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Author Interview: Max McCamish

1. What inspired you to become a writer?

My sister used to read to me when I was very young, and I graduated from that to being an avid reader. Being an avid reader from a young age got me to put the stories that were swimming around in my head onto paper. As a child and a young teenager I just had so many ideas that I couldn't keep up with, and I would be writing down characters and plots and beginnings of stories and never actually finishing anything. I had so much practice starting stories and writing the big emotional moments, but it took me until I was seventeen to actually sit down and finish a story. Writing has always been the most natural way to express a story for me, and although it took a lot of practice to be any good at it, I've always loved it and I always will.

2. What's your favourite book of all time?

Inkheart/Inkspell/Inkdeath. I had the trilogy all in one book. I read it when I was a kid, and I re-read it so many times the spine of the book fell apart. There are books that I've read since that are deeper, or more meaningful, or more philosophical or intellectual, but those books have a special place in my heart just because of how much I loved them when I was younger. There are bits and pieces I remember vividly, even with my terrible memory, and the world was just so magical that I fell in love with it. I think that's what used to draw me into books more than anything; the vivid pictures of the world that they built.

3. What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Keep practising and don't have any expectations.

The first thing you write won't be what gets successful, nor will the tenth thing. The thing you write for fun or as a joke will end up being much more popular than the thing you pour your heart and soul into. You'll look back on work you used to love and find you hate it now, and vice-versa. Keep at it and don't give up.

4. What is the most frustrating thing about being an author?

Knowing what I want to write but either not being able to get the words out or having to do something else first. That, and keeping from spoiling my stories for my friends reading it!

5. What's your favourite movie?

For much the same reasons I love Inkheart, Stardust. I just enjoyed the fantastical premise so much, and I'm always a sucker for a happy ending.

6. What's better, dogs or cats?

The problem with this question is that it's comparing two things that aren't comparable! Both should be loved and love in return. Why should we have to choose?

7. If money was no object, how would you spend your life?

Probably in the rural parts of New Zealand's south island, raising a bunch of rescue animals with the people I love, writing a few books a year.

8. Do you draw from personal experiences when you write?

Anyone who claims they don't at all is lying. There are varying degrees to which something reflects your personal experiences, but your idea of human nature, morality, and the way the universe works is all shaped by personal experience, whether you like it or not, so there's always at least a little bit. Some of my work is not intended to reflect parts of my life, and some of it is. In my opinion, the best work you'll create has its roots in truth.

9. What is more important? Strong characters or a strong storyline?

Well, ideally you'd have both, but in my opinion I've always enjoyed and remembered stories more for having strong characters. Characters can exist outside of the story they come from, and characters are what makes a story seem real. Even if an interesting premise or a well-executed plot twist can draw people in, characters are what stay in people's minds afterwards, and what gets into their hearts.

10. What advice would you give to first time writers when submitting their work to publishers or literary agents?

Feeling like a failure doesn't mean you are one. When you're coming from nothing, plenty of people will be terrified to take that risk and won't give you a chance. That doesn't mean your work is bad or that you won't ever succeed. You'll see often-quoted numbers about how many times certain authors were rejected before they succeeded, but what doesn't really sink in is what getting seventeen or nineteen or thirty rejections actually feels like to go through. One rejection feels like a lot when you first see it. What's important is to keep going no matter what. Sending query after query requires a lot of resilience, but you need to be confident in yourself and your work and get it done.

Check out Max McCamish's latest title, Arc City Stories by clicking here.


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