Name Paul Collins
Where are you from
Canvey Island, Essex, England
A little about yourself, ie your education, family life etc
I was born on the only island in the world that’s actually below sea level. Hard to fathom, but think big walls around the island to keep the sea out, and you’ll get the picture. Right now I live in Clifton Hill. Note, far above sea level! I left school at 15 and had numerous jobs before starting a bookshop in the 70s. Right now I live with my partner, fellow writer Meredith Costain, a kelpie and a heeler, two kittens, three chickens and a handful of fish.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
A lot of things are happening. I run a speakers’ agency called Creative Net. I represent 130 or so of Australia’s leading children’s authors and illustrators. Right now I’m publishing 16 books under the Ford Street imprint, writing two short story collections with Meredith Costain for a major publisher, and running literary events in schools and libraries, as well as personal development seminars for teachers and librarians. Never a dull moment.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I thought it would be an easy job! But it took me twenty years to get my first book published. That was The Wizard’s Torment in 1995. Since then I’ve had 140 plus books published. My most recent books are The Warlock’s Child, in collaboration with Sean McMullen. There are six books in the series, coming out during April and September, 2015.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Up until The Wizard’s Torment, I always thought of writing as a hobby. Most of my life I owned bookshops. I’d write short stories on the counter with a manual typewriter. The moment I started making more money from my part time “hobby” as I did working seven days a week in my shops, I gave up the shops and started writing full time.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I didn’t want to work for anyone else. One of my early jobs was a room service waiter for Travelodge. One of the other waiters said to me, ‘You don’t like authority, do you?’ And I think that hit the nail on the head. Most people in authority (think politicians!) are idiots, really. They’re academically clever in as much they know what to say, how to keep in power, etc, but truly, they only have their own interests at heart. They’re not really interested in what’s good for the common person. Unfortunately, those with commonsense have no power.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t think so. I’ve written so many books for so many different age levels that it would be hard for anyone to pick my style. I can envy the likes of Stephen King and Paul Jennings, for example, as they do have their own indisputable styles. But there’s the rub. A list authors can write their one book a year and make a really good living from it. The majority of us have to write a stack of material to make a living. I do very well, but it’s only because I’m prolific, and can adapt my style to a publisher’s needs.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Warlock’s Child was originally Broken Magic. But when it came to finalizing the title, I googled it only to find another author had used the title a year ago. I actually wrote Broken Magic years ago, so I had the original title, but alas, it took years to get it to print. There’s a warlock character in the books, and the series is basically about his child, so the series title was pretty obvious.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not sure there’s a ‘message’ as such. The Warlock’s Child is a rollicking fantasy series with plenty of action and derring-do. I suspect kids are fed up with reading books with a message. They get that every day of their lives. Reading is supposed to be pleasurable. Something to get them away from reality. I think we ram this message down their throats so much it’s no wonder they don’t want to read anymore.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
There’s a lot of fact in the series. Sean and I have tried to make it as authentic as possible.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? A mentor?
I like Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl and Simon Reeves’ Mortal Engines books. I used to read a lot of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books. Alas, we don’t write that quality any more.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I mostly read the books I’m publishing these days. Right now it’s Gary Crew’s Voicing the Dead. It will be published in August 2015.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m publishing a book by Candida Baker. It’s a picture book called Belinda, the Ninja Ballerina. It’s illustrated by Mitch Vane. Candida is a well known Australian journalist, so it’ll be interesting to follow her fiction writing career.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’ve been commissioned by a major publisher to write a dozen short stories for two collections. I’m also looking forward to publishing Michael Hyde’s Footy Dreaming, which is already getting some attention. I’m also reprinting Isobelle Carmody’s Scatterlings.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Meredith Costain, my long-term partner.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Certainly, but it’s only one quarter of what I do these days. Each of my jobs complement one another.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so. Sean and I had a chance before sending the first book off, as all the other books were in first draft. We did make a few changes, but I think we’re reasonably happy with the way it’s gone.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I used to read a lot of Marvel comics. In fact, I didn’t read a book until I was 17 or 18. I should have really been a script writer, but I’m happy with my fiction output.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Apart from having the time to write, not really! I love the short story form so the stories I’m writing now are flowing. I don’t particularly like writing 100,000 word novels, but I’ve only written one series that reached those lengths, and that was The Jelindel Chronicles. Right now I’m hoping to write a collection of those shorter tales, which will make up book five in that series.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I always liked Peter O’Donnell for his Modesty Blaise books. He was far better, in my humble opinion, than Ian Fleming. Unfortunately, the producers who scored the rights to Modesty Blaise treated her more like a parody. The first Modesty Blaise film was a travesty with Monica Vitti. And then there was My Name is Modesty, with another actress who didn’t suit the part – Alexandra Staden. Can you imagine how these films would have been had they stared actors like Angelina Jolie or (remember the day!) Honor Blackman?
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travel across Australia giving writing workshops and talks. Mostly in schools, sometimes in libraries or at festivals.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Marc McBride. He’s best known for his work on the Deltora Quest books which have been huge. A little known fact is that I basically commissioned his first eight covers back in the nineties when I was commissioning books for HarperCollins. I’ve since worked with Marc on about fifty covers now.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Research is always time-consuming. Luckily I collaborated with Sean who has a pretty good knowledge of fantasy writing. I wrote the first draft of the six books, and Sean took over and expanded the series, introducing a whole new layer, that is, the dragons.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
It’s a myth that pirates made people walk the plank. It’s simply a fallacy.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Persistence. Just about every major book I’ve written has been rejected by at least one or two publishers. Once published, many have become mini bestsellers for me. Editors/publishers get it wrong quite often. If someone rejects your book, don’t lose heart. Send it on.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just that I hope they enjoy my latest offering!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t, but it would’ve been a western novel. Remember those? lol
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My dogs make me laugh. Watching my heeler lose a tug-of-war, then decide to keep a hold of the rope and lie down so my kelpie has to drag her across the floor to continue the game is quite funny. Cry? Senseless death. There’s a lot of it in the world. Mostly caused by one religion or the other.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I wish to be cremated, so I doubt there’s going to be a headstone.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I train in the gym four times a week, jog with my dogs every day and play the occasional game of tennis. I also have a pool table at my work, but I don’t seem to get to use that too often.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Not many that are currently showing. Vikings, Boardwalk Empire (but that’s ended), Game of Thrones. Used to love Dexter, too.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’ve been self-employed most of my life with bookshops and clothing stores. They were lifestyle careers and I never expected to make much money from them. I do better as a writer and publisher, but I was quite happy in my various shops.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have the following websites, and am on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook:
Sean’s is: http://www.seanmcmullen.net.au/