom line with Usborne. As an aspiring writer you need patience and perseverance.

How did it feel to be nominated and to make the shortlist of The Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2010?

I didn’t expect anything like that for my first book, so it was great just to have made the longlist and getting to the final 9 was amazing. The Waterstone’s Prize gave the book a lot of exposure in terms of reviews, coverage and physical placement of the book in the shops (when I was over in February all the shortlisted books were prominently displayed in the children’s sections of the shops). As a new author on the shelves, that’s a big boost.

METEORITE STRIKE is book one in your Superhumans series. How many do you hope to write? And did you have further ideas in mind before achieving the book deal or did you have to think about the sequels from scratch?

I always imagined a series with Meteorite Strike as an origins story. Alien Storm comes out in November and I’m currently working on the third book. I’ve got some loose ideas for a fourth that would be a lot of fun to write. Having established the main characters, it’s exciting to imagine them in different situations and facing new threats, so I can’t see myself tiring of Superhumans anytime soon. As long as readers like the books and Usborne want to publish, I’ll be there!

You’ve mentioned in an article for Young Writer magazine that your love of sci-fi developed with Star Wars. Do you think you’ll continue to write for the sci-fi genre or do you think you may try writing in other genres?

At the moment most of my ideas are very sci-fi, although I also love thrillers and horror stories. I guess I’m driven by the ideas I have, rather than wanting to limit myself to any one genre.

METEORITE STRIKE is your debut novel. Was it your first attempt at writing a novel or do you have other manuscripts hiding away?

I’d written one full-length manuscript before Meteorite Strike, but it was very much a beginner’s effort. It’s buried on the hard-drive of my computer, but I’m afraid to look at it!

How long have you been pursuing your writing ambitions and what have you done along the way to improve your writing?
I’ve written in my spare time since I was a kid, but I got out of the habit (ie. got lazy) when I was in my twenties. About the time I turned thirty I decided that I had to start writing more seriously or just give up on the dream of being a writer. I gave myself a “put up or shut up” pep-talk in the mirror.

The thing I did to improve my writing was to write more regularly. And that involves writing and rewriting some not-so-good stuff. It’s the only way to improve.

Do you plan your stories in advance, or do they happen on the page?

I never write down a plan – the basic ideas are in my head and they develop during the writing of the book. It’s what makes creating the first draft fun. You discover the book as you go along.

Rewrites and Revisions: How much did you have to do throughout the writing of METEORITE STRIKE?

Meteorite Strike went through several redrafts with significant changes to characters and situations – and it came out the other side a much better book. The advantage of getting to work with an editor for the first time is the advice they give and the way it makes you reassess your own writing.

The editorial team at Usborne were fantastic – very supportive and understanding of a newbie, I think! Working on the book was a steep learning curve, but one that really taught me a lot about writing.

Did achieving a book deal change the way you approach your writing?

I hope I’ve become more professional in my approach. Knowing that people are going to be reading your draft makes you more focussed on eliminating mistakes and making it as polished as possible.

Before achieving publication did you have to deal with rejection along the way?

I’ve been very lucky: Usborne was the only publisher I sent Meteorite Strike to and ultimately they accepted it. An editor there expressed an interest and so I didn’t see the point in sending it around other places. I’ve submitted other things to other places in my time and have a few rejection slips in my drawer.

The useful thing about getting a rejection is that you know what a genuine expression of interest looks like! (Basically anything other than We would like to thank you for your submission, however …)

What made you think ‘I want to write for children?’ Is it a genre you enjoy reading?

I worked as a primary teacher for five years in the UK and read a lot of children’s fiction during that time, so it seemed natural to want to write for kids. The great thing about a lot of kid’s fiction is the pace and lack of pretension to the writing: if the story is good and the characters are interesting, kids will read it.

Do you think your experience of working as a teacher has influenced and helped your writing in any way?

Having worked with children gives you a better idea of how they behave, speak and interact with one another. Reading books to kids does give you an idea about the bits they find interesting and what sends a class to sleep!

Which authors/stories did you enjoy reading as a child/teenager? How do you think they compare to the children’s/YA novels available today? What do you think children of today want to read?

I loved the books of CS Lewis, John Christopher and Robert Swindells when I was younger. Maybe some of them look a little old-fashioned now, but the stories are still fantastic.

By my teens I was reading adult writers like Stephen King and Richard Stark because YA books really didn’t grab my interest.

I think that’s probably the biggest change: teen fiction today deals with all sorts of challenging topics in an engaging fashion. Lots of modern YA fiction blurs the line between “teen” and “adult” books in a way that’s much more appealing to readers at that age, I think. I read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow last year and that’s a great example of YA fiction that’s exciting and very contemporary in the issues it examines.

Words of wisdom and advice to any aspiring writer?

Write! Write something that you would like to read. And don’t give up.

Agent’s comments: Catherine Pellegrino at Rogers, Coleridge & White.
Why I chose to represent AG Taylor:

When Andrew sent his work to me he already had a two book contract with Usborne and Meteorite Strike was on the Waterstone’s long list. In agenting terms this could be described as a no-brainer.

Reading Andrew’s work though is what sealed it for me, that and talking to the man behind the emails. I could see straight away that he was a writer with a natural talent for storytelling and an inventive imagination. Talking to Andrew long distance at the opposite ends of the day, I could also see that this was someone who was 100% committed to his writing, was very professional and was warm and charming too. I didn’t meet Andrew until he came over to England in February to promote Meteorite Strike and was not disappointed. Watching him hold his own on a panel of established writers at an Usborne event was very impressive. Seeing how he is developing as a writer in his new Orbit series is equally so.

Finally, I should add that I am a little bit keen on Sci-fi and like Andrew, a huge fan of Star Wars.


Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

Great interview, Tracy and Andrew. Inspirational story of the journey to publication and making it onto the Waterstones shortlist!
I'm not a sci-fi fan, but Meteor Strike looks brilliant! Will be looking out for it!

Sandra Patterson said...

Hey Tracy, just wanted to let you know I've awarded you a Beautiful Blogger Award. Details on my blog.

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