I first discovered Arthur Slade when I read his middle grade series, The Hunchback Assignments, now renamed Mission Clockwork. It is a Steampunk story revolving around a teen who is a recruited to be a spy for Queen Victoria’s government because of his shape-shifting ability. I very much enjoyed it and wrote a review. Mr. Slade was kind enough to respond on social media to say thank you. We followed each other on Twitter and Facebook over the years and chatted every once in a while. He was also nice enough to respond to several professional questions of mine. So, when he entered the realm of self-publishing, I thought it would be a great opportunity to interview him.
For those of you not familiar with Mr. Slade, he is the author of eighteen novels for young readers including The Hunchback Assignments, which won the prestigious TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, and Dust, winner of the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature. He also co-created the graphic novel, Modo: Ember's End. He lives in Saskatoon, Canada.
Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Fanbase Press Contributor: Why write middle grade and YA fiction? What is it about those age groups that interest you?
Arthur Slade: For me, it's a journey back to my own past, when I was younger and could fall so much more easily into a book and believe in the world the author created. I want to capture that feeling and the sense of adventure and potential. Plus, I prefer streamlined stories. Though it's great to read a thousand-page novel, it's not in my wheelhouse to write one!
MHR: I’ve also noticed your middle grade books, Dust and Flickers, for example, get pretty dark. How do you balance the right amount of horror, visual and implied, for the tween and YA reader?
AS: I tend to take the Hitchcockian approach to suspense. Just show what is necessary to get the point across. The reader's imagination will fill in the blanks with something much more horrible than I could create. Though every once in awhile, I want to put in a stark and powerful and clear image. Maybe once per novel, since if you keep trying to shock, eventually, it becomes boring.
MHR: What are the themes you like to write about?
AS: It's not until after I've finished writing the first few drafts of a book that I go, "Oh, that's what I was going on about." Much of what I write, whether it has a dark suspense or an action flavor to it, I'm really exploring that theme of younger characters (and any reader) trying to find their place in the world.
MHR: I really enjoyed Mission Clockwork, formerly titled, The Hunchback Assignments. Your main character, Modo, is a Shape Shifter. I get the feeling this might be an allegory for teens learning how to find themselves. Was that your intent?
AS: Oh, I think that's part of it. What teen (or grown up) doesn't look in the mirror and notice that they aren't as beautiful as the people they see on TV (or online). And wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to change how you look, if only for a few hours? I also like the idea of the hero who isn't perfect, like Modo--someone who has what is essentially a disability and is able to rise above it or accept it and that makes him a more powerful character.
MHR: As I understand it, you were able to get the U.S. rights back for Mission Clockwork and decided to re-publish it yourself. You are also a traditionally published author, so what did you find are the main differences/similarities between traditional and self-publishing? And what did you do to prepare for that transition?
AS: Yes, I was able to get back the Worldwide rights for the books (except in Canada, where my publisher continues to do well with the book so...umm...they don't want to give those rights back). The biggest difference is that everything falls on the creator's shoulders when one is self publishing--picking a cover, figuring out the market, putting together (and funding) a marketing plan. But I'm enough of a geek that I love diving into the "sales" side of publishing and enjoy figuring out algorithms and other nerdy things. Though I've enjoyed working with my publishers, there's also something rewarding about taking the bull by the horns. As long as it doesn't run over you.
MHR: For writers who are starting out, can you tell us about your daily process? How do you get things done?
AS: I'll tell you about my ideal day. At 6 a.m., I fire up my treadmill desk (Yep, I walk and write.) and start writing. I usually get about four hours of writing in. (I do take breaks!) The afternoons are where I try to answer all the emails, set up the promotions, do research, and, well, fit in everything else that the life of an author entails these days. And yep, that means far too much social media. As long as I get those four hours of writing in, I tend to make good progress with my writing. So, I try to be sure I never give up that writing time.
MHR: What are your future writing plans? What’s coming up next?
AS: I have a vast historical novel about Augustus, the first emperor of Rome (He was eighteen when he decided to pursue that dream, so it's the perfect YA book.), and I'm returning to my Amber Fang series. And toying with somehow writing something else in the Mission Clockwork universe. I'm just not certain what that will be yet.
MHR: Last, but not least, what’s your favorite dinosaur?
AS: Ankylosaurus, because it seems so dependable.
Arthur Slade's Social Media: