Q1 What influenced your decision to write for Teenagers?
Other than the time travel series of which Tomorrow’s Guardian is the first, I also have written the first of a historical fiction series ‘The Amber Treasure’ which although I believed I was writing for adults does seem popular with some older teens. There is also a historical Fantasy ‘The Last Seal’ set in the Great Fire of London and also written for Young Adults.
I generally set out to write books I would like to read. I enjoy reading a lot of Young Adult Fiction such as Garth Nix – Keys to the Kingdom – as well as Harry Potter of course, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard book, Darren Shan and so forth. Since quite a lot of what I enjoy reading falls into YA/ teen fiction I guess I tend to write in that style. To me a lot of the best books (and for that matter TV and film) is aimed at a crossover audience and accessible by 8 to 80 year olds. For this audience you need a strong story and good characters and a fast pace to the book.
Q2 How do you get into the heads of your characters?
Before I write a book I sit down with a notepad and try to sketch out each main character. I ask myself what is their main strength and weakness and what motivates them. What do they want and what will they do to make that happen? Then I find that as I write the book I KNOW how a character should act to any situation.
Q3 Do you know instinctively what will appeal to Teens or is it more a hit or miss process?
Well I am a pretty new writer of course and although I have had some good reviews and interest in Tomorrow’s Guardian and other books I am not arrogant enough to believe I am an expert. Far from that at this stage. So I usually work on the basis that if I enjoy a passage and so do some readers and my editor that I am getting it right. If I give someone a passage to read and they tell me they don’t understand a bit, or it was dull or confusing then it needs a revision. So I believe I am learning how to write for this audience, expect to learn more and I hope I will get better.
Q4 What is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?
When I plot out a book I start with only a spark of an idea. I mull it over – quite often for weeks. Then as I try to sketch out a plot I get little moments when something about a character inspires an idea that you can work into the story. So I may be struggling with a section and not sure how to make it work when that spark comes along and it can be a bit of a eureka moment when you realise you have cracked it. Another fun part of writing is when you have the first draft done and you are going through the book working on dialogue and descriptions. I have a lot of fun with descriptions of historical locations.
Q5 Do you ever read the works of other Teen/YA authors? If yes what can you recommend?
I have covered quite a few of these in Q1. Everyone has heard of Harry Potter so that hardly needs a recommendation from me but I still take my hat off to Rowling’s genius in inventing such a rich believable world. However I would say that Garth Nix and his Keys to the Kingdom series is excellent and rivals Harry Potter for detail and depth.
Q6 Are any of your novels based on personal experiences?
Well I am a GP in the ‘day job’ and not a Saxon Warrior, Time Traveller or sorcerer. So it is not so much personal experience so much as tapping into 40+ years of reading, TV and Films. These have been heavily Sci Fi and Fantasy orientated such as Terry Pratchett’s amazing Disk World books, David Eddings and Raymond Feist’s writing as well as the Young Adult fiction which I have mentioned. There is also a lot of historical fantasy including Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series and others. I was 11 when I saw the first Star Wars Movie (Number IV now) and around then the first Indiana Jones came out. I grew up with the classic series of Dr Who including the superb John Pertwee and Tom Baker era. I am also very fond of historical sites and have toured many battlefields such as Agincourt, Crecy, Normandy and Waterloo and visited a vast array of ancient and medieval buildings. I went to school in sight – it was literally just out the window – of Warwick Castle. Gradually all that soaks in and went into the pot from which I draw when I write.
Q7 Are you working on anything new at the moment or do you have anything planned?
My editor and I are just tidying up Yesterday’s Treasures – the sequel to Tomorrow’s Guardian. I hope that will be published in the late Spring. I am also working on the sequel to The Amber Treasure and have plans for a sequel to The Last Seal. So I hope to bring out some new books in the next 12 months.
Q8 Do you ever do Library visits to Teen Reading Groups? If yes, what is the best way to get into contact with you or your agent about it?
I would be happy to do visits to a Library. For this purpose, the best way to contact me is via my website and my email address r.denning (at) btinternet.com
I have a talk/workshop designed to be entertaining and thought provoking for children of ages 10 to 14 – Years 5 to 9.
It is intended to fit into World Book Day and other activities.
Duration – can be adjusted but will be circa 60 minutes. Event consists of talks, readings and activities: Time travel sounds like fun until you try it!
The fascination of time travel and why it could be more dangerous than you think!
There is a pdf on my website about the talk: