Welcome all and thanks for checking out YAAR (those pirate fans say it with me in the appropriate accent Yaar…). Sorry couldn’t resist.
I’m sure you’ve learned that we are a group of authors who are avid fans and writers of young adult and children books. Twice a month, we will be posting an Author Spotlight so we can introduce you to each of our wonderful authors. It would only be appropriate to have the Founder of YAAR as the first person up. He is also the author of Joshua’s Island and Ethan’s Secret and the reason most of us are here.
So, here’s the man of the hour: Patrick Hodges.
I understand that your books address bullying. Can you tell us the titles of your works and a bit about them?
My first book, “Joshua’s Island,” is a book that features kids of middle-school age, but it leans toward YA because of its subject matter. It’s about a bullied boy named Joshua whose life has become hellish – beaten and tormented by bullies, and ostracized by his peers, he finds the courage to go on when he is partnered with a popular girl named Eve in science class. Even though she doesn’t like him at first, the two form a bond of friendship that helps him find the courage within himself that he never knew he had.
My second book, “Ethan’s Secret,” is a sort-of sequel to “Joshua’s Island.” I say “sort of” because although it takes place at the same school (and three years later) and involves some of the same characters, it’s a totally separate story. The main character is Kelsey, an eighth-grade girl who loves mystery stories, who faces a mystery of her own when a new boy named Ethan appears in her algebra class. As she seeks to learn more about him, she eventually discovers that there are serious things going on in his life, and that by getting to know him, she might be putting herself in danger.
You have many characters that people can relate to and fall in love with, but who’s your favorite character from your books?
Definitely Kelsey. In “Joshua’s Island,” she was a spunky, fearless fifth-grader with a strong sense of justice and fiercely loyal to her friends. I knew when I finished J.I. that my second book would be about her, and it was a joy to give her her own story. She’s the type of friend that everyone should have, and she’s a great role model for girls.
You have many riveting scenes in your books so we want to know what was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
In both books, it was the scene where the main characters finally get over their teenage awkwardness and uncertainty, and not only realize that they have strong feelings for each other but find a way to express it. To me, there’s nothing as innocent, sweet and beautiful as falling in love for the first time, especially when it comes from a place of friendship and genuineness.
Were there any alternate endings that you considered to either of the novels?
Not really. I tend to think about exactly how I want the story to end long before I get there. It may have evolved into something else by the time I get there, but so far, I haven’t wavered from it. I’ve been told that my endings are very good, so I must be doing something right!
What authors have inspired you to write?
I can’t specifically claim that any authors inspired me to write, but there are many authors that I have admired in my lifetime, whose style heavily influenced my own. Authors like Douglas Adams, Richard Adams, Timothy Zahn and Terrance Dicks are ones that immediately spring to mind.
What age were you when you started writing?
Um … 45. And, in case you were wondering, I’m 46 now. Honestly, prior to penning “Joshua’s Island,” I hadn’t written anything more elaborate than a movie review or a TV recap since high school. Until last year, I honestly didn’t think I had it in me to create an original story.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Not really. In my current project, there was a section I was having trouble writing, but I was able to overcome it with the feedback of a few people that I trust implicitly. That, plus taking a break from it and then picking it up with fresh eyes when I was ready to start again, was all it took.
Your books come together perfectly. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Oh, yes, I definitely outline. Without it, I would just feel lost. Planning it out beforehand makes writing the story infinitely easier for me.
Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?
Definitely. I don’t have kids, but I would be proud to call any of my main characters my children. If there is an afterlife, I would love to spend a few millennia hanging out with my creations. Perhaps even becoming them.
Now for a couple of random questions… If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
I’m not sure I’d want that job. I’m not a risk-taker. Plus, I hate costumes.
If you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
Probably Irish or Scottish. I just think it sounds cool.
We love how your characters overcome the challenges they face. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Well, my biggest challenge was ignorance. I knew NOTHING about publishing when I wrote “Joshua’s Island.” I had a lot to learn about the world I was stepping into, and I made a few mistakes (I’d rather not get into them), I will admit. There really is SO much to learn. But I think I’ve got a much better handle on it now.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Okay, you’re gonna make me say it, huh? Well, the first company I chose to self-publish “Joshua’s Island” ripped me off. They charged way too much and did almost nothing for me in return. I have since found a much more economical self-publishing company called Alpha Academic Press, and if I had to do it again, I’d have gone with them from the start.
We’re eager to see what you have in store for us next, so can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I’ve only just started, but it’s the third book in my series. Again, I am advancing the timelines three years from the end of “Ethan’s Secret.” This time, the main character is Sophie, who appeared in both books. Now she is thirteen and in eighth grade, and having to deal with many of the same issues that her big sister Eve did. I’m tentatively calling the book “Sophie’s Different.”
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
My biggest criticism has been that I often make my characters act and talk far more maturely than kids their age typically are. And that may be true, but I’ve met 13-year-olds that act like 30-year-olds, and 30-year-olds that act like 13-year-olds. But my characters are dealing with very adult situations, and so I feel a certain level of maturity is needed for them to effectively deal with them. As for compliments, well, there have been so many, and I’m quite overwhelmed by them. I suppose the biggest compliment is that my stories evoke raw emotions in my readers, which is really the best compliment that an author can have. I’ve also been told that my stories are easy to read, hard to put down and very entertaining, which is also terrific.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Never give up, and never stop learning.
What toppings do you like on your pizza?
Pepperoni and sausage. And I’ve become a fan of feta cheese on pizza too.
Everyone has some type of fear. Those who’ve read your books know that your characters are fearful but manage to overcome it. What is your biggest fear?
Before I became an author, it was that I would live my entire life without finding my purpose. And without that, can one ever really be happy? But now, a few years shy of fifty years old, I think I’ve found happiness. So my biggest fear now? Heights.
So there you have it: a look into the mind of Patrick Hodges. If you’re interesting in checking out his books (and I hope you are) then the links have been placed below. Be on the lookout for our next author spotlight on October 23rd.
Check out Patrick Hodges author page to learn more!