My guest today is P.T. McHugh, author of the young adult novel, Keeper of the Stones, recently released by Glass House Press. In this interview, the author talks about his inspiration for the book, writing habits, the muse, and success, among other things. A native of New Hampshire, McHugh now lives in Holly Springs, North Carolina.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Keeper of the Black Stones. When did you start writing and what got you into Young Adult?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, especially the creative process. I’ve been dreaming about becoming an author since I was in high school, and I started writing when I was in college. I didn’t get serious about it until recently, when I actually sat down, chained myself to my desk at night, and actually did it. In regard to why I decided to write YA, it basically came down to enjoyment. I may be 40 years old, but in my heart I’m still 12. I started writing it for my girls, and then it evolved into writing it for myself, and everyone else who loves a great adventure. YA gives me a lot more freedom for that sort of thing.
Did you have a mentor who encouraged you?
Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Robert Parker…those are the writers I looked up to. I was blessed with wonderful parents who encouraged me no matter what I did, but honestly I can’t say I had one “mentor” who stood out in regard to writing.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
I think all authors struggle at first, and I know I certainly did. My breakthrough came when I suddenly realized that I had to stop writing what I thought people might like, and start writing what I liked, in the hopes that others would enjoy it as well. Once I figured that out, writing became a lot more fun. Now with that being said, I still have struggles and difficulties, but only because of the expectations I’ve placed upon myself.
What was your inspiration for Keeper of the Black Stones?
I wanted to create a series for kids and their parents to read together. I’ve always been a big fan of history, and my favorite cartoon growing up was Johnny Quest (best cartoon every made!), so I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I combined my two loves into a story? I sat down and started writing, and before long Jason, Doc, Reis, and Paul (and later on, Katherine and Tatiana) were back in Old England, doing their best to beat the bad guy and save the world. What more could you ask?
What do you tell your muse when she refuses to collaborate?
She can’t watch television unless she helps me out. My biggest supporter and confidant is my oldest daughter, Cristina. She’s my biggest fan and has encouraged me every step of the way. She’s my motivation. And as a REWARD for helping me when I need it, we’re giving her a very special spot in the next book. But everyone’s going to have to wait to see what we do!
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?
No, my anxiety comes the first time I hand it to my editor, and then again when the first reviews are released. Writing for me is fun. The editing process, on the other hand, can be challenging, but just sitting down at night with only your thoughts… now that’s cool.
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?
Yes, in fact I’m very disciplined about making a schedule. I honestly didn’t think I would be, but in my experience I work better that way. I work at night, in specific hours, and stick to that whenever I can.
How do you celebrate the completion of a novel?
Funny story, I always had visions of completing a novel in a small cabin in the mountains (insert scene from the movie Misery). You type ‘The End,’ then open up a bottle of wine and clip the end of a cigar, and there you go. In reality, of course, you get a call at 9:34 PM on a Thursday night about some random question your publisher has and she says, “Oh by the way, you can stop editing now, we’ve sent the manuscript into copy editing.” And then you go to bed (how exciting!). And the next day, the marketing/blogging/publicity/book touring/sales part starts …
How do you define success?
Having a parent come up to you in the supermarket and thanking you because their son or daughter “loved your book” is the greatest feeling, and will never get old.
What do you love most about the writer’s life?
Visiting schools and interacting with the kids is, for me, the best part. Now that the book has been out for a few months, it’s a completely different experience to go into a school. In February, no one had heard of me or the book. But now, instead of pitching the novel, I’m answering questions about the story line and characters. It’s wonderful! Knowing that I’m having that impact on young minds – intriguing them and making them think about history – is the most rewarding thing in the world.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about and your work?
Where is your book available?
We’ve been fortunate enough to be picked up by Barnes and Noble in a big way, so it’s in B&N locations across the country. Of course it’s also available at all the indies, and through Amazon and the other online retailers. Nook, Kindle, Mobi, you name it.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
Since I can’t make every school in the country, we’ve been visiting classrooms via Skype. If you know a teacher out there who would like to bring an author into their classroom, drop us a line on our website. I love appearing at schools and talking to kids, who give the best feedback of anyone! And remember that we have the second book arriving early next year!!!