Today I'm very lucky to be joined by Ryan Schneider - author of the Go Kids series of young adult fantasy novels.
The 1st book of this series was the first book I ever reviewed on a website and I am delighted to be able to speak to Ryan today about his books. I have reviewed two of his books thus far and I am currently reading his third book in the series. To see my reviews of his works so far (on Read2Review) go
And so, without further ado. Let's get on with the interview!
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in northern California, got my degree from University of the Pacific, and currently reside in Palm Springs. I’m married to Taliya, an international singer/songwriter; Taliya is a talented musician who has written and produced two studio albums. She has toured Europe and the U.S., and received a Guinness World Record in 2005 for recording her original song “Flower Child” in 15 languages.
As far as writing, I write across many genres, everything from mainstream fiction to fantasy and science fiction. I also lived and worked in Los Angeles for a time, studied screenwriting and independent producing at UCLA, and produced a film.
2. Outside of writing, what would you say your favourite hobbies are?
Reading, Movies, exercise/weightlifting/running, flying (I have a pilot’s license).
3. What made you want to get into writing?
Writing is not so much something I wanted to “get into” per se; it’s more something I’ve simply always done (and couldn’t get away from, despite several years of trying via working at other careers). My mom used to have to read to my sister and me for an hour a night before we’d agree to go to sleep. So this instilled a love of stories and books in me. I was always reading. My older sister was reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz, so when I was about 12 I began reading them myself. The first King book I read was THE STAND. It remains one of my favourite novels.
When I was about ten years old and was in the fifth grade, the three fifth grade classes competed in a Read-A-Thon. Everyone in our class had a little hot air balloon tacked to a map in the classroom, and each time we read a book, we were allowed to move the balloon across the country and then across the globe. I resented being forced to read, so I refused to participate. Two weeks into the Read-A-Thon, when my balloon was the only one still stuck in California where it had begun, my teacher took me aside and asked me why I wasn’t reading. I explained that I read all the time (I recall I was reading a book about the Hindenburg at the time) and that I didn’t need a school Read-A-Thon to coerce me into reading, and that I didn’t want to participate. Surprisingly, she relented and I was excused from the Read-A-Thon.
Growing up, I had a lot of teachers who seemed to rave about stuff I’d written for class. I’ve always had a knack for it. I had planned on being a physician, but during my junior year of high school I had an English teacher who had us do A LOT of creative writing, which I enjoyed a great deal. The knack I mentioned seemed to be growing, because this teacher read aloud to the class a lot of what I’d written. I was also privately experimenting with short stories at the time.
When I got to college, the professors there were highly complementary of stuff I was writing. So I switched from Pre-Med to English Literature. I wrote my first novel when I was 18. It’s a horror-thriller about a woman who is pursued by a relentless killer. It contains a lot of sex and violence and killing and blood. I’m toying with the notion of publishing it. I need to read it again, to see if it’s any good.
A lot of writers I’ve encountered have said they’re intimidated by writing a novel, that they prefer short stories. But short stories are more difficult to write. They merely give off the appearance of being easier to write because of their lesser length. But when you only have 5,000 or 8,000 words to work with, you’ve got a lot of work to do and not a lot of pages in which to do it; you need to know what you’re doing. With a novel, you can stretch your legs a bit, let your prose wander a bit more, let the story lead you to the inevitable conclusion. And then you go back and chop chop chop. Stephen King states in his book ON WRITING that 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%. 3rd draft = 2nd draft – 10%.
4. Who would you say are your favourite authors and who inspires your writing the most?
Stephen King has always been one of my favourites, despite fellow English Lit majors saying he’s a hack, and professors I’ve had saying they’d never read even one of his books, which was particularly odd in a class of writers in which every single person in the class, with the lone exception of the professor, had read at least one of King’s books.
I also like Isaac Asimov, whose prose is clean and streamlined and flawless.
