Welcome to the five hundred and ninetieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with young adult novelist Rory Freckleton. 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, Rory. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Rory: I live in Shropshire and teach science, chemistry mainly; I have been doing this in various parts of the West Midlands for thirty years. It is only in recent times that I’ve even considered the possibility of writing. My first book was very much an experiment in how far I could push things before people said I was wasting my time. Much to my surprise, admittedly with some bumps along the way, it got to the stage of being published. I was always struck by the power that books had to influence young people and was keen to try a novel aimed at the older teenager / young adult market. Having suffered myself from the isolation of being a gay teenager in a straight world, I was keen to write an adventure story where the principal protagonists were gay, were strong and had positive outcomes. The boy gets the boy rather than the girl for a change. I did feel there was a potential niche market here that was not being well served by the standard fare in most bookshops.
Morgen: They say to write what you know and I’m sure a reader can tell that a book is richer for it. What genre do you generally write?
Rory: I have written adventure fiction aimed at young adults so far.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Rory: I was advised not to use a pseudonym and have published as ‘R S Freckleton’. My one book to date is called ‘The Guardians of the Rainbow’ and it is published by Mirador Books.
Morgen: Great title. Have you self-published?
Rory: No I have not self-published. Mirador is an interesting publishing partnership enterprise which is definitely geared up to modern trends of cheap paperbacks and e-books. I can’t see that it would have been of any benefit to me personally to self-publish once I’d been offered a deal by Mirador.
Morgen: Being happy is the most important thing. You mentioned eBooks so your book is available as an eBook, presumably, how involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Rory: I’m still very traditional in the way I read. I will get a Kindle soon, but I’m waiting for the price to come down just a little more first! My book is available as an e-book. Mirador sorted all of that out, for which I am most grateful.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your characters? If your book was made into a film, whom would you have as the leading actor/s?
Rory: I have indeed thought about this. There is an actor called Jonathan Bailey who has appeared in a number of TV series who would be excellent as Darryn, the handsome, dare-devil secret agent who rescues both Jake and Nathan from the clutches of the enemy. Also I’d love to have Lyndon Ogbourne, much missed from ‘Emmerdale’, playing Martin, Darryn’s ex, who has gone straight and become his nemesis. He is one of those actors who have a knack of becoming incredibly sexy the more evil their character develops. For a bit of gravitas, I’d have Sir Ian McKellen as Sir Digby Forester and Dame Judi Dench as his housekeeper. For good measure I’d have Stephen Fry as No6, Julie Walters as Jake’s mother and the glamorous Keira Knightley as Annabelle. Ah well – I can dream!
Morgen: I don’t Jonathan Bailey so I Wikipediad him, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Bailey_(actor), but great name. 🙂 I used to watch Emmerdale but pre-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_Ogbourne days. The rest of the cast I do of course know, a brilliant line up. Which authors would you compare your writing to?
Rory: I wouldn’t directly compare myself to anyone in particular. I hope I’ve picked up a few things from authors I admire such as Tolkien, Thomas Hardy, John Le Carré and C.S. Lewis.
Rory: Yes – I think they are very important. They are the first thing the reader sees if they are browsing in a bookshop. It could make all the difference to a sale or not.
Morgen: They are / can. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Rory: I am starting work on a sequel to ‘The Guardians of the Rainbow’ with the hope of extending the series into a trilogy.
Morgen: Ah great. I know agents are keen on series because readers love them. I’ve just started a crime series. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Rory: I wish! The day job has to come first so I grab time when I can.
Morgen: The blasted day job. Well, when your book gets picked up by Stephen Spielberg… 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Rory: I do need to know how it’s going to finish before I begin and I do need to plot out the key moments and judge their relative position within the overall scheme of things.
Morgen: You mentioned some of your characters. Do you have a method for creating them, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Rory: Not really – I just have to make sure I don’t end with a name of someone I know. They have to sound convincing as well.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Rory: Once started, I like to flow through to the end and then go back and do any editing afterwards. This can be quite extensive, especially if there is a passage that doesn’t seem to flow or seems to lose interest.
