Welcome to the one hundred and forty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with English children’s fantasy novelist and short story author PJ Flynn. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello Peter. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Peter: Well I had a double hip operation and had a lot of time on my hands, after visiting a friend who had horses I had an idea, so it all came from the visit to the horses, I had never owned a P.C. before so I set about to learn, so after a year of trial and error I was ready to go into the world of fantasy which I chose to write my books about.
Morgen: What type of fantasy do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Peter: Animal fantasy tales with a history interest, in fact anything to do with my love for animals. I did start a ghost story but at the moment that’s on hold.
Morgen: Ghost stories are popular with Take a Break for their Fiction Feast but they’re very fussy (I’ve been rejected by them a few times… just to warn you). Can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Peter: In Ottakers now Waterstone’s at Milton Keynes.
Morgen: Yay. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Peter: Schools are a big part, but I do need help getting any further than I have.
Morgen: I’ve not had published books to go out and talk to people about but it’s always struck me as being a huge task so I’m not surprised you say that. Have you ever had any success in competitions etc.?
Peter: My 1,000-word short story went well, which is the idea for the ghost story mentioned earlier.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Peter: I have not, but I realise I might have too.
Morgen: I think they help with published books, knowing the right people to market them to but getting one is incredibly difficult so I think more and more people are going the electronic route. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Peter: No I don’t, it was my belief it means more to a child to handle the book, but if it means progress I might have to come in line, a bit sad I think.
Morgen: Or you could do both. 🙂 What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Peter: As I am self-published, everything is still a thrill to me.
Morgen: That’s a lovely thing to hear. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Peter: Shrug my shoulders; it’s a near impossibility to get known, so battle on.
Morgen: The best way to be, I think, Peter. As the saying goes, “a successful author is one who never gave up” or something like that. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Peter: ‘In the land of the unicorn’, another fantasy tale aimed at the film industry, the children who have read it are excited that one day it might be a film. We can dream.
Morgen: We can, and we do. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Peter: About 3,000 words I suppose I am not a speedster.
Morgen: Wow, that’s really good and as children’s novels tend to be shorter, that’s a good chunk of one. Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Peter: Many times, sit back listen to music shut your eyes and dream, usually it works, something comes into mind and away we go again until the next time.
Morgen: A question some authors dread, where do you get your inspiration from?
Peter: Sounds a bit corny; life in general and being involved so much with animals, they can’t tell you anything, but when you are close to them they don’t have too, you get to know exactly what they like and want, and that’s where my stories are born.
Morgen: I have a dog; they do. 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Peter: Get an idea and run with it, never had any trouble finding ideas.
Morgen: Me neither – too many for my lifetime, I think – I’ll just have to be choosy. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Peter: Being mostly fantasy, they are characters which will go with the story and most of the names are of friends and family. It’s a game we all play if someone is a bit of a dinosaur his name will be the one I use if there are dinosaurs in the story and so on.
Morgen: That sounds like fun. Do you write any non-fiction? If so, how do you decide what to write about?
Peter: I write mostly tales of history so I have loads of things to choose from, then the fantasy is a one big game for me joining it to the true facts.
Morgen: Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Peter: Used to be my grandchildren but they are all grown up, but I have a cross section who are only to please to test the books out.
Morgen: That’s great. I don’t write much children’s fiction but I have a mixed-aged family next door who hopefully feel the same. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Peter: I am a lot better now, but proofreaders are hard to find and are so different this is a big problem I am a storyteller and although as, I said, I am getting better I need a really good proofreader.
Morgen: I think however good an author is they still need a second pair of eyes as we’re too close to our own work to spot an error plus we know the intention or meaning behind everything we write and a reader won’t so we have to ensure that it’s explained (by ‘showing’ not ‘telling’ of course) in our writing. How much research do you have to do for your writing? Have you ever received feedback from your readers?
Peter: Loads of feedback which helps me with my next book, the children give me lots of idea, they really live the adventures I take them on.
Morgen: That’s great. 🙂 What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Peter: I think all the time whatever I am doing, so when I feel inspiration I will write.
Morgen: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Peter: A pad by the bed for ideas that come into my head, but mostly computer.
Morgen: Me too, pretty much (mini notepads in every dog-walking jacket :)), much quicker. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Peter: I like it quiet.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Peter: I hope not, that is a worry when you get older.
Morgen: But as long as you enjoy writing them… what’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Peter: I love writing the book, but what goes with it is a nightmare, artwork, proofreading and printing, then begging everyone to give you a chance.
Morgen: I think most authors feel that it’s like that. 😦 If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Peter: Satisfaction, beyond all the money in the world.
Morgen: That’s so good to hear. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Peter: Please don’t give up, and most start early in life.
Morgen: Yes, like me don’t leave it ’til your late 30s (which these days is considered late!) What do you like to read?
Peter: Dear old Enid Blyton.
Morgen: She knew her stuff alright. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Peter: Watching sport as I played such a lot when I was younger.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Peter: Well of course there is you and http://www.animal-magic-tales.com.
Morgen: Ah, thank you. 🙂 You’ve just mentioned your website, is there another way that anyone reading this can get in touch with you?
Peter: My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Peter: We shall always be wanted but in what form? I would have liked it 50 years ago when people loved books such as I did when I was young.
Morgen: From what my interviewees tell me, people still do but now there is a choice with eBooks being a convenience so hopefully an ‘and’ rather than ‘or’. Thank you Peter. Do let me know when your next book comes out and I’ll add the new information to this interview. 🙂
P.J. Flynn writes children’s adventure books with a difference. All of his unique stories are full of magic and mystery but at the same time they are educational. ‘The Adventures of the Magic Horse’ tales are woven around historical facts and real events. By taking this approach children become inspired to learn more about history and the fascinating characters they meet along the way.
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