Please welcome the lovely, and extremely funny Lockie Young. You can find out more about Lockie on his: Website, Blog, or Facebook. You can find his first book here, his sequel here, and some of his short stories here.
What are you currently writing/working on?
I actually have several works in progress, which I visit when I want to switch genres and change things up, or if I’m stuck with a project and the going seems sluggish. I have started a Memoir about my experiences of being a new amputee (I lost part of my right leg to arterial disease) but that project is slow because it is a tough one to revisit, but at the same time it is also therapeutic to write about. I also have started a chapter book about my life as a service plumber and some of the more memorable calls I’ve been on in that 33 year career. I have also started a third book in the Legend series, but this third book will not be a middle grade reader like the first two. It is darker, and likely will be classed as a young adult Fantasy/thriller. I also bang out the occasional short story and sometimes even a poem or two.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
My characters are usually modeled after people I have met, perhaps read about, or just plain made up out of my imagination. I hesitate to use all the traits that might actually identify my character as a real person. For example, if I was talking about a checkout person at (brand name store name) who was memorable because of their wild hair, or a special tattoo, I would not use the actual store name where I may have seen her or him, in case they might be recognized at some point in the future.
In my first book, the children’s names are my sons’ names, but that is where the similarities end. Each has a blend of the two characters, so either one might say, “that doesn’t sound like me at all Dad.”
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, is there any part of you in any of your characters?
Yes, my main Character, Ryan, holds the same values about nature and about just doing your best, as I do. These character traits, like being kind to people and animals, serve to mold a fine personality to better deal with life’s adventures down the road.
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
Once a week we all get together for a team meeting in my head. There is always lots of coffee and we hash out how they will play their next scene(s). Sometimes the meetings get out of hand, but my characters know that too much griping gets a not so glorious exit from the story in the coming pages. They only need reminding of this once, and then they usually tow the line.
Are you a planner, or free writer?
I am perhaps a bit of both. I usually get an idea for a story, and I build from that. I do plan a little bit, meaning I might have an idea for the middle, or a good idea for a crisis point, but I do not write out a plot plan or have everything in tidy little holes waiting for me to pull them out. In that respect, I guess I’m a free write. My fun is the journey, the movie in my head as I write and develop the story, where I control the action, the scene, the sequence, everything. At times even I am surprised by what comes out of my fingertips, but that is part of the fun.
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
All the things you mentioned above were unknown to me when I started to write. My background was in the trades as a plumber, when I wrote Ryan’s Legend. I was actually trying to teach myself to type while using more than two fingers. I still don’t know how to type without looking at the keys. No, I just write and mostly things just fall out of my head and onto the paper, or onto the screen. My wife bought me a small voice recorder for Christmas, and I use that to capture ideas or characters I come across in my travels. I’ve lost so many great story ideas or plot twists because I didn’t have pen or paper handy to jot them down. Well not any more.
Has your technique changed over time?
I would have to say no. not much at all. They say to write what you know and be comfortable doing it. For some writers, everything is sourced out carefully. Plots and sub plots are roughed out, and a clear story line is in place, before the real writing gets started. That is their comfort zone. I’m like the slob who crashes the tea party with my beer gut hanging out and work boots up on the antique table beside Granny’s fine china. I just sit down and type. Sometimes I go down a blind alley to a dead end, but hey, I love dark alleys, don’t you?
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
I’m discovering since I am retired and I now have the time to write, that I am noticing how I look at things. I’ve never noticed before, but I would have to agree that writers look at the world differently. For example I don’t just look at a blade of grass now, I’ll pick it, shred it and see how it smells, or taste it and try to describe that bitter taste, without using the word bitter, stupid things like that. Picture this: Your character wakes up, face planted in the grass, after a nasty surprise tackle from behind. Did he get dirt in his mouth, and what exactly did that grit feel like when he clenched his teeth? You will let me know if you eat any dirt, won’t you, Sacha?
I will… but I’m not planning on doing it anytime soon!
What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/silence/music/desk/sofa etc
When our two sons moved out I took over one of the bedrooms, and that is where I do most of my writing, in fact it’s where I am typing this interview, and thank you very much by the way. I write whenever I feel like writing, which is a luxury most don’t have. I’ve also had to get out of a nice warm bed at two in the morning and physically write a poem down to stop the darn rhyming in my head so I could get back to sleep. I’m sure some of my best ideas have been lost to me just by rolling back over and forcing myself to go back to sleep. Usually I write with no noise, if I can help it, and no music, unless I’m getting ready to write an important scene or action sequence. I’ve used music before to set the tone for my writing. If I have a funeral scene (coming up in the next book) for example, I’ll listen to a few sad songs, and think about how and what I want I want my character to say or how the character(s) will live the scene. I’ve also used reading, especially another genre, as a tool to break a bad spell of writer’s block.
Half way into writing my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?
That shouting in your brain is your Muse whining to get you to do its bidding. I don’t think there is a way to stop it from bugging you, but this is a good thing, because when your muse goes silent, that is when the dreaded writer’s block occurs.
Advice: Don’t push your story or force it out. Let it develop…this might not fit your time schedule, but then, you shouldn’t have one of those anyway. Deadlines will come soon enough. Oh, and have fun. If you are writing and not having fun, stop, and listen to music for a while and chill, then go back, but always write every day. You have to get the bad stuff out first, to get to the good meat underneath.
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
That’s a great question, Sacha. Firstly, I don’t think the industry is in decline at all, but it has slipped sideways a lot. The traditional publishing houses may have to change the way they do business, and let’s not forget this is a business. I also think, as an Author, we also have to change the way we have carried out our business in the past.
Everyone seems to be talking about how eBooks and self publishing is killing the big five (7?) or however many top publishing houses there are now. Nobody seems to be concerned with the most important group, the readers. I think advancements like the eReader are a great invention. People are busy these days and portable devices have become a necessity. I think we may see a trend towards short stories and chapter books becoming more popular. Quick reads on the way to work on the mass transit systems everywhere. That move doesn’t mean a death to the novel. Not even a little bit. Readers will still want that hard copy novel to cuddle up with beside the cozy fire. That move to the popularity of the short story just means another niche we, as authors, have to fill. I also think we need to connect with our readers more on a personal level, maybe more through social media.
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, and I’m sure EL James is a fine author, but that is not a genre I enjoy and I will likely not read it. Sometimes I have seen reviews where someone is complaining about the book, but it’s not a genre they like to begin with. Hey, if I don’t like Liver, I don’t eat liver. As for literary value, I’m afraid I am not the person to ask about that. Now if you have a plumbing question, I’ll be happy to help.
If a fascist regime was burning the world’s libraries, what books would you save?
For starters I would save every religious book, the Bible, the Koran, etc. because I think our many different religions would be of great interest to the archaeologist of the future. Wow. There are so many great books. After giving this question much thought I’ve decided to organize a coup to stop the Fascist regime. It is far easier than trying to decide which treasures to keep. Are you in or out?
Duh Lockie! – I am definitely in – I’ll be at the front waving a flame thrower at the fascists – clearly not at the books or they’s all burn! Maybe i’ll drive a tank instead….!
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?
It was 18 years before Ryan’s Legend was picked up by Morning Rain Publishing, a new eBook publisher in Canada at the time. I had met the editors online at a writing site we all enjoyed. They liked my story and asked to publish it as an eReader. To me that was more luck and coincidence than anything else, but I can say that I never gave up trying to get my book published. I wanted to go traditional because I didn’t have the money or the time needed to self publish through a Vanity publisher, and at the time I was not very computer literate, at least not enough to figure out the self publishing angle. Producing an eBook can be a big expense especially if you do it properly with a professional edit and cover design, despite the ‘free’ template from the many sites that cater to that type of self publishing. That’s just to get a book delivered to your door. Now you have to market it. More dollars needed for advertising, and in my case, maybe even a social media helper. That was not in the cards for me, so I welcomed MRP’s offer with open arms and a big smile.
What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?
I wish I knew that it was important to have a thick skin in this industry. I learned over time to not take the rejections to heart. It didn’t mean that my stories were no good; it meant I hadn’t done my homework and had submitted to the wrong people.
The hardest thing to learn for me was patience. It can take a very long time to hear back from a submittal, and sometimes you won’t hear back.
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?
I would say, don’t take any criticism of your work in a negative way, but rather use that information to improve your writing. Not every word or idea you put down on paper is going to be brilliant. And also write every day, even if it’s just two hundred words.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
Color me embarrassed. I had to look up what you were trying to ask me. Fanfic, or Fan Fiction (I love the internet) is where a person, my fan, steals my words and twists them or changes them but uses my story, and writes their own (I think). I am not a fan of plagiarizing, but it is rampant in this new electronic cyber world we are in. Songs, movies, books, they are all stolen and copied and the rights holders never see a dime for their efforts, and that is a real shame. What I don’t get is why aren’t these fan fiction writers writing their own stories? I will need to check this out further, but it just seems to be not right to me, on a moral or spiritual level. It’s like stealing a pencil from a blind man’s cup.
I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?
I love to sing, and I was trying to learn the guitar before I took sick. Now that I am recovering and getting on with life, I think I will try the guitar again. I would love to be able to play.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I am learning that we can be anything we want to be, we just have to keep the goal in sight and go for it. So that being said, I pick Astronaut. I would love to view earth from space.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was in my thirties. At that point, I was out of work for the winter, and while trying to teach myself to type on our new computer, I started to form the story I would add to and complete 20 years later. When my boys wanted to know what happened next, I had to write that next scene, and I was happy and enjoying it so much that even back then I realized that writing was that nagging thing that had bugged me all my life. There was always a feeling of something left undone in the back of my mind. That would usually last until I finally wrote down a few lines of poetry. Then the feeling would go away for a while, until next time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that nagging feeling was my muse, trying to awaken the writer that was deep inside me. Even to this day, if I go a while without writing anything down, I’ll get that same feeling.
What authors do you admire, and why?
There are too many to list, but I will single one guy out who is one of my favorite authors, Stephen King. He was rejected many times, but he kept plugging away. He slept in his car when times were tough, and they were at first, but he stuck to his writing. Of course I now know he HAD to write. Authors don’t really have much choice. You’ll see. Just try and stop writing. I dare ya!
To find out more about Lockard read his author bio below:
Lockard Young published his first book, Ryan’s Legend, in 2013 at the age of 54 under the pen name L.F.Young. Retired from a lifetime as a service plumber, he lives with his wife and several rescue dogs and cats in rural New Brunswick, Canada. He published the sequel, The Legend Returns, in 2015. It is the conclusion of the story he started to write 20 years earlier. He is working on several projects and enjoying his passion for writing.