Morgen: Hopefully the second book will be easier. I like to think it just takes practice. 🙂 Do you have to do much research?
Rory: Yes quite a bit – it is surprising what you will get picked up on. For example, someone commented on the fact that magpies would not behave as I described them. I would not have considered this in a month of Sundays.
Morgen: Absolutely. There’ll always be an expert ready to correct you, although it wouldn’t have been me on magpies. What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Rory: I have only tried third person so far. I’d consider first person if the character was someone who I could empathise with very closely.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Rory: Not yet – but might be tempted to give it a go.
Morgen: Short stories are great for snatches of time. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Rory: I’m always optimistic. If I think it is good I feel more confident these days that there might be a chance.
Morgen: 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Rory: Plenty – Just dust off your shoes and move on.
Morgen: Good plan. Just find the right person. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Rory: I don’t, simply because I haven’t got the time. Unfortunately the day job only allows me the time to do the writing I really feel I need to do. I have found http://www.firstwriter.com a very useful source of information. Nearly every week I have a list of short story and poetry competitions sent to me from all round the world.
Morgen: FirstWriter run a scriptwriting competition (which I mention on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/competitions-calendar). Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Rory: I don’t have an agent although Mirador has been very good and Sarah has ‘handled’ my interests in a way that is similar to an agent. It does mean that I have to be more proactive about trying to promote and publicise the book myself, however.
Morgen: Every author does really. I’ve only had one author say their publisher does all their marketing yet she’s still very active on Twitter and Facebook. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Rory: This is still something I’m learning how to do. I’m bumbling along at the moment, to be honest, looking for possible openings whenever they emerge.
Morgen: “bumbling along” I love that. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Rory: My favourite aspect is when I’m right in the middle of the creative process, acting like God in a way, moving and determining my characters. The least favourite has to be thinking of ways to promote and sell the finished product. I’m not the most competitive of people, and it seems like we all have to shout loudly to get a hearing in a chorus of millions of voices.
Morgen: I’m with you on both counts. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Rory: Be honest with yourself about your own work. If it moves you, convinces you and you can read it over and over again and still feel excited by it; then it’s probably good. Don’t be put off by the odd rejection. On the other hand if you are NOT convinced by your own work, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start again.
Morgen: I agree. If you’re not happy with something then it’s likely the reader won’t be. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Rory: I would invite Edward II, because I would be fascinated to find out what the true relationship was between him and Piers Gaveston. I would invite Christopher Marlow to see if he was as devilishly handsome as some accounts make out. He might also shed some light on whether William Shakespeare really existed or was simply a nom de plume for someone at the court of Queen Elizabeth. I think both of these characters would be used to a predominantly meat-eating diet so I think I would take them both to the local Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. I would have a far more civilised dinner, including a good quality red win, with my third guest who would be Ralph Vaughan Williams. I have loved his music since I was a teenager and it would just be wonderful to talk about it for hours!
Morgen: I’d love to be at the KFC when you all walk in. 🙂 If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Rory: I have not been fortunate in having intense romantic encounters, so I would have to say the day that the Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra played my ‘Suite for Orchestra’. It was the first time I ever heard my orchestral music being played and the thrill of it sounding as I intended was unbelievable.
Morgen: Oh wow. That must have been thrilling. I listen to classical when I’m writing so there are no words to distract me but there is something special about seeing it live. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Rory: ‘She had no great talents, no marked traits of character, no peculiar development of feeling or taste, which raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood.’ (Jane Eyre describes her pupil at Thornfield Hall). You wouldn’t dare say such a thing about a student these days, but how refreshing and honest!
Morgen: I did Jane Eyre at school and loved it. Although I’m not a fan of the classics we covered great books (Jane Eyre, Moonfleet, Macbeth, Lord of the Flies. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Rory: Not unless you include writing reports at school and marking books!
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Rory: I am equally interested in writing music. I had a very successful time with the Oare String Orchestra down in Faversham recently when my ‘Landscape’ for viola and string orchestra was played by them beautifully, with Martin Outram as the viola soloist. I am hoping to set up a website for my music soon which I will then link to the writing site.
