YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart


Author Interviews

Author Spotlight: Paul Briggs


Written by
Linda Higgins and Michelle Lynn

Here we go again! This is the second author spotlight from the Young Adult Author Rendezvous and we have a good one for you. Paul Briggs is the author of Locksmith’s Closet and we’re excited for you to get to know him!

Tell us about your book.

A boy discovers a portal to the future, finds nobody living there and sets out to discover what happened.

Who is your favorite character that you’ve written? What makes them special?

Her name is Rikki. She’s the least predictable. Depending on the situation, she can be businesslike, rebellious, heroic or just plain fun. If she weren’t such an exhausting character to write, I’d give her her own spinoff.

What is your favorite type of scene to write and why?

Any scene where a character is exploring a new place. I love trying to capture the look and feel of a setting.

What authors have inspired you to write?

Many. If I were to single out a couple, they’d be Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison.

What age were you when you started writing?

I think I must have been six or seven. I taught myself to read at age two, so I had a head start. Learning to write things that other people would want to read took me a lot longer.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Often. Usually it’s because there’s a specific place where I just don’t know how to tell the story. I deal with it by starting work on something else.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

Generally I start by just writing, then realize this mess I’m making needs some organization and start creating an outline.

Does anything you write ever trigger emotions? For example, do you get sad when a character dies or excited while writing fight scenes?

Planning and writing a scene does trigger some of the same emotions as reading it. I did have fun writing the fights and escapes, although I tried to make the violence in the last fight scene a little uncomfortable to read. The scenes where Lock and Gary are angry, sad or despairing were definitely the hardest for me to write.

Your series has a lot to do with time travel. What drew you to this topic?

Originally, it wasn’t so much the time travel itself as what it revealed — the empty and abandoned world. It was only as I was writing that I realized the portal had to be more than just a plot device.

In your book, Locksmith’s Closet, your characters travel forward in time. If you had that ability, would you rather get to see the future or experience the past? Why?

I’d rather see the future, just out of curiosity. I can read about the past, after all, and there isn’t any bygone era I’ve read about that I’d like better than the present day. (Although I think I would have appreciated the nineties a little more if I’d known what was coming next.)

If you were a super hero, what would your power be?

Telekinesis. It would have so many practical applications.

Traditional publishing, Indie publishing, or self-publishing? Why did you choose to go the way that you did?

I wish I could claim that I’m a heroic pioneer in the self-publishing revolution. Truth is, I just couldn’t find an agent.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

My next book is Altered Seasons. I’m hoping to have it published traditionally. It’s about a group of politicians and ordinary people coping with a relatively sudden change in the climate after the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean melts one year. I’m also going to use NaNoWriMo to try to finish Locksmith’s Journeys, or at least get it close to finished.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism I’ve ever gotten was after I’d written a series of short stories about a woman with gigantism. One person felt that I’d made light of what would be a really tragic situation.

The best compliment was when my teenage nephew told me he’d read Locksmith’s Closet in one sitting. (That draft of it was several thousand words longer than the final product.)

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Be a good listener. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of stories that will give you lots of ideas. Also, this will improve your ear for dialogue.

What People are saying about Paul Briggs and Locksmith’s Closet:

“What a story! It’s one of those that you’re sure is headed in one direction and then takes a detour that makes it an even better story.  You won’t be able to stop reading.” 

“Rather than be a plot-driven story, it becomes a character-driven story, and with it we become closer to the characters as they deal with the harsh realities and tragedies that life in their own world has to offer. It becomes very introspective and philosophical, and I must say, I did not see that coming. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys Young Adult or time-travel stories. I can only hope that Part 2 of this trilogy comes out soon. Well done, Mr. Briggs.” 

“The writing and plotting of this book is absolutely the equal of anything published by the big publishing houses. Briggs is a formidable new talent. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next installment!” 

Check out Paul Briggs’ author page on YAAR to learn more!

Author Spotlight: Patrick Hodges

Written by

Bethany Wicker

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!

JI thumb Joshua’s Island       ES thumb  Ethan’s Secret


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