The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS column on Mondays and Wednesdays is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website open to interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better – and occasionally may offer features from Shannon herself that support readers to discover words.
Today, find out more about THE SPYGLASS AND THE CHERRY TREE.
About the Book
The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree
by Matt Beighton
Genre: Upper MG/YA Fantasy
Release Date: June 2017
Some people fall down rabbit holes. Others hide inside magical wardrobes. Skye Thistle looked through an old spyglass.
Lost and alone on a world filled with Goblins, Orcs, Dragons and others that, until now, she was convinced existed only in fairy tales, Skye wants only one thing: to return home.
If she’s to have any chance of getting home safely, Skye must overcome her own fears and prejudices and embrace the prophecies that she fears have already sealed her fate on the distant world of Ithilmir. All that stands in the way of restoring peace and balance is a fearsome and worryingly familiar Dark Queen.
Goblins are very real, and whether Skye believes in them or not, she’s their only hope.
Readers around the world are enjoying the complex mythology and descriptive world building of The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree, the first adventure in the Shadowlands Chronicles.
Signed copies on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/577769183/the-spyglass-and-the-cherry-tree-the (£1 off at Etsy with the code SPY100 (until end of November).
Interview with the Author
What initially got you interested in writing? I’ve always read a huge variety of books; I read The Lord of the Rings aged 10 and mixed that up with all of the Roald Dahl collection. As a primary school teacher, I was interested by the rules of grammar and English structure that we have to teach as part of our curriculum and I wanted to see if it was possible to write a story using those rules. It turns out, it’s not! In the end, that story became The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree and I realised that I loved writing, especially world building.
What genres do you prefer to write in? Anywhere between younger readers (about age 6) up to upper mid-grade/lower YA is certainly my milieu. I naturally gravitate towards more epic fantasy or humour; I don’t think you’ll see me writing any paranormal fantasy or dystopian romance any time soon!
Are there any authors you prefer to read and why? I am and always will be a massive Sir Terry Pratchett fan. Beyond that, I adore Tolkien’s world building and J.K Rowling’s ability to build such a rich world parallel to our own. Douglas Adams had a huge influence on my sense of humour through The Hitchikers’ series.
How did you make the move into being a published author? I approached a number of agents with Spyglass but it soon became apparent that the market for mid-grade epic fantasy isn’t very lucrative at the moment and so, understandably, it was a hard sell. In the end, I researched and researched and decided to have a go at self-publishing. There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding this but I love the fact that I have full control. I work with a wonderful editor over in New York and fantastic illustrators in Mexico and Canada to bring all of my books to market. It means I can publish on my schedule and respond to reader demand (or my own whims!) more easily.
For instance, after finishing the first in the Monstacademy series for younger readers, I decided I wanted to produce the second book as a “choose your own adventure” gamebook. I wouldn’t have this flexibility with a traditional publishing house but, with my own team, I was able to bring that book to market.
What do you find most rewarding about writing? Meeting readers at book fairs or library readings is always very nice. My daughter loves my younger books which is a huge source of pride for me; she’s very discerning!
What do you find most challenging about writing? Time. Working full-time as a teacher is very full-on and that has to be my main priority. Sometimes, time to sit down and write can be frustratingly elusive but I normally find time to write around 10,000 words a week.
Do you have any tips for writers who find themselves experiencing writer’s block? I’m a big planner when it comes to writing and I normally have full chapter outlines in place before I start. This makes it a lot easier to keep the flow going. It also means that, if I find I’m stuck on one particular chapter, I can jump forward to another and write content for that. Often, once the words start flowing, I can go back and finish the other chapter.
I also normally have at least two books on the go at once and often flick between the two if I need a break from one or the other.
What advice would you give to people that want to enter the field? Write. As much as possible. I write a lot of poetry (watch this space for a book of school yard poetry) and this is a nice way to experiment with language. Unless the genre in which you wish to write is your natural reading environment, read as many books in your target area as you can. Writing 500 words for a picture book would scare me more than writing 60,000 for a mid-grade novel because I have less confidence in the structure and pace. I’d need to read a lot of books and study what makes them work and what makes them successful.
Oh, and develop a tough skin. Even if you choose to avoid the endless pool of rejection that is traditional publishing, you will have to get used to the fact that people out there will not like your work. More often than not, it is these people who will leave reviews rather than the ones who love it. Rise above it.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works? The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree contains some moral quandaries that I wanted to explore myself and figure out my own feelings through my writing. If children can go through life questioning what they’ve been told about certain cultures and races and set about making up their own minds, then I think we’ll have a brighter future as a species. If this book helps in any small way, then that’s a bonus for me.
Is there anything else about you that you think readers might find interesting? Skye Thistle, the main protagonist in The Spyglass and the Cherry Tree, was originally a boy. One day, a group of girls in my class were discussing how much they’d enjoyed watching The Lord of the Rings but were bemoaning the fact that they couldn’t find any books like with girls in. Whilst there are some fantastic female-led fantasies out there, it got me thinking about the imbalance in the genre and so I re-wrote the character as a girl. It led to a much more interesting character arc, especially how her relationship with her mother changes throughout the story despite her not being there, so it was definitely the right move in the end.
About the Author
Matt Beighton was born somewhere in the midlands in England during the heady days of the 1980s and continues to spend most of his days in the same shire. He is happily married with two young daughters who keep him very busy and suffer through the endless early drafts of his stories.
When he’s not writing, he teaches primary school (Kindergarten to some of you), messes around on canals in his inflatable kayak and supports his beloved Leicester City.
To find out more and to join his mailing list, visit http://www.mattbeighton.co.uk.
He is currently recruiting avid readers of children’s books for his Street Team. Find out more and request to join at http://mattbeighton.co.uk/street-team.
Author Social Media:
Amazon author page: http://author.to/mattbeighton
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