When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?
I loved writing short stories at school when I was growing up. I used to look forward to writing time every day. My stories were always about myself and my friends in some amazing adventure. The book that really made me want to write was The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. It was a story that he wrote for his children who wanted his dad to write something other than horror stories for a change. I fell in love with the story and I’ve read it many times since. The classic good vs. evil battle and the devious ‘baddie’ make it an excellent book for children.
What’s your favourite book? What was your favourite book as a child?
Now my favourite is Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane and as a child it was The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King.
Where do you get your story ideas?
I take inspiration from places I’ve been. Once I have the setting the story grows from there. For example the Viking’s Apprentice is set in a town called Campbell’s Cove which is based on a real village in Scotland called Furnace. This is where my wife grew up so I have been there many times and the location is perfect for my story.
I have a strong imagination so a dark wood, or cave on the water’s edge become places of fantastic possibilities and adventures for my characters.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
You have to believe in yourself, if you don’t truly believe in your writing no one else will either. Also don’t write for money, write for enjoyment. When you enjoy what you do you produce better work and others will enjoy it too.
Do you believe in Writer’s Block?
Yes I do, and I have suffered from it on several occasions. It is the single most frustrating thing that can happen to a writer. You know the characters, you know your own story so why won’t the words flow on to the page!?
If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?
It has to be Stephen King for me as I want to ask him about The Eyes of the Dragon and whether the story about his children asking him to write it is correct.
What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?
Everyone always assumes I will say children or YA fiction for this, but actually I love thrillers. Dennis Lehane and R.J. Ellory are my favourite writers. My guilty pleasure is still The Eyes of the Dragon.
Also I love reading to my kids, I love reading the Gruffalo series to them and enjoy doing all the voices. That might be my guilty pleasure!
What made you decide to self-publish?
Several things in the end made me choose self-publishing. I was so naive at first that I didn’t know anything about self-publishing other than ‘Vanity publishing’. I tried to get an agent on board but after enough rejection letters to fashion a paper mache model of myself I decided that I would try self-publishing.
I read up on it, and after realizing how much the self-published world has changed. With sites like Kobo making it easy to get your work in front of readers I decided to believe in myself one more time and take the leap.
I believed in my story and had had good feedback from the people that had read it. This was enough to make me decide to self-publish. I’m so glad I did. My books have both been number 1 in their genre on Amazon.com UK and in Canada. They have been taken on by schools in Scotland as reading books for kids 8 – 11.
Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?
A good cover is crucial, readers can be put off just by a glance if they don’t like what they see. Remember your cover has to stand out in thumbnail size on a website against all the other work on that search page.
Formatting is also crucial, once your work is complete, edited and ready to go remember that different e-readers take different formatting. Make sure you take the time to make your book look it’s best on all platforms.
Tell people about your book and about yourself, but don’t just sell sell sell. People don’t respond to that. Write a blog with useful content, interact on twitter and facebook. Have discussions with your readers, get to know them.
Speak to other authors who are further down the journey. Most will help you. We are a supporting community!
One promotion that helps me more than any other is getting out to schools and speaking to the children. Taking the time to answer their questions and listen to their ideas about your work. Children have amazing imaginations and we can learn a lot from them. I love my school visits and it’s very rewarding hearing how much your target readers love your work.
What has been the biggest ‘wow’ moment of your journey as a writer?
There have been two so far that have blown me away. The first was being told by a teacher that my first book turned a boy who hated to read into someone who loved reading hour and always wanted to be chosen to read my book to the rest of his class.
As recently as yesterday this was topped. I got a message to my Facebook page from a mother in Singapore who told me her son was dressing up as Peter from The Viking’s Apprentice for literacy week at his school. Why did he choose Peter? He choose him as Peter is his favourite character in literature. WOW! What a compliment. To have a child choose to do this for that reason is amazing. I’ve never felt so honoured or proud of my work. It made my day and I’m still smiling about it!
You can also find Kevin:
On facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheVikingsApprentice
On Pintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/bannon1975/
On his blog: http://thevikingsapprentice.blogspot.co.uk/
On his website: http://www.kevinmcleodauthor.com/
Kevin, I so miss reading to my children. Now, I’m patiently waiting for grandchildren. 🙂 Nice interview. I enjoyed learning more about you.