The Writing Life of: B.C.R. Fegan
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author B.C.R. Fegan, who will be sharing with us detail of his writing life, telling us all about his latest book ‘Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32‘, which was released on 14th March 2018, and answering a few fun questions too.
So without further ado I’ll hand you over to B.C.R. Fegan
B.C.R. Fegan is a multi-award-winning author who has written a number of fairy tales and fantasies for children and young adults. He is inspired by stories that resonate deeply with our desire for adventure, yearning for magic and search for meaning.
1) As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
I think the short answer is everything! However from a very early age I was super keen on reading and writing so I was quite sure this would somehow be part of my future.
2) Who were your favourite childhood authors?
When I was very young, I definitely had favourite books, although I don’t think I had quite latched on to the idea that there were authors behind them. Looking back, I think Graeme Base would have been one of my favourite picture book authors. As I grew a little older and moved into chapter books, I think that my favourite author would have been Enid Blyton. Every one of her books were just so magical and mysterious.
3) At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I was quite young when I first entertained the idea. I’m not sure if there was ever a specific point in time that I had a realisation. Writing has always been a fairly big part of my life so I think I’ve been slowly moving toward the goal of writing full-time for a while.
4) How did you go about following that dream?
Now that’s an interesting question. It certainly didn’t end up being the route that a lot of writers take. As someone who loves to read, I immersed myself in research. I wanted to understand everything I could about the book industry so that I would be in a good position to get the right agent, the right publisher, and all things going well, to publish my books the right way.
While I did this, I wrote a letter to one agent and another one to a publishing house. I figured that this would inevitably be the best approach anyway, so I may as well get started. By the time I had received their replies, I had accumulated so much information on the subject that I decided instead to open my own publishing house.
This course of action suited me well, as I am a perfectionist in everything anyway. Having my own publishing house meant that I could manage every element of my books – from editing to distribution. It has definitely been challenging, but I love it! The publishing house is going from strength to strength and so are the books I think.
5) What is your writing day like? Do you aim for a certain amount of pages or words before you stop for the day?
Ah, my writing days. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to sit down each morning and continue to piece together characters and scenes that I hope will resonate with readers as much as they do when I’m formulating the idea.
Most days, I will rise early. I aim to exercise before breakfast and then I will sit down at my desk with my coffee. From there, I will often work on whichever book I am most inspired to do (I have about ten projects at any given time). With only a few breaks for lunch and dinner, I will often continue writing until about 10pm.
I don’t actually aim for a set number of words or pages when I write. I know it’s a strategy many writers have but it doesn’t really work well for me. When I write, I want every sentence to be its best (did I mention I am a perfectionist). The reason this is important for me is because there is a strong dependency between the present and the future of a narrative arc. If I simply write for the sake of meeting a self-imposed quota and then later go back to make major adjustments, I may create small fissures in that dependency, and hence its believability. Of course it doesn’t always work out as simply as that, but that’s my aim.
6) Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I don’t, but I actually did want to. I have made mention in the past that I wish the path of the anonymous and reclusive author were still an option today. I have no interest in fame, yet as most authors today know – being visible is now an important part of the job.
While it is certainly possible to develop a pseudonym into an author brand, for me it would have been just another step in the publishing process and another barrier for authentic exposure. I think it was this last point more than anything else that made me decide to stick with my name. At the end of the day, unless there are good reasons for maintaining a level of anonymity (and of course there are), I think most readers prefer to know more about the author they enjoy reading rather than the backstory of another fictional character.
7) Do you have any strange habits before starting, or whilst in the midst of writing?
Strange? I don’t think so. I do find I write better in stormy weather, so sometimes in its absence, I will occasionally shut out the daylight and play the sound of storms through the speakers while I write – you know, for the ambience. Is that strange?
8) Do you write longhand, typewriter, or on a computer?
My preference is definitely longhand, although I find that I cannot avoid using a computer for much of my work.
9) How many books have you written? Do you have any unpublished work?
I currently have four published children’s books. Another five are in various stages of pre-publication, and an additional ten or so are quietly sitting in notebooks awaiting their turn. I also have a YA novel (part of a series) which is almost complete. My aim is to publish it next year.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Another great question. I’m definitely both! I will always write a book with well thought-out character and narrative arcs, and I will even try to fully develop a number of sub-plots that will be important to the character and story development. However, as I’m sure many other authors can attest to, characters will often take a life of their own and refuse to be taken where you originally planned for them to go. When this happens – and it always happens – I just follow along.
11) Do you read all the reviews left for your book(s)?
Absolutely! I’m not sure how an author can’t.
I write to immerse my readers in a world of excitement and wonder. Reviews are one of the few ways I receive feedback on how successful I am in achieving this. Plus, it’s no small effort for someone to review a book. If a reader has taken the time to comment on one of my books, the least I can do is listen to their feedback.
Of course this doesn’t mean that I have to absorb every criticism. People will read and critique books from different perspectives and for diverse motivations. Often what one person thinks is a negative, someone else will absolutely love.