I read the Chronicles of Narnia four times as a kid, so I’m a fan of C.S. Lewis.
I’ve also read the Harry Potter series three times (as an adult), so I must say I’m a fan of J.K. Rowling (twitter:
I can find inspiration in whatever it is I’m reading; good writing inspires me, whether it be Hemingway or Salinger or Steinbeck, or genre writers like Asimov and Heinlein and Clarke, as well as slightly newer writers like Greg Bear (Twitter:
) or Larry Niven or Stephen Baxter. I recently read all five of Tanya Huff’s (Twitter:
) CONFEDERATION books and they were brilliant military sci-fi (although they were appalling sloppy; typos out the Susumi engine; the folks at DAW Books (Twitter:
), if not Tanya Huff herself, ought to be embarrassed; if that’s the best New York-based legacy publishers can do, indie publishers have nothing to worry about; a blind, illiterate, non-English-speaking extraterrestrial from waaaaaaay out in the Milky Way would have fewer typos in his/her/its book; okay, I’ve made my point).
I find myself immensely inspired by science fiction because you can do anything, go anywhere, make anything happen. My writer friend Patricia Russo (author of
) once shared an expression with me which is also very apt for Sci-Fi: Real toads in imaginary gardens. You can take real people and real issues and real problems and plop them down in a futuristic dystopian world or on an off-world colony or on a space station and then sit back and watch the fireworks.
I’m also highly inspired by my wife Taliya. The adventures she’s had while travelling the world performing live music are already coalescing into a novel I’m planning. (Listen to free samples of Taliya’s music here:
5. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us a little about The Go-Kids series?
Certainly. The Go-Kids is a huge story I’ve been working on since 2004. It centres around a group of five thirteen-year-olds: Parker, Sunny, Bubba, Igby, and Colby. Parker is the proverbial fearless leader of this group of teens who find themselves caught up in a Top Secret military operation, for the near-future world in which they live is torn by war. It is not a conventional war of nation versus nation, although there are people fighting one another. The battle is on a much larger scale, and Parker soon begins to realize that the battle may not be for lines on a map someplace, but rather is a battle for his very soul. Along the way, friendships are tested, alliances are formed, romances are kindled, and millions of lives are saved. Just another day in the life of the Go-Kids.
6. In total, how many books are there in the series?
To date there are five books published. I’m working on Book 6 now. I do not yet know how many books there will be when the series concludes itself; perhaps nine.
7. For me, when reading the book, I felt it had a lot of parallels with post 9/11, was that intentional?
Yes. And no. 9/11 was a big deal. It seems stupid to say such a thing, for the magnitude of it is obvious. But, beyond the loss of life, it caused a shift in people. I know it did in me. After talking with friends about it, we discovered we all had this same “shift”. Essentially it was a shift in the way in which we saw the world. Now, every day, we wait for the next “event”. No one knows when or where or how it will happen; but I think most people would agree that eventually something like it will happen again. In literary terms, we might describe it as a loss of innocence.
This pervasive awareness became part of the backdrop of the world in which Parker lives. The backdrop of war is normal for him and his friends, normal insofar as it has become part of their day-to-day life. There are teenagers who live in New York, for example, whom I would suspect can relate to this in ways I cannot truly fathom.
8. I like the way that the books can all be read in one sitting, was that always your intention?
Actually, no. My original manuscript was one lengthy work, about 260,000 words. When the self-publishing revolution began to work up a head of steam in 2008, I knew it was the way I wanted to go (especially after a year spent on unsuccessful querying of agents and publishers). When I showed an advance printed copy of THE GO-KIDS to my family, they just looked at it. It was a big, thick book with a black cover and it said, “THE GO-KIDS . . . BOOK ONE” on the front in big white letters. And this wasn’t even the entire 260,000 words; I’d divided the original manuscript nearly in half after finding a logical stopping point, but it was still 600 pages. I know there are readers out there who “read by the pound,” meaning they love a hefty manuscript, but the reaction I saw to my book was one of apprehension. After mulling it over for about three months, I decided to break up the book into smaller, more manageable works, akin to serials put out by writers like Charles Dickens, and which Stephen King emulated with great fun and success with his series THE GREEN MILE. I extrapolated titles and created original cover art for each instalment and put them up on Amazon. This made the work not only more accessible but gave me multiple opportunities to monetize it.
9. When the series is complete, do you have any plans to release them as a complete collection?
Yes! I am planning on publishing an omnibus edition in the near future. I don’t yet know exactly where the cut-off point will be. Book 6 will be longer than the previous five books, and it will encompass everything I’ve actually written thus far. After that, I’ll be in unknown territory, so it’s exciting and daunting to see where the series is going to go. I have a general sense of where it is going, but it’s like driving from Los Angeles to New York: you know where you are and where you need to end up, but no idea what is going to happen along the way. Plus, there are a couple of big, pivotal, key plot developments in Book 6 which I’ve been mulling over for some time now. These will determine where things go in Book 7. I want to be certain I’ve got them sorted.
10. I said when I reviewed some of these books that it would work well as a TV series. If that happened, who would you cast for the characters?
Every writer’s dream is to have their work adapted to film or television, and I’ve always thought THE GO-KIDS would indeed translate well. I’d love to see it made into a TV series, a movie, or series of movies. Daniel H. Wilson’s (Twitter:
) great, fun book
has been optioned by Dreamworks to be directed by Stephen Spielberg. Not too shabby. This is every writer’s dream. Being a HARRY POTTER fan, and seeing how well Warner Bros did with that franchise, I’d like to see the same kind of care and talent and resources go into adapting THE GO-KIDS.
As far as actors, it’s difficult to say because the five principal protagonists are 13 year-olds, and anyone I cite now will be a few years older and thus too mature to play the part by the time principal photography were to begin. However, I recently saw the movie REAL STEEL with Hugh Jackman, based on the short story “Steel” by Richard Matheson. The young man in that movie, Dakota Goyo, was quite good and I thought he would make an excellent Parker Perkins. I tried to write the kids as “real” as possible, rather than as idealized heroes who balk at nothing. To reference HARRY POTTER again, one of the things I like best about Harry is that he’s not a daredevil show-off type; he’s doing the best he can given the situation in which he finds himself, often openly admitting his own self-doubt (cf the TriWizard Tournament). He himself even says that it’s mostly luck and a lot of help which gets him through, and that nary a one of their plans has ever actually worked. Yet he perseveres. Because he must. He’s tormented, but he never gives up. Such is the case with my friend Parker Perkins.
As far as adult characters, I originally wrote General Ramsey for Sydney Pollack because I loved his quiet intensity and the credibility he imbued in his performances. Sadly, he passed away in 2008. Lately I’ve been thinking Bruce Willis could play the part well. Gary Oldman would make an excellent Dr. Red, because he has such range, from Drexl Spivy in “True Romance” to Agent Stansfield in “The Professional” and of course his role as Sirius Black in three of the “Harry Potter” films.
11. Aside from this series, have you written any other books?
Yes. I have a total of 21 eBooks on Amazon currently. Two of these (“Corvette Jesus” (SciFi) and “Last Night I Made Love to the Executioner” (Fantasy)) are novellas; the rest are short stories of varying lengths.
THE PILLOW BOOK
is a collection of related short stories which all tie together in the end. I’m also about halfway through the first draft of a new science fiction novel about which I am very pleased and excited. (And then there’s the thriller I mentioned earlier.)
12. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write because you must.
Not because it’s a fad.
And not for the money. (If you could somehow see into the future and see that you would never make any “real” money off your writing, would you still write?)
This self-publishing business is indeed a tremendous boon to writers. We can now create our material and sell it directly to the end user – the reader. The proverbial gatekeepers are being bypassed, and they will continue to do what they’ve always done, but writers now have full control over their work. This means we have a lot more work to do now that we have to handle the editing, proofreading, cover design, and the marketing. But this is, to me, great, great fun. As it should be. If writing isn’t fun, you shouldn’t do it. Because you won’t have the passion and desire for it which are required to get a manuscript a) finished and b) good enough to put out into the world with your name on it. Unless you don’t care and are fine with putting out second-rate crap. This is the downside to the self-publishing boom: a lot of people are putting books out not because they should but simply because they can. Sadly, there’s a lot of unreadable crap out there, full of unrealized storylines and two-dimensional paper-thin characters, and typos and sentence fragments and downright unreadable writing. A lot of these people are opportunists, rather than what we might consider true “writers”. Most of them won’t have the staying power for the long haul. After a few attempts, they’ll probably fall away. Though hopefully a few will find themselves and will develop into talented writers committed to the craft, and will produce good work.
So don’t be in such a hurry. It’s important to get into the marketplace, but it’s more important to have a book/story you’re proud of, a story you’d feel okay about if your English teacher were to read it, knowing he/she would have the tools to see it for what it truly is, good or bad.
The other crucial element to writing is READING. You can’t write unless you read. It’s amazing how many people I encounter who say they want to write but when I ask them what they’re reading, they’re not reading anything. They say they don’t have time to read. (But they have time to watch television four hours a night?) If you’re not reading at least three books a month, you’re not reading enough. Indie publishing phenom Amanda Hocking (twitter:
) wrote on her blog: “Read more than you write. And write A LOT.” Sage advice.
Much of what I’ve learned about writing was acquired when I was a teenager while reading Stephen King’s novels. I studied the mechanics of how he wrote, how he constructed sentences, paragraphs, stories. The rest has come through actually writing. Once you’re faced with a blank page, it’s time to put up or shut up, time to see if you truly know what you think you know.
And don’t be too hard on yourself. Learning is an active process; we only learn by doing. So write your story, write your novel. Don’t worry about it being perfect because I can tell you right now that it absolutely will NOT be perfect. But it need not be. Nothing is ever perfect; don’t let pursuit of perfection get in the way of progress. There’s an adage in journalism which applies equally well to novel writing: “It’s not done; it’s DUE.” Which means there’s a deadline. Give yourself a deadline if you need one. Give yourself a year to write your novel; one page per day. If you don’t write for three days, you’d better make up for it over the weekend. I recently interviewed novelist
Mark Everett Stone
and he stated that he likes to write about 3000 words six or seven days per week. Folks, that’s a 90,000-word novel in a month. Now, it will take a bit longer than that to get the thing polished and ready to go out into the world, but nevertheless that’s a manuscript per month. We call that being prolific. How do you think indie publishing overlord Joe Konrath (twitter:
) got to where he’s making $30k per month? Answer: he has 40 titles on Amazon. The real answer is this: he writes a lot.
But don’t be that annoying kid in English class who writes two sentences and then crumples up the paper, tosses it in the garbage can, and starts over. KEEP WRITING. Even the best writers don’t know what the hell they’ve got until they finish the first draft. It’s often said that you can’t write the first sentence of your story until you’ve written the final sentence. And remember that stories change and evolve as you write them. Let it be a journey, a journey to be enjoyed, for while the destination of having a completed novel is a thrilling reward unto itself, it is the journey we must look forward to every day when we sit down alone to write.
Henry Miller said that you have to write a million words before you find your voice as a writer. That’s ten 100,000-word novels.
Immerse yourself in the world of your characters and write. The rest will take care of itself.
My books are also available at the usual online retailers: Barnes&Noble.com, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords.
A SHADOW PASSED OVER THE SON, Book One of THE GO-KIDS, is $0.99 on Amazon and FREE at all the other retailers.
If you’d like to have a free digital autograph on your copy of one (or all!) of my books, visit me on