Saturday, 9 October 2010

Arthur Slade - Author Profile

Arthur Slade is a kind of Canadian folk hero, he was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan on July 9th 1967, he was raised in Cypress Hills when he began writing in High School. He now even with all his fame resides in Saskatoon. He attended the University of Saskatchewan and received an Honours English degree in 1989, the same year he published his first story. For the next ten years he held a variety of jobs including night auditor, house sitter and copywritier until the publication of his first novel in 1997, he has been a full-time writer since then. In 2001 he won the Governor General's Award for Children's Literature, the Mr. Christie's Book Award and the Saskatchewan book award for his novel Dust. In 2002 his book Tribes was a CLA Young Adult Honour Book and was nominated for five other awards. Then in 2007 he won a Saskatchewan Book Award and was a Red Maple Honour Book for his novel Mediddo's Shadow. I read my first Arthur Slade book as part of a Children's literature course at The University of Waterloo, since then I have been tracking down and reading all of them. Though his books are marketed as Young Adult books, I have shared many of them with other university students and adults who have all found them great stories. Slade has an uncanny ability to capture the essence of social relationships, his writing pierces to the essence of learning to be and as such it can speak to any reader open to trying the books. So we at Book Reviews and More thank Arthur Slade for taking the time to answer some questions for us about his life and works.

1. Arthur you seem to be a bit of an enigma, most authors write for one or two publishing houses in their career. Yet in under two decades of publishing books your have written for Harper Collins, Coteau Books, Tundra Books , Dundurn Press (XYZ Publishing) and Orca Books Publishers. Each of your major series is with a different publisher, to what do you attribute this variety?

Part of it was just a progression from working with smaller publishers at the beginning of my career to publishing with larger publishers as my career progressed. I also have had publishers pitch ideas to me (Monsterology and Villainology with Tundra are examples of that and the Dief book with XYZ/Dundurn).

2. You have stated that your favorite things to read growing up were Old Norse, Greek and Celtic Myths. Ray Bradbury. J.R.R. Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Lloyd Alexander. Robert Heinlein. What were your favorites in University?

During my university years I mostly read the books I "had" to read for my English courses. That reading cemented my interest in Old Norse Mythology but also introduced me to a variety of "literary" writers whom I wouldn't have read otherwise: Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, D.H. Lawrence. By far my favourite (who was not on any courses) was Guy Gavriel Kay.

3. Who are some of your favorite authors to read now?

Absolutely love Philip Reeve's work both with Larklight and The Hungry City Chronicles. Also Jonathon Stroud's Bartimeaus series and Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series are equally as brilliant. Terry Pratchett, Dan Simmons, Shane Peacock are a few others that come to mind.

4. Some of your earlier books are currently out of print, have you thought of rereleasing them as ebooks?

Yes. And as published books. Am working on that right now, looking for the right "home" for them.

5. Speaking of ebooks, a few of your books are available in electronic format. But with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

So far bootleg versions aren't a big deal because the e-book market is still rather small (there's a lot of press about it and a lot of potential, but it's about 1% of my income right now). I have no idea how many of my books, if any, are illegal downloads. I am a techno geek so I do enjoy the idea of ebooks and have read a few on my iPod and now am reading them on my iPad (a much better experience). Obviously I still love the printed book, but I could see a time when I would only buy my favourite authors in hardcover and more "disposable" authors in e-book format.

6. Draugr, your first novel published was your seventh novel that you wrote. With your current publishing success and popularity have you ever considering going back and releasing some of those earlier works?

No. The earlier works really were my training ground and don't deserve to see the light of day. I have gone back and plucked ideas from the unpublished books. Dust and Draugr are both taken from my rejected manuscripts. I would just grab a chapter or two that I liked and start a completely new novel.

7. You have won and been nominated for numerous book awards. What is the most meaningful to you and why?

The Governor General's Award. The recognition was certainly important to me (and my career) but it was also a powerfully symbolic ceremony. It is important that our government recognizes the place of the arts in our culture, especially the written word. I wish every writer could experience it just once. It's the ultimate pat on the back.

8. You received numerous rejection letters, but Coteau Books sent you 3 pages of suggestions. That was a turning point in your writing, if you can recall some of the suggestions what are they?

Being a Saskatchewan publisher Coteau had a policy of writing a "helpful" rejection letter to anyone from Saskatchewan who submitted a manuscript. The letter did have a few specific critical paragraphs about the novel, but basically said "you know how to write, this isn't a good enough book yet, but keep trying." It was a good letter to get at the time.

9. You currently have a few graphic novels in development, Gallows Club, Calvin 13 and Delilah Red. Are there any timelines for their release?

