An Interview with Paul Collins
Welcome to Writing Children's Books with Robyn Opie.
Mole Hunt - the latest novel from award-winning author Paul Collins - was released on 1 June 2011. We're lucky today to have award-winning author Paul Collins here with us to answer questions about Mole Hunt, The Maximus Black Files and anything else I throw at him. Well, perhaps not "anything".
Thank you Paul for visiting my blog and participating in the following interview. I know you're a busy man. Thanks for having me here, Robyn.
Q: Dystopian fiction is big right now. Did you write The Maximus Black Files specifically because of this genre’s popularity?
A: All modesty aside, I’m usually ahead of my time. I published Australia’s first heroic fantasy novels way before the major publishers decided there was money to be made in fantasy – I only stopped because two distributors folded on me, one taking all my stock and owing me a lot of money. I actually wrote the trilogy in rough form years ago. Last year I started polishing Mole Hunt, book #1. I could see dystopian fiction was on the rise, but the publishers I’d submitted it to were keeping it for ages. I knew if I didn’t act quickly, the fad would fade and I’d have missed my opportunity. One publisher has had it now for two years! I should let them know I’m withdrawing it! I also pulled it from another publisher who had had it in their slush pile for five months. Regardless, it’s Out There now.
Q: What inspired you to write dystopian fiction?
A: I’ve written in this genre before. The Earthborn Wars was an SF trilogy (The Earthborn, The Skyborn and The Hiveborn) set after an apocalyptic event on Earth. Civilisation as we know it ceased to exist and roaming bands of thugs took over. Of course, although it’s bleak, there has to be some hope. In The Earthborn Wars I have Sarah, who brings together a gang of life-minded individuals and strikes out against the baddies. Maximus Black has his own nemesis in Anneke Longshadow.
Q: Do you base your characters on anyone you know?
A: I have done. My picture book, The Glasshouse, is based on a writer friend to whom I gave sound advice but she chose to ignore it. But it’s not often I’m driven to writing about “someone”. Anneke Longshadow is based on a character I know, and that’s Modesty Blaise. Maximus is everything I imagine an anti-hero to be: despicable, in control, conniving, darkly handsome/brooding with an unquenchable lust for violence. I could go on!
Q: Apart from Peter O’Donnell, then, has anyone influenced your writing?
A: I didn’t read as a kid, so I had no preconceived ideas on how I should write, conventions, etc. I did read a lot of comics. Reviewers over the years have said my fiction is fast-paced and filmic, so I imagine if anything, I’ve been influenced by Stan Lee and his team at Marvel Group Comics. I used to devour The Hulk, Spiderman, Captain America, Daredevil and a host of others.
Q: Do you have a favourite genre apart from dystopian fiction?
A: I’m primarily known as a science fiction writer. This is odd because I’ve written more fantasy than SF. But over the years I’ve possibly written within just about every genre, including romance (although that one didn’t sell!!!!). In a nutshell, I like fantasy.
Q: Which other writers do you admire?
A: When I get time I read Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) and Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines). I think both write in the same vein as me, that is, filmic action.
Q: Do you ever get writers’ block? If so, how do you get around it?
A: I’m usually working on too many projects to get blocked. If I do, I just shift on to something else and come back to the previous project if/when I’ve resolved the problem. I find brainstorming ideas with my partner, Meredith Costain, or with friends, usually fixes any problems.
Q: Now that Mole Hunt is in the shops, how do you plan to promote it?
A: Social media is the best way to promote books. Facebook, Twitter, writing articles and blogs for online shops and blog sites, getting reviews in newspapers and magazines, etc. On June 10 I’ll be launching the book at Continuum. I can honestly say promoting books these days is just as time-consuming as writing the books.
Q: Are you writing anything new right now?
A: I suspect I’ll be promoting Mole Hunt for the next month. I’ll then reacquaint myself with Dyson’s Drop, book #2 in The Maximus Black Files. Once I’ve fixed up any glaring errors, I’ll start polishing the manuscript. Other than that, I have a fantasy novel called Broken Magic that’s looking for a home. But I suspect I’ll leave it in the bottom drawer until I have this current trilogy put to bed.
Q: Last but not least, do you have a plot outline you can share with us?
A: Certainly. Here it is:
Special Agent Maximus Black excels at everything he attempts. The problem is, most of what he attempts is highly illegal. Recruited by the Regis Imperium Mentatis when he was just fifteen, he is the youngest cadet ever to become a RIM agent. Of course, being a certified sociopath helps. He rises quickly through the ranks, doing whatever it takes to gain promotion. This includes murdering the doctor who has certified him, as well as a RIM colonel who Black deems to be more useful dead than alive. Now seventeen, he is a valuable member of a highly secret task force whose assignment is to unearth a traitorous mole. Unfortunately for RIM he is the mole, a delightful irony that never ceases to amuse him.
In the two years he has been with RIM he has only met his match once. Anneke Longshadow, another RIM agent, who nearly succeeded in exposing him. But nearly wasn’t enough. Now she is dead and he is very much alive to pursue his criminal activities.
Right now, Black has a new problem; one that will challenge him to the max. He has a lot of work to do and little time to do it but as with every facet of his life, he plans each step with meticulous precision.
Maximus needs to find three sets of lost coordinates to rediscover the power of the dreadnoughts – a powerful armada of unbeatable power, long since put into mothballs by the sentinels whose job it is to keep peace and harmony in the ever expanding universe.
Sadly for Black, complications arise. It seems Anneke Longshadow isn’t dead after all. Every bit his match, Anneke eludes the traps Black sets for her. Born on Normansk, a planet with 1.9 gravity, Anneke is more than capable of defending herself against Black’s hired help, the insectoid Envoy, and his professional mercenary and hitman, Kilroy.
Power-hungry, Black usurps the throne of Quesada, a powerful crime syndicate. His ultimate aim is to replace the Galaxy gate-keepers, RIM, with his own organisation. Matching him step by step, Anneke collects as her allies all those who Maximus has deposed in his march to becoming ruler of the universe.
Melbourne June 2011
"Bitingly clever and a cross between Total Recall, Dexter and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Bookseller and Publisher.
"The pace would give Matthew Reilly a nosebleed." Buzz Words
"I couldn’t put Mole Hunt down.” Kids' Book Capers.
About the author
Together with Michael Pryor, Paul is the co-editor of the highly successful fantasy series, The Quentaris Chronicles; he has also contributed seven titles to the series as an author. Paul’s other works include The Jelindel Chronicles, The Earthborn Wars trilogy and The World of Grrym trilogy written in collaboration with Danny Willis. Paul has been the recipient of several awards, notably the inaugural Peter McNamara, the Aurealis, and the William Atheling. He has been short-listed for many others, including the Speech Pathology Australia and Ditmar awards. Paul has worked as a pub bouncer, served time in the commandos, has a black belt in both tae kwon do and ju jitsu, was a kickboxer, and trained with the Los Angeles Hell Drivers.
Also by Paul Collins
Trust Me! (editor)
The Spell of Undoing