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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Guest Author Simon Rose

Ladies and gentlemen I would like to introduce to you our first guest author, Simon Rose, who is taking time out of his busy schedule to spend the day with us on my blog.

His Bio

Born in Derbyshire, England in 1961, he graduated from the university with a degree in history in 1982 and moved to Canada in 1990. He is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature of West Redding, CT. Now based in Calgary, Alberta in Western Canada,he is an author of science fiction and fantasy novels for young readers

His first five novels for children,
The Heretic's Tomb, The Emerald Curse, The Alchemist’s Portrait, The Sorcerer’s Letterbox and The Clone Conspiracy, all continue to gather great reviews and The Sorcerer’s Letterbox was nominated for the Silver Birch, Diamond Willow and Golden Eagle Book Awards in 2005. The Doomsday Mask will be published in Spring, 2009.

Throughout the year, he is available for author visits, presentations, workshops, Author in Residence programs and readings at schools, libraries, conferences and festivals in Canada, the United States and around the world covering such topics as where ideas come from, story structure, editing and revision