Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Interview with Author, Adam Dreece of The Yellow Hoods Series

Introducing the author of The Yellow Hoods, Adam Dreece.

For 25 years, Adam wrote short stories that he only shared with friends and family. Like many people, he put his career first, and writing second. In 2009 when his appendix nearly killed him, he found himself struck with horrific abdominal pain that seemed never ending. Fifteen months later, after a surgery to explore for, and remove, scar tissue reduced the pain to a manageable, chronic level, he started writing a memoir. Nearly six months later, once again back at work but this time with writing always having a place in his life, he found himself hit with sudden, severe asthma. It was as if a switch had been flipped, and Adam found himself once again trying to figure out which way was up.

Two years later, with the memoir going through editing, Adam decided it needed to sit a while. The challenges he’d faced had made him more driven, more focused, more appreciative of the time that he had. With the support of his wife, on November 28th, 2013 he made a plan to be a full time author in five years. On January 4th, he started writing a story at the request of his daughter that became book 1 of The Yellow Hoods.

Adam lives with his amazing wife and three awesome kids. He’s very active on Twitter, and loves engaging with fellow readers and writers. He regularly helps fellow writings.

He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Where are you from, Adam?
Calgary, but I only just realized that two and a half years ago when we moved here. Of all the places I’ve lived, I’ve never felt so much at home than in the heart of Western Canada.
I grew up in Montreal from about 2 years old, having been born in the UK. Montreal never really felt like home, and so when it came time for university, I leapt at the opportunity to go to one of the top technical schools in the world, the University of Waterloo, 45 minutes outside of Toronto, and home to Blackberry. From there I went to Silicon Valley, then Toronto, then a short stint in the channel islands, before ending up a couple of years ago back in Montreal raising a family.
Once again, Montreal just didn’t feel right, and we decided to move. From the first day that I arrived in Calgary, I knew I was home.

Congrats on finding your home. Tell us, why do you write?
I usually find writers, like other artists, answer this question by saying they feel compelled to. That’s it a core part of who they are, and that’s absolutely true for me, but there’s a bit more to it.
I feel more like me when I’m doing it. I love the intellectual challenge of pulling together stories that seem so simple on way level, but are layered and complex the further you look into them. There’s nothing like creating something out of nothing that can move people, make them think, or make them wonder.

I totally agree. Creating your own worlds is one of the best parts of writing. Do you remember what inspired you to write your first book?
I always talk about my daughter as my motivation and inspiration for writing The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1). But something that I haven’t talked about as much was how I wanted her to have books that she could read now on one level, read in three years on a different level, and then read again later in life and see it for the first time on all the levels. I wanted girls like her to be able to read books about strong women, and I wanted my sons to read books that had men that weren’t flat and simplistic like the stories I so often run into. I also wanted to provide a legacy for them whereby they could get to know me, should I not be around to tell them.
I also needed to prove to myself that my ideas were worth doing. I still am the type of person to drop everything and help someone out. The problem is that it started to seem after a while that everyone else’s projects were more important to me, than my own. This weighed on me. I had a half dozen mobile applications I’d written incomplete, I had web projects sitting there half-done, and I felt that sense of having been a fraud, that I thought I’d vanquished long ago, creeping back into my life. I needed to do something for me, that if I did it well, could stand the test of time, and that’s why I returned to my passion for writing and started writing again.

What genre do you typically write?
I write layered young adult science fiction. That comes from a deep understanding of technology and how to relate it to people in simple and intriguing ways, and wanting to write stories that a 12 or 45 year old can pick up and feel was written for them.
The Yellow Hoods is an emergent Steampunk series, meaning that the 1800s type world is in the process of undergoing a technological revolution just as the steam engine is invented. That technological change is part of the backdrop of the storm.
The Yellow Hoods is also laced with fairy tale, but from the perspective of the rhyme Ring Around the Rosie reminds us of the black plague that was a real event, so why couldn’t I take other rhymes and fairy tales and treat those as simplistic ways of remembering something that concretely happened in the world of The Yellow Hoods.

Do you feel like you have a specific writing style?
For 25 years, ever since I handed my first short story to a friend, I’ve been told that I have a very particular way of writing, of seeing people and seeing events. I’ve been told that I write video and movies, that it doesn’t feel like literature. That my wording and description frequency changes depending on the pace and mood of the moment, that I use those to help slow down or speed things up.
I also layer meaning and intent my writing, a lot like poetry. I want someone who reads quickly to be able to re-read my works and enjoy them again and again on different levels, while meticulous reader can see all the hints and nuance that I’ve placed in there. Someone once said it was like the band The Police who were highly skilled musicians who played songs with only 4 chords. It sounded simple on one level, but was incredibly complex. It’s a complement that I carry with me to remind me, in those moments where I’m wondering why I’m doing it, that it’s part of how I write.

How long does it usually take you to write a book?
I wrote my first book in a month, my second book took about two and a half months. The third book has a concrete deadline, so I’ll need to finish in by end of November which will have been three months. It’s an aggressive schedule, especially with a full time job and family with three kids, but I thrive on that need to get it done. It forces me to sharpen my thinking and motivates me to prove that I can bend reality and produce what I need to, at the level that I’m capable of.