Morgen: I’d recommend WordPress. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Rory: http://www.firstwriter.com was very helpful in helping me find publishers and agents. I am sure there are other similar sites.
Morgen: I have quite a few listed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/links but the best place I know of for finding good (and bad!) publishers is http://pred-ed.com. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Rory: I am on Twitter and Facebook, and I have a website hosted by my publisher at http://rsfreckleton.co.uk. There is also some information about me on Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rory-Freckleton/e/B008ALFSY4). I am happy to receive e-mails at email@example.com if people want to discuss the book or the issues covered in it.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Rory: There will always be a need for writers. The medium may change, but the message still needs to be written.
Morgen: It does, thankfully. In fact I have heard (and believe) people are reading now more than ever and it’s a great time to be a writer. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Rory: Do you find that there are common threads which run through the answers that authors give to your questions, or do you find that everyone is very much an individual?
Morgen: I was worried when I started these interviews that by asking the same questions (although they have developed over the months) that the answers would be too similar. Having an interview every day there was no way I could vary the questions but I’m really pleasantly surprised at how different they are, and I hope the visitors feel the same, but then I guess we are different people and therefore are as writers. Thank you, Rory.
I then invited Rory to provide an extract of his writing…
28 Lindsay Crescent was an unremarkable property. Sitting amongst endless copies of itself, the four-bedroom semi-detached house with sloping tiled roof and dormer-windowed master bedroom gave a dishevelled air to the passer-by. A loose tile and a somewhat unkempt garden suggested that the owner of the property was never quite able to stay on top of the necessary maintenance schedule.
This was home to Jake Holdencroft, a fifteen-year-old, gangly and slightly spotty schoolboy. He lived with his father, mother and two sisters, Maisie and Daisy, who were both younger. He was content – or rather had been. He had had little to worry about as a child; his parents cared for him, and he lacked for neither food nor clothing. Father Christmas was suitably generous and birthdays were marked with the usual presents afforded to a growing boy. There were happy memories of sun-filled holidays on the beach at traditional British seaside resorts, and he did not want for friends. David Peters who lived next door at number 30 (the odd numbers were on the other side of the street) was, through sheer convenience, probably his closest friend. He was lucky enough to enjoy school, by and large, too.
The last dregs of the summer holidays had crept round. The days were still sunny and bright, but there was a distinct smell of autumn in the morning air. Jake and David were in the street rather aimlessly kicking a football back and forth.’
And a synopsis…
The Family Unity Party is striving for power. Providing you are the perfect model of their ideal family you are safe. But if you stray from convention, you will pay a heavy price. Against a background of growing civil decay and unrest, fifteen-year-old Jake Holdencroft becomes acquainted with Nathan Tasker and a friendship blossoms through their love of music. As they grow closer, Jake feels the stirrings of something deeper beginning to develop. However, the confusion and fear of being different frustrate the growing liaison. When Nathan’s enraged father, a leading light in the Family Unity Party, discovers their secret, he pursues Jake with an angry mob in tow. However, unknown to Jake, he has an unexpected rescuer. Once free of the terror of persecution, a new life beckons as part of a hidden but sophisticated gay community, deep in the financial district of London. This is a dangerous world, in which a battle with increasingly violent authoritarian forces is about to start. As Nathan also becomes embroiled in the growing chaos springing from their tentative love, the question remains as to whether the two boys will ever be allowed to be together. The answer depends on an elite squad of highly trained agents known as the Guardians of the Rainbow.
Rory Freckleton was educated at Peter Symonds Grammar School/ Sixth Form College in Winchester and then went on to study biochemistry at Christ Church, Oxford. Having obtained a PGCE from Bristol University, he moved to the West Midlands to teach science with a preference for chemistry. He has worked in a number of secondary schools and he is still doing this today. Writing has been a recent interest, with his first novel, ‘The Guardians of the Rainbow’ being published in May 2012 by Mirador Publishing. The themes of the book reflect his interest in gay issues and the problems gay teenagers have with isolation and low self-esteem. Rory is working on a sequel at present, following a positive reception to his first book. He also has a Diploma in Music from the Open University and regularly performs with and writes music for a number of groups of musicians.
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