Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Six Crowns?
A: Gary lives in Normandy in France, and he had the initial idea when he was looking at an island off the coast about an hour’s drive from his home. The island is called Mont St. Michael (Saint Michael’s Mount) – a tall, pointed island covered in buildings. It looks very strange and almost unrealistic in the flat landscape that surrounds it, and so Gary had the idea that this island could be floating in the air. From that initial thought, he came up with the whole concept of a world make up of floating islands. If you’d like to know more, check out The Six Crowns Series Page, where it explains how Gary and Allan met, and how they came up with all the ideas that make up The Six Crowns Series.
Q: How do the Windships and Skyboats fly?
A: They fly by using a lighter-than-air mineral called “powerstone”. Every ship has a chunk of powerstone in a basket or cage mounted high on the mast. This allows the ships to float through the sky – the rest is done with sails on the big Windships and often propellers for the smaller Skyboats.
Q: What are Badger Blocks?
A: These are a set of 16 blocks of wood – each of them about 7cm long and 3cm square. For hundreds and hundreds of years, the travelling Roamany folk of Sundered Lands have been using these Blocks to tell fortunes. On each of the four side of each Block is engraved a different picture – making 64 pictures in all. These blocks are kept in a black velvet bag. When a Roamany wishes to tell a fortune, they will reach into the bag without looking and pull out four of the blocks at random. They will then throw the blocks down onto a table or other flat surface. They will then make a “reading” according to which of the 64 pictures appears. Telling accurate fortunes is hard, and only a few Roamanys know how to do it.
Q: How many books are there in The Six Crowns Series?
A: There are six books planned for the series at the moment – but that doesn’t mean there will never be any more. You never know when inspiration might strike!
Q: What is Blackpowder?
A: Blackpowder is the same as our gunpowder – it makes explosions and is used in cannon and other guns. It is a relatively new invention in Sundered Lands and so far only the Pirates know how to use it! Not the best kind of people to have fire-power like this, and you can imagine what bad uses they put it to!
Q: What makes it night and day in The Six Crowns?
A: All the islands of the Sundered Lands float together around the sun in a huge bubble of breathable air. Also drifting around the sun is a huge great mass of rubble and debris and boulders and stones called Nightreef. This mass of rock is nearer to the sun than the vast majority of Sundered Lands, and as it passes over the face of the sun, it blocks out all the light – which makes it night for everyone in Sundered Lands. When it passes by, the sun comes out again and it is day. It’s as simple as that.
Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
1. Always carry a notebook with you to jot down any interesting things you might see or hear, or to make a note of any ideas that might pop into your head – there’s nothing more annoying than having a great idea and then losing it again before you can write it down.
2. Sleep with a notebook beside your bed – dreams and random sleepy thoughts can sometimes be springboards to a great storyline – but if you don’t write them down immediately on waking, they will often get lost.
3. It can be tricky to make dialogue sound realistic. You can check whether the words you put into your characters’ mouths sound like things people might really say by speaking them out loud. Record them if you can, and listen to them. Do they sound realistic? If not, try and figure out why not and keep re-writing till you nail it.
4. Always have your “ideas antennae” up – and when you listen to friends or family talking, or read magazines or books, or watch movies or TV, always be on the lookout for things that spark your creative interest. (Did your gran tell an anecdote that you could turn into a story? Go ahead and write it! In the book Jane Eyre, there is a mysterious mad woman locked in a tower – one writer took this character and wrote a book about her life and how and why she went crazy. Maybe you could take a minor or unexplored character from a favourite book or movie or TV show and tell their story?)
5. If an idea you’ve been working on runs out of steam, don’t be afraid to abandon it. You’ll find that the best parts of the idea will resurface later on in a different story. Nothing good is ever wasted!
6. Never write when you don’t feel like it. Forcing yourself to write on a schedule is a waste of time, and you’ll find yourself having to throw away or totally re-write stuff written under those circumstances; far better to go and do something else and come back to your story later.
7. To find out if an idea has “legs” (meaning: it can be turned from an idea into an actual story) – plot out the whole story before you start writing. If you find the thought of this rather boring and constricting, at least plot out where you want your characters and your story to be by the end of scene one/chapter one. Stories are like journeys – you really do need to know where you are going before you set out, even if you find that you change your mind halfway. Writers of thrillers or mysteries will start a story, knowing the beginning and the end – then their job is to fill out the middle. Try coming up with the end of your story before you start writing – then you will always have something to aim for – even if a better ending occurs to you while writing.