One month? That is truly impressive! What do you do to conquer writer’s block?
I listen to different music, I discuss the storyline with my wife or daughter. I flip tasks, such as editing a part so that my brain doesn’t have to be creative at that moment. If I feel completely drained and burn-out, then I take the pressure off and do something fun, maybe take a couple of nights off. I try to remind myself that I’m doing this because I want to, because I love to, and not because I have to.

What can you tell us about your favorite character from your book?
My favorite character from Breadcrumb Trail (Book 2) is Marcus Pieman. He is that special genius who is not only able to see how the world could be a better place, but is able to bring it about. He sees how to move the giant machine of societies and technologies to bring about the future that he wants. He isn’t evil, he’s driven. He’s devoted to creating a better world, but he’s also got a na├»ve blindspot, or so it seems. To create massive change, you have to be ruthless and paranoid, and we’ll see whether or not he truly is that in All the King’s Men (book 3).

What actor or actress would you like to see play your character in the movie adaptation
I’d love to have Stanley Tucci as Nikolas Klaus, Malcolm Macdowell as Marcus Pieman, Scarlet Johnansen as Richelle Pieman, and Jamie Campbell Bower as Hans.
As for the Yellow Hoods, I’d love to see someone like a younger version of Nathalie Portman for Tee, but for the rest, I’m stumped at the moment.

That is a fantastic character list! I cannot wait to see the film. Who is your favorite author and what is it about them that inspires you?
The author that really struck a cord with me long, long ago, was Aldous Huxley and his book Brave New World. I don’t know what he was like as a man, but the story was compact and contrasted so well with George Orwell’s 1984, that is really stuck with me. They were two books with the same principal ideas, written one before and one after WWII.
There was something about Huxley’s way of describing the world and the states of the characters that just flipped a switch in my mind. I seek to do that in my writing as well.

What book are you reading now?
The book I’ve been listening to lately is non-fiction, it’s called Zero to One by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel. It’s essentially about technical startup companies.
I see my writing career as a startup company, and being a technologist myself, I seek to incorporate as many of the ideas from various other knowledge domains to help me become the best author that I can be. 

What are your current projects?

I am working on The Yellow Hoods: All the King’s Men (book 3) and have planned out most of book 4 and the finale book 5, after which I’m planning on jumping to a series that takes place in the same world ten years later.
I have a couple of side-books in the world of The Yellow Hoods that feature some favorite characters, like the Cochon brothers, intended as one-offs. I also have some Dieselpunk and other science fiction works that are sketched out and I wonder when I’ll slot them in.
By the end of this calendar year, I will have written and published 2 novels from start to finish, and written a third that will be published next spring, plus I write a short story that’s been submitted for an anthology. If I can keep that pace up for the next couple of years, I’ll definitely have built up an excellent head of steam.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Nothing. Once again I had crazy timelines, I had incredible stress at work while everything was going on, but I brought the book together and at a level that I was happy with. The early readers have reacted extremely well to it, so clearly I hit the mark.
I try my best to make the best story I can deliver and then I don’t look back. I listen to the feedback and I’ll make my next story that much better.

Can you share a little of your work with us?
On my blog I have three chapter samples of book 1 and 2 of The Yellow Hoods, as well as a few of my early works. I’m slowly posting more of my short stories from over the past 25 years to show other writers where I was back then, versus where I am now, as well as to entertain people with some of the better ones.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
It’s getting all of the plot lines to coherently weave together. Sometimes there are plot lines, or scenes, that I love but just can’t come together with the others, so I make a note of those for potential use in something else, and move on.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The first is FINISH IT. As I was saying to the audience of a panel I was on, the worst crime a writer can commit is fussing over something until the end of their days. Write the story, polish it up, and then get it in other people’s hands. Treat that a rocket that’s been fired, don’t pull it back in.
You’ve got to learn to manage that fear of being judged, that fear of “but it’s not perfect”, it never will be. But if you don’t get your story in other people’s hands, and hear what they have to say, then you will never really grow.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
It has been an amazing experience for me to get to know some of my readers at the conventions that I’ve been to, and on Twitter. The passion that people have for my stories really moves me. It’s amazing to hear about tweens or teens and their parents or grandparents reading the same books, enjoying the same base story but on completely different levels, and having something they can bound over and look forward to more of, together.

One woman told me that until she read my first book, she didn’t know what people were talking about when they would say they could get lost in a book.
Some writers don’t build real relationships with their readers, I’m one of those that do. If you find yourself reading The Yellow Hoods, I’d love to hear from you.

Connect with Adam Dreece Today:

Author of emergent Steampunk series  The Yellow Hoods
Young Adult written for everyone

Book 1 - Along Came a Wolf at AmazonAmazon.caKoboSmashwords, The Yellow Hoods Store
Book 2 - Breadcrumb Trail at AmazonAmazon,.ca,  KoboSmashwords, The Yellow Hoods Store

Twitter: @AdamDreece

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