Simon, you have an impressive number of titles under your belt! Which book was your first, and what prompted you to write it?
The Alchemist's Portrait was the first novel, published in 2003. When I began my career as a writer a few years earlier I was influenced by the earlier books in the Harry Potter series. However, I didn’t want to write about wizards, dragons, or magic, but rather about the things that I was interested in, such as time travel, the paranormal, superheroes, ancient mysteries, or history. I was also influenced by Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, along with some other excellent fantasy and science fiction works.
Your novel, Flashback, did very well and garnered great reviews. Is there a sequel or two in the future?
Yes, there are two sequels coming out next year, one in the spring and the other in late summer. I hadn't initially considered sequels but the popularity of the book made me wonder if there was scope for further adventures for Max and the other characters. Once I began thinking about the ideas started flowing and I formatted the outlines for the next two books last summer then wrote parts two and three at the same time. It'll be interesting to see how Flashback performs as a trilogy but readers certainly seem to like the first instalment.
Your latest novel, Future Imperfect, has just released and features an exciting mix of science fiction, espionage and modern technology. How would you describe it to a curious reader?
Future Imperfect is an exciting technology-driven adventure featuring teenage geniuses, corporate espionage, and mysterious messages. The story will appeal to all young readers for whom technology plays such a large role in their lives, whether it’s cell phones, laptops, tablets, gaming, or the online world, but it’s also a very compelling adventure story, with lots of cliffhangers, twists, and turns. It was a lot of fun to write and I'm considering further instalments for Alex and Stephanie, possibly writing the two sequels later this year.
You love playing with time in your novels. How do you wrap your mind around time-travel, ie do you think it’s possible or is it just a wonderful forum for the imagination?
Perhaps because I've always been intrigued by time travel I find it easy to wrap my thoughts around the complexities it involves when crafting a novel with a time travel theme. I run workshops on creating time travel methods and developing stories in that genre on a regular basis. I emphasize not only the need for adequate research when writing about the past but also paying attention to the issues involving time travel and the need to make your story not only exciting but plausible. As a fan of history I have my own favourite time periods and would love to travel back to some of those eras, if only to see what it was like. Is it possible? I honestly have no idea, but like many of the things that inspire me and influence my work, time travel provides a endless source of ideas for stories.
In fact, you seem to love combining time travel, history and fantasy (in various measures). Is there a common thread there? What would you say was responsible for this recurring fascination in your works?
It's just something that's always fascinated me and I was influenced by the books and comics I read and the movies and TV shows I watched while growing up. I've always loved history too. I studied it at school and got a degree in history with the intention of perhaps becoming a teacher but life intervened, as it often does. Now of course I work as a teacher and instructor quite often and I even offer an online course for those that are interested in writing historical fiction.
You’ve also written an impressive number of non-fiction books. Can you tell us a little about how those books came about?
The nonfiction titles were written for educational publishers and encompass a wide range of topics, from history, wildlife, technology, government systems, science, the human body, astronomy, architecture, business, the environment, world cultures, and so on. All of these books were very interesting to write and of course involved a tremendous amount of research.
You did a recent book tour in Montreal for Children’s Book Week – congratulations on that! Can you share a little bit about how that came about, any highlights along the way?
TD Children's Book Week is organized by the Canadian Children's Book Centre every May. Authors from across Canada visit schools, libraries, bookstores and other locations all over the country. I did this once before when I visited Toronto and Southern Ontario in 2004. This time my tour took me to the Montreal area, but I also spent one day in Quebec City. It was a wonderful experience, with the students at all the schools really appreciating my visits, presentations, and workshops since they'd also been reading many of my titles. Most of the audiences were grades 3 to 6 but I also met older students at The Learning Exchange in Laval and at a high school. The schools were in various locations in the Montreal area and I spent a full day visiting three schools in Kahnawake.
You are an accomplished speaker, teacher and interviewer as well as the author of several writing guides. Would you care to tell us a little about what motivates your enthusiasm for sharing your knowledge with others?
I've always been willing to share my knowledge and experience with other writers, and of course with children during school visits, workshops, and other events. I leant a lot from some writers when I was starting out but also encountered a few that didn't want to share anything and more or less told me I'd have to figure it out for myself. I knew that I'd never act that way with other writers and have always been happy to answer questions and offer tips and advice. I was able to translate that into working as an instructor with the two universities in Calgary as well as with the local school board and occasionally with writers organizations. And as you point out I've also put some of this material into The Children's Writer's Guide, The Working Writer's Guide, and The Social Media Writer's Guide.
What would be the one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring writers?
Writing is in some ways the easy part. It can be a very long process not only to write a book, but also to get it published. A book is a marathon measured in years rather than weeks or months. Don’t be afraid to revise and revise over and over again. Most authors go through many revisions before their work reaches its final format. Remember too that your book will never be to everyone’s taste, so don’t be discouraged. A firm belief in your own success is often what’s necessary. After all, if you don’t believe in your book, how can you expect other people to?
Read as much as you can and write as often as you can. Keep an ideas file, even if it’s only a name, title, sentence or an entire outline for a novel. You never know when you might get another piece of the puzzle, perhaps years later. You also mustn’t forget the marketing. You may produce the greatest book ever written. However, no one else is going to see it if your book doesn’t become known to potential readers. Be visible as an author. Do as many readings, signings and personal appearances as you can. Get your name out there and hopefully the rest will follow. Especially for newly published authors, books don’t sell themselves and need a lot of help.
Many thanks to Simon Rose for taking the time to share his experience (and his amazing books) with us! You can find out more about Simon's work at his website, or on Facebook!