I think what can be helpful in dealing with negative criticism is having a strong understanding about your own motivation for writing. For example, I write imagination-driven books that have subtle but often transgenerational themes. If I receive a review that laments my circumvention of a trend or social issue, that’s fine. There are plenty of books out there that cover these topics. However, for me, I’d prefer to focus on igniting children’s imaginations with light and hopefully timeless messages. That’s my motivation.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – TaleBlade
Pages – 36
Release Date – 14th March 2018
ISBN 13 – 978-0648101901
Format – ebook, paperback, hardcover
The magical Hotel of Hoo is a mysterious place with some very unusual occupants. As our guests explore the strange hotel, they are invited to experience everything it has to offer with just one warning… don’t ever look behind door 32.
This imaginative picture book aims to take children beyond the first ten cardinal numbers, and introduces them to the patterns of counting in a fun and accessible way. With rooms to explore and unique objects to count, children will enjoy lingering on each page as they make their way closer to the forbidden door.
12) How long did it take you to get from the idea’s stage to your date of publication?
For my latest book, I happened to follow a pattern (quite accidentally) commonly utilised by R.L. Stine during his ideas stage. Essentially, I came up with the title before I had considered the narrative. From there, the framework for the story came together quickly and I probably spent about a month writing and perfecting the story.
It was actually the illustration and design stage that took the longest. The book had a number of complexities, but both Lenny (the illustrator) and Rachel (the designer) did an amazing job bringing it all together. All up, I would estimate that it took about a year from idea to publication.
13) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
Every book I write has a particular ambience and mood that dictates the style and type of writing I employ. In the case of ‘Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32’, there were threads of: old-world hospitality; mystery; and a touch of Germanic fairy tale magic.
The character names (although not mentioned in the story at all), needed to fit with each of these threads. From this starting point, I essentially came up with some ideas based more on intuition than on anything else. I then made my decision based on which two names sounded best together (given that they are brother and sister).
14) Can you give us an insight into your main character(s) life?, What makes them tick?
There is a deliberate absence of backstory for Jack and Olivia. This is because I wanted their backstory to be that of the reader. The idea of stumbling across a strange hotel; its unstated reason for existence; and the curiosity one would have to explore the mysterious castle.
Personality-wise, Jack is a little apprehensive toward the creatures that inhabit the hotel. In some cases his fear might show, yet overriding all of this is his sense of protection for his sister. Olivia, on the other hand, is quite fearless. Her curiosity drives her to want to know more about each door.
Ultimately, the overarching motif for the movement of the story is the intersection of mystery and curiosity. I wanted the characters to embody the spectrum of these traits in order to relate best to any child reading the book.
15) Which was your hardest scene to write?
This is a tricky question because I don’t recall any part of the book being more or less difficult. I think overall, the trickiest element was ensuring that its dark setting never overshadowed the fun and humour of the story. The feedback I have received about this balance has thankfully been positive.
16) How did you come up with the title of your book?
I touched on this a little earlier. It was actually the very first part of the book that I came up with. I wish I had a dramatic story of searching for inspiration and happening to find it behind the 32nd door of some ancient castle; but I really think it was more of an indiscriminate confluence of thoughts that brought the title of the book to mind.
17) Did you get a family member/friend to read your work before sending to the publishers?
My wife was actually the only person to read this book prior to its movement through the editing and publishing process.
18) What process did you go through to get your book published?
As the owner of a publishing house, it was reasonably straight forward. I have an editor, illustrator and a designer who each worked their own magic on the manuscript. When all the files were ready, they were sent to the printers.
19) What did you do once you had written the final word in your book?
I probably would have read through the manuscript a few times, just to make sure it flowed properly and conveyed the right mood.
20) What’s next for you, writing-wise?
Most of my writing time is now taken by a YA series.
1) What’s your favourite food?
Hmm. I think a good lamb stew and warm crusty bread would be my preference.
2) If you had a box of crayons and you could only choose one, which colour would you choose?
Black. With it, I could continue to write or sketch my thoughts. Colours are best suited for illustrators – of which I am not.
3) What movie could you watch over and over again?
Another difficult question, but I think I have always had a soft spot for Interview with the Vampire. It explores so many deep issues and is pulled off by a great cast, brilliant cinematography and a well-chosen soundtrack.
4) What would be the top song on your playlist?
Well, now that I have mentioned the soundtrack for my favourite movie, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata comes to mind. To be honest, I love music from just about every genre. The top song on my playlist would change from day to day.
5) If you won millions, what would be your first purchase?
I think I would purchase a small home somewhere deep in the woods or high in the mountains. I am inspired by nature, so this would probably be the most strategic purchase for a career in writing.
6) A talking duck walks into your room wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, whats the first thing he says to you?
“Oh, perverse therianthropy;
A great injustice done to me!
Reverse my anatinthropy;
Restore my plain humanity.
Doomed to waddle by the sea.
Doomed to end each line in e.
Set my feathered features free;
My ever after – happily.”
You can find out more about B.C.R. Fegan by visiting the website/social media sites below.
I would like to say a big thank you to B.C.R. Fegan for sharing with us details of his writing life, and for a wonderful interview.