What inspired you to write Wanderland?
I had read an article about Gavin Menzies' book, 1421 The Year China Discovered The World in, I believe it was U.S. Today Magazine. In the article, the writer explored Menzies' theory that the Chinese may have discovered America in 1421. The article was so well written that I ran right out and bought the book. Whether the Chinese really discovered the New World or not doesn’t really matter, but Gavin Menzies’ data proved quite thought provoking. What if the Chinese did discover the New World seventy years before Columbus—what a great story it would make. So, I set to work on Wanderland, using the data from Mr. Menzies' research to create a story based on possible events combing fictional and real historical figures.
What is the setting for the book?
In 1421 the Ming Dynasty ruled the vast empire of China. Unknown to many, the Ming Dynasty possessed an immense fleet of ships that traveled to and traded with most of the known world at the time. To build these ships they needed lumber, and lots of it, even to the point of invading neighboring countries to obtain this needed treasure. The book starts in what we now know as Viet Nam, China, what is now India into the Atlantic and ends in the Blue Caribbean Sea.
Who are the main characters of the book?
The two main fictional characters are the ship’s wizards, Master Waan and his thirteen year old apprentice Chen, who is the main protagonist. Ship’s wizards are different than what you would think of when you think of a wizard. Unlike, say, Harry Potter, Chen carries no wand or speaks incantations. Ship’s wizards are more cerebral. Their minds can interpret any civilized language and can feel the presence of an enemy from far away. They possess an uncanny intuition, but as their powers grow, as in the case of the much older Master Waan interesting spells can be cast.
Can you tell us something about them?
Chen is an orphan saved from certain death by Master Waan. The boy has no idea why Master Waan was there just in time to save him and absolutely no idea that he was destined to become a wizard. Master Waan was the last of the ship’s wizards and a great favorite of the Ming Dynasty’s greatest Admiral and supreme commander Zheng He.
What challenges do you think face young adult authors?
Coming up with stories and characters that engage boys to read. Most boys are reluctant readers. Thanks to Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia and others, boys have started to read again. One of the most common compliments that I receive is from teachers and librarians thanking me for concentrating on that segment of the market. Now, that being said, I always include a character in my books for the girls to enjoy as well. As a matter of fact, my biggest fan is a ten year old young lady. Another obstacle is the competition from self published authors. Many writers think writing for kids is easier than writing regular fiction and they self publish. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with self publishing, but it does change the landscape for trade publisher authors. Libraries and bookstores are inundated with requests for book signings from self published authors leaving the contacts unreceptive to any author’s approach.
What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
First, of course, keep writing. No matter how bad you think the first draft is, it’s okay, the first draft should be bad. The importantly thing is to get you creative ideas down before you forget them. You know, while the juices are still flowing. Then once you’ve finished your fifth draft, start on your sixth. Don’t submit until you are perfectly happy with your final draft. Then once you start submitting, don’t give up. Just because your work is rejected doesn’t mean it’s bad, you may not have hit the publisher that is the right fit for your manuscript. I believe Diversion Press was my 35th submission on Wanderland. I never gave up!
What is the best part of being a published author?
Besides Wanderland I have work with another publisher. Between the two books, I am having a ball. I have done some book signings, TV and newspaper interviews and school appearances. I love taking questions from the kids, that’s the most fun. Kids say the darndest things. Last week I was at a middle school and the first question was “Are you rich?” I’m looking forward to a very busy second half of 2011.
What question would you like to leave up for our readers to answer?
If you wrote a book, what would you write about?