The graphic novels are on the shelf right now. The comic publishing business is in flux due to all of the new electronic formats that are available. So right now I'm biding my time until things become a bit more steady. And I am also looking into creating graphic novel apps of my own as experiments. So you may see a short graphic Hunchback Assignments piece in the future.

10. You released a short lived comic series called Hallowed Knight, what was your favorite part about working in the comic industry?

The fans in that industry are really supportive, opinionated and, well, fan boys and girls! So it was interesting to interact with them. My favorite part though was working with the artists to create something new that I never could have created on my own.

11. Your earlier books were based on mythology, that was a fascination of yours when you were younger, do you see yourself every expanding the Northern Frights or Canadian Chills series?

Not at this point. Partly that's a financial decision, because they are older series and they wouldn't get as much attention. But I also have too many other projects on the go.

12. You mentioned in an interview with Dave Jenkinson that you use itunes to create playlists especially when writing. Some authors release the playlists they used to create books, or suggested playlists for reading a book. Have you ever considered doing so?

Oddly enough I recently did blog on Suvudu about my top ten favourite songs that I listened to while writing The Hunchback Assignments. But I haven't gone so far as to release a playlist. Then people would find out what a metal head I am!

13. You credit both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Saskatchewan Arts Board with supporting your work and contributing to some of your early success. What other support did you find invaluable during your early years?

My parents were always encouraging. I had very supportive teachers, both in high school and later in university. And the writing community in Saskatchewan has always been a very helpful community. We have one of the strongest writer's guilds in the country. And finally I find the Children's Lit community to be equally as supportive. Every little bit helps.

14. You have written a trilogy based on mythology The Northern Frights series, a Trilogy based on the paranormal the Canadian Chills trilogy, and now a steampunk trilogy The Hunchback Assignments. You have also written historical fiction and a biography. What genre or themes will you be tackling next?

Well, the steampunk series will continue for a few more books. After that I do intend to return to a fantastical-themed novel (similar to Dust) about early Hollywood. I can't really picture what will come after that, though I have quite a few projects I'd like to explore. It's just finding the right thing for the right time.

15. The Hunchback Assignments is your first series not set in Canada, how much research did you do into Victorian England before beginning the series? Did you visit England as part of that research?

I read nearly every Victorian novel that I could just to get a feel for the time period, for the way people dressed, talked and thought. I also read several histories that were really helpful for the setting. I love doing research and, perhaps, spend far too much time getting sucked into it and discovering little tidbits that will never end up in the books. But, in the end, I discover the other tidbits that do end up in the novels. I did visit London, but that was while I was researching Megiddo's Shadow. Just the fact that I was there helped me to envision the city for the Hunchback Assignment's, too.

16. What kind of process do you follow when writing your books, from concept to completion, walk us through The Arthur Slade method of novel creation?

I follow the Ray Bradbury method of putting down the bones first, then adding the flesh. I don't make outlines, so I usually write a really rough draft quite quickly to get the basic story down. The real work comes in the rewriting: adding scenes and colour to the book. Usually I go through five or six drafts before the book is sent to my editors and there will be a few drafts after I receive my edit letters. Then it's done!

17. What advice would you give to University students today who want to be writers, musicians, filmmakers? What gems of wisdom would you pass on?

I think the most important thing to do is practice what you preach--in other words write every day. Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers spoke about needing 10,000 hours to become truly proficient at your chosen career. You have to put your 10,000 hours in. Have fun while you do that.

Arthur thank you for taking the time to interact with us at Book Reviews and More, your books have a lasting impact on both the young and on older readers. Arthur Slade has an excellent website www.arthurslade.com with samples of his works, discontinued projects and work in development. Check back there often to see what Arthur has up his sleeve next.


Books by Arthur Slade:
John Diefenbaker: an Appointment with Destiny (2000)
Dust (2001)
Tribes (2002)
Monsterology (2005)
Villainology (2005)
Megiddo's Shadow (2006)
Jolted (2008)
Shades: 17 Startling Stories (2011)

Hunchback Assignments Series:
The Hunchback Assignments (2009)
The Dark Deeps (2010)
Empire of Ruins (2011)
Island of Doom (2012)

The Northern Frights Series
Draugr (1997)
The Haunting of Drang Island (1998)
The Loki Wolf (2000)

The Canadian Chills Series
Return of the Grudstone Ghosts (2002)
Ghost Hotel (2004)
Invasion of the IQ Snatchers (2007)


Books as Stephen Shea: 
The Not So Simple Life
Damage
Viper - Short Story


Visual Bibliography for Arthur Slade
Author profile interview with Arthur Slade.

Author profile interview with Stephen Shea.

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