Last week, I posted my review of Zarox by Louis Smith. I thought that the story was fantastic, with a richly developed magical land and a cast of interesting and creative characters. In fact, I was so intrigued by the world that Smith had created, I decided to send him a few questions for a Q&A to help explain how Zarox came to be. As this is Smith’s first novel, I also asked him to share some insight into writing for newbie authors.
What made you want to write a book?
I always enjoyed writing letters to people. Any special occasion, birthdays, anniversaries, heck even just to make people feel good about themselves. My letters soon became somewhat fabled amongst my family and friends and I was urged to write a book, so I did. From there, Zarox was born.
What gave you the idea for Zarox?
If I am being completely honest, this was a situation where I didn’t come to Zarox, Zarox came to me. I had an idea of the type of book I wanted to create, I knew I wanted it to be written for a younger audience and I knew I wanted it to be filled with creativity and magic, but Zarox in itself was a place that formed on its own. I let my imagination run wild and thought about the creations at all times of the day. In fact my ideas were more prominent late at night. Whenever an idea came to me, I wrote it down and soon all of the ideas formed together to create Zarox.
How did you come up with the ideas for the creatures in this book?
For a new universe to feel realistic, it needs to have creatures that are not of our world. Their appearance, characteristics and abilities need to be unique and clearly evident, so creating the characters was something I was always looking forward to. To create my creatures I first thought about the type of creature I wanted, for instance, I knew I wanted Glothers to be large, thug like creatures. From there I formed a mental image of what the creatures would look like, which allowed me to create their appearance. Once I had their appearance formed, I moved on to creating their personalities and abilities. These developed as the story progressed.
Who was your favourite character to write?
I absolutely loved writing Rotlier’s character. Not only does he have a specific dialect (which even began to intrude itself into my day to day life) he also provides humour to the book which I feel adds enjoyment to the reader.
The characters in your book have very diverse personalities. How did you find writing the groups dynamic?
As most writers would agree, each character you write has a little bit of you inside of them. While speaking on behalf of one of my characters, I became that character for a short period of time. I began to feel, think, and behave like that character and that allowed me to react to the comments and actions of the other characters. This way of thinking allowed me to feel reasonably comfortable writing the dialogue between my characters.
What do you like about writing middle grade fantasy?
I get to be a kid. I get to release the shackles of the world’s realisms and create something that only a child would find to be possible. The world is too serious, writing middle grade fantasy allows me to make it a little more fun.
How did you get over writers block?
This is an interesting question to answer because while I never had any trouble thinking of ideas or making new creations, the book did take me a lot longer to write than it should have. I believe the reason I struggled to write for periods of time was because I had already done so much of the writing mentally that getting it down onto the page was a formality and that saps some of the fun out of the experience. There are two ways I coped with this dilemma, one was to keep creating, keep imagining. When I had created all I needed for this book, I started thinking about how I could set things up for the next one. This helped reinvigorate me, which helped to prevent writers block. The other method? Sheer persistence. Sometimes the only solution to life’s struggles is to put your head down and persist. You have a goal, you have a dream, you have ambitions, the best way to reach the finish line is to keep persisting.
What are your favourite books? Did any inspire the idea of Zarox?
I love all Roald Dahl books. He has a unique way of creating bizarrely distinctive ideas in an innocent way. Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, all great creations.
While all aspects of my life and everything I’ve taken in throughout the journey contributed to creating Zarox, I wouldn’t say any other piece of writing directly inspired my work. I specifically tried to limit the input of other work in an attempt to create a more unique universe. In fact, during the period that I wrote Zarox, I issued a self-imposed ban on reading anything of a similar genre to my book. While this was difficult, I think it helped me feel more connected to my creations, rather than deriving thoughts from other writers.
Will there be a sequel?
I have actually planned for this to be a series of books. How many books I write involving Zarox will depend on my level of inspiration and the level of interest from my readers, but without a doubt, there will be a sequel.
Any advice for new authors out there?
To remember that writers are the fabric of the universe because everything begins with words. When people see a movie or tv show, they forget that it begins with a script or a story. When they hear a song they forget that it started with lyrics. When they see a building they forget that the building started with plans and blueprints, instructions. Everything starts with words and that’s why writers shape the world. Help shape the world. The world wants to hear your story. Don’t be deterred by naysayers, don’t be deterred by the mental demons which challenge all writers. Persist with your creation, if you love it, someone else will too. Make it happen and add a little bit of magic to a world that is so sorely in need of it.