It is lovely to talk to you today. Can you tell readers a bit about yourself and your books please? Hell-lo! My name is Gus (pen name/nickname/ don't usually respond to real name because too many people know me by this name) Kenney (umm... I think it's Irish somehow). I am the creator of the good for all ages fantasy adventure series the Complications of Being Lucy. It presently consists of the titles The Changeling and the Cupboard where we first meet our young heroine Lucy Bison and get introduces to her complicated world and then transitions into The Changeling and the Borrowed Family which sees Lucy a little older and facing unforeseen adventures. The third book in the series, Traitor's Niece, is presently being written and will expand on Lucy's world and her precarious place in it. The series is and will remain fantastical in nature but it mostly focuses on Lucy and her relationships with her family and herself. It's good clean fun for the whole family with very few swears and not a lot of violence. Available now at amazon.com!
There. I think that handles the promotional portion of the interview. Now onto the hard stuff.
I don't think I knew that I wanted to be a writer until I was in fifth grade and even then I was struggling to accept that over being a detective. Mind you the detective I wanted to be was Sam Spade, so it wasn't I truly achievable dream and I've never looked that good in a fedora. I would actually try to write stories at that age or younger but they were, and I can say this with total self awareness, crap. My vocabulary was limited so 'very' crept into a lot of descriptions and everything was just 'said'. But I always enjoyed doing it. I loved it when the teachers would assign us a project that would involve turning in a three page story of our own. I would usually manage double that and then regret it because it was all an evil trick to make us do two drafts and then a final presentation.
As much as I liked to write growing up I think it was my love of reading that first inspired me. My parents encouraged the former as there were few nights when I didn't see one of them reading what looked like a voluminous tome. Clive Cussler and Danielle Steel oft graced my parents hands and being that I was reading 'There are Rocks in my Socks' and 'Gus the Friendly Ghost' (no relation) I marveled at what stories could fill so many pages. I would, years later, explore one or two pages of those hallowed books and discover that my parents had no taste, but by then it was too late. I wanted to write big books!
I never wanted to be famous. Okay, I can't say never. I think we have all had moments in our life where we dreamed of hitting the big time and living in houses made of gold and people falling at our feet. I gave up those dreams or any real hope of fame and fortune the third time someone responded to my declaration that I was going to be a writer with 'That's nice. What are you going to do for money?' (and sometimes they didn't even say 'That's nice.') I accepted early on that I wanted to write the stories I wanted to write for the simple joy that the words would bring. Money and fame have never been the goal. Producing the best version of the tale in my brain was and is the purpose behind every second I put pen to paper (or finger to key). Knowing someone enjoys the story I've spun that is all the reward I need. And I know that sounds as bad as when your mom tells you all she want's for her birthday or Christmas is just to be loved, but it's true.
So back to the books. The Changeling and the Cupboard is the first book I have successfully published and it took me about six months to write. The Changeling and the Borrowed Family took about eight to nine months to write. The difference between the two was mostly due to this little thing called marketing. I had no concept of it or interest in it to be honest, but I was encouraged to do it as a means to spread the word about what many people were saying was an utterly fantastic book. Those people were my family and to show there support they volunteered to help with that. And by volunteer my aunt pretty much said you should do this and got everyone on board. Marketing and promotion is it's own beast and one that I wrestle with everyday but back in the day it usually kicked my butt and discouraged me from writing or just took up the same time. Traitor's Niece is waaay behind schedule but that is due to a long list of tragedies that are too sad to mention, but if I am able to complete it the way I want to, it will probably usurp the first book as my favorite for the hardships it had to endure to reach completion.
That took a turn, let's lightening things up. My process!
I sit at a cheaply made desk bought at a department store over seventeen years ago. It is dinged up and falling apart but it was the first thing that my wife and I ever purchased together and it managed to survive being hauled into the back of a truck and angrily unloaded, coincidentally while I was at work constructing very expensive and well made desks for other people. It is covered in papers. One whole corner is book ideas and story stuff, the other is post it notes with old shopping lists, songs to download, or clues for the last video game that my wife and I played together. There are also a few skulls and skeletons (my personal decorating choice and inspiration for another series of books that is not ready yet), some food wrappers, and there was a stuffed turtle that holds my headphones but he is missing at the moment...I guess I will be playing detective after all. There are only a few elements that must be in play for me to begin writing. First I need music. This serves two purposes. One-to inspire and two-to drown out background noise. The first is easy as I love music in all its wonderful forms (except Christian rock), the second is trickier as the headphones I like are also broken so I have to tie them to my head and get them just right to block sound. Why don't I buy a new set? Because they aren't broken enough, yet. The second part of the equation is the drink. Writers have a history of consuming substances that alter their mind or are harmful to their body. I do my part of keeping this tradition alive by drinking an energy drink while writing. Super bad for the heart I know, but if the muse is kind to me on that day I only have a sip. Literally, I may take a nip out of the can, set it down, go at the keys like a monkey with a hammer, and then look up two hours later and my drink is warm and still full. Then I'll laugh to myself, wonder if they make them in shot sizes, and then, because I was raised not to waste things, chug it like a frat boy on spring break.
Once the book is all written up I ship it out to my editing team, which consists of my wife, my three sisters, and my old boss. My wife gets it first as in a way Lucy is based/inspired by her. My sisters are mostly for story and concept editing, making sure the plot isn't full of holes and has a good flow and understanding. The boss gets it last as she is the critical English major editor and librarian, so I like her copy to have the most polish. Makes her job easier and gets me a more accurate response for story appeal and takes care of the huge grammatical errors that I am prone too. And after all that, it goes out to print.
I don't know if my books have an underlying message. I didn't start out with one in mind. My ideas usually start big like good versus bad, or a war between group A and group B, and then get scaled down and down, and worked out and tweaked to focus more on the individual level. I know the entirety of the world they live in and what their destiny is, but it is just their little corner of it and their path that I write about. I think with The Complications of Being Lucy the only real message would be 'people are people, accept them as such.' I have tried to create new characters with the series. Familiar names but they are not the monsters you know. I think that is what will make the books interesting to those willing to take the time with them. Add in some fun and fantasy and you're in for a good time.
Well, I am still working out Traitor's Neice which will hopefully be fit for print by July. After that I will be starting the next book in Lucy's adventure. Working in my head title is Daughter of Ash, but that is subject to change as I usually throw a bunch of names together and throw them at my editors. My wife actually came up with The Changeling and the Cupboard (just one more way she is invaluable to me). While all that is going on in Lucy's world, I have been tooling around with a few side projects. Another fantasy (because reality sucks!) series and a science fiction (I refuse to say speculative fiction because I get tongue tied easily) one off. But that is basically all there is to it. I'm going to write, because I love to and going to keep doing it until those energy drinks kill me. Many thanks Gus for Taking the Time to Talk.