'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Guest Post: Gareth Ward: Question Time

I’ve just got back from a week of touring schools and bookshops to promote my latest book, The Clockill and the Thief. 

One of my favourite parts of presenting to kids is the questions section at the end of the talk. You always get a certain number of questions that are the same but then you also get the weird, wonderful and insightful. 

Here are a few of them, with a completely unscientific indication of how frequently they occur.

How long did it take to write your book? (Always asked)
It took me about a year to get the manuscript submission ready and then it was about another three months back and forth with the editors.

What do you do when you get writer’s block? (Frequently asked)
I don’t get writers block. If I don’t know what to write I just write anything. I don’t care if it’s rubbish because if I just keep writing the good stuff will come, and it’s all going to be pruned and re-worked anyway. An editor once said to me ‘you can’t edit a blank page’ and that has stuck with me.

Who would you most like to co-author a book with? (Asked once only)
J.K. Rowling. I love the Harry Potter stories and who wouldn’t want to write something with the most famous children’s author ever?

Who are your inspirations?(Occasionally asked)
If we are talking about authors, it has to be Philip Pullman. When I read his writing it makes me want to cry because it’s so good. I also love Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co series. As for my own books, my children are an inspiration to me.

How much do you get paid? (Frequently asked)
Many authors I know dodge this question, but I feel it’s important to answer it because I sometimes think there is a misconception that if you have a book published you somehow automatically become rich. Most authors get about a 10% royalty on the sale price of a book, and many books will only sell a few thousand copies, so not a great return for something that took you a year to complete. In the end you write because it is a passion and anything else is a bonus.

How do you think of names for your characters? (Frequently asked)
Names are hard. Naming your characters is a bit like naming your children. There are so many names that you can’t use for various reasons such as you went to school with someone of that name and they were a complete horror. Mostly the names I use just pop into my head, quite often when I am walking my dog. Sometimes I will try and craft a name to a character, but I tend to find the organic approach works best.

Do you plot your entire book out before hand? (Occasionally asked)
Writers often refer to plotters, who plot their story out beforehand, and pantsers, who fly by the seat of their pants and make their story up as they go along. I tend to be more of a pantser than a plotter, but I always know the start of my story, the end of my story and the three key plot points. For new writers I strongly recommend plotting your story out beforehand.

Why do you write Steampunk? (Frequently asked)
Steampunk is a great genre in which to write. It has the rich backdrop of the Victorian period, which is hugely interesting from a historic point of view, and then I can just let my imagination run wild with my own worldbuilding and fantastic scientific creations.
How old are you? (Frequently asked)
I think this is often asked because as part of my presentation I perform a magic trick and claim it’s based on a true event that happened to me a hundred years ago. Most of the kids know I’m joshing but sometimes they just want to make sure. And in case you’re interested, I’m fifty-one.

There are many other questions I get asked, most of which are specific to the talk I give about how my life has inspired my writing, however there is always a chance of getting that weird question that blind-sides me. My favourite to date is,'Are you actually dead?'To which the answer is of course…

GarethWard is the author of the multi-award winning The Traitor and the Thief and has just launched the sequel The Clockill and the Thief. Both books are published by Walker Books Australia and available in bookshops and online. He can be contacted via his website garethwardauthor.com

Discover more curious facts about Gareth in our 12 Curly Questions interview with him.