Friday, September 6, 2013

Guest Post author Shane Peacock

How/why did you start to write?

Most authors start writing or decide they want to be writers when they are very young. They are the brains in the class, the ones with their noses in books all the time. I wasn’t like that. When I was a little boy I just wanted to play hockey! But once I realized how much I liked stories – the stories inherent in hockey games, the bed-time stories my parents told me, the amazing tales I began reading in books – everything changed. I love stories. I love narrative. I think we all see life as a sort of story and we all want our lives to have narrative. Being a story teller is the most natural thing a human being can do. Hopefully, it helps you to understand, to at least a small degree, the truth about life.

How did you become an author?

It took me a long time. During my last year in high school and throughout university, I became absolutely fascinated by Literature. I couldn’t get enough of it and wanted to make my own! Influenced by all the great work I was studying, I began writing short stories and sending them to literary journals, all of which were rejected! I also wrote a novel ... or two. I finally realized that if I was going to be a real writer, one who made a living by writing, I needed to understand the business of my art, as well as the art itself. So, I spent a great deal of time researching magazines, publishers, and agents. I began getting myself published anywhere I could in order to build up a portfolio. I started pestering agents to take me on and I applied, twice, for a Canada Council grant to write a book about a little known, amazing Canadian, a high-wire walker and renaissance man named “The Great Farini.” I got the grant, which greatly helped my career, convinced an agent to help me get an interview with a publisher, and eventually, using the portfolio I’d built up, a maturing manuscript, and lots of persuasion, got myself published with a major Canadian publisher, for my very first book.

What was your first published piece?

I can’t even remember what those first pieces for my first university’s newspaper were! But perhaps the first truly serious publication came with a piece about Farini for a circus magazine. My first book was about Farini too – “The Great Farini: The High-Wire Life of William Hunt,” a biography, for adults, with Penguin Books. I then wrote “The Dylan Maples Adventures,” a YA series, but gained my first big, bestselling success and international acclaim with “The Boy Sherlock Holmes” series for Tundra Books.

Where was it published?

The university newspaper pieces were for Trent University’s “Arthur,” in Peterborough, Ontario, the circus magazine (“King Pole”) was out of the U.K., and the biography was for Penguin Canada, published in Toronto.

How long ago?

The Trent pieces would have come out in the early ‘80s, the “King Pole” bit in the late ‘80s, and the Farini biography appeared in 1995, the year after my first play, also about Farini, debuted on the outdoor stage of The 4th Line Theatre, complete with circus acts and a live high-wire act above the heads of the audience, by a Cirque du Soleil performer.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

I had all sorts of jobs from the end of high school through university and into the first decade of my attempt to start a writing career. I worked at the local paper mill in Kapuskasing in northern Ontario, where I grew up, in order to finance my student tuition (though during those years I also worked in the forests for Ontario Hydro and even did some labor on a tobacco farm). Once I graduated from the Masters English Literature program at the University of Toronto (where one of my professors was Robertson Davies), I worked for nearly a decade at the U of T Bookstore, carting boxes around the Receiving Room. I used to work all day there, and then half the night writing at home. On such a schedule, and time off for extensive research trips, it took me ten years to finish my first book. All of this was an asset to my writing in that it taught me how hard I had to work to succeed. There are many qualities you need to become a writer, but perhaps the most important one is the ability to work very hard and put in long hours, without EVER giving up.

What inspires you?

I often write about extraordinary characters, larger-than-life people, whether in my journalism, my plays, or my novels. People like Sherlock Holmes (“The Boy Sherlock Holmes”), The Great Farini, and even sumo wrestlers have been featured in my work. When I was a child I dreamed about doing great things, living a heroic life; that just fascinated me. Now I write about real people like that, and create characters like that. I’m intrigued by what motivates extraordinary people. Often, my characters are awfully eccentric too, sometimes just plain weird! Some writers write well about ordinary people and everyday existence. I admire that. But for me, I need eccentricity, individual individuals. I think I’m also inspired by the whole idea of trying to tell the truth about life. I tend to admire artists who are brave enough to do that. Art is about getting to the heart of the matter.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

Like many authors whose work appeals to a YA audience, I spend a great deal of time on the ground speaking to students in schools and libraries, and to older groups, teachers and librarians and readers, for example, at conventions and international writers’ festivals. I also maintain a lively and entertaining website as well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter. I try to push the publicists at my publishing houses to get me onto radio and TV and blog sites, and I make sure that I perform well and am conscious of promoting my work to the best of my abilities when I have those opportunities. I think doing the simple things like answering the many e-mail messages I receive from fans is important too.

Parting words

Thank you for inviting me to appear on your site! I often tell young readers that I became a writer because I didn’t want to have a job, which is of course, being silly, but in other ways it isn’t at all. We writers don’t have jobs as much as we attempt to tell the truth about life, as we see it, through stories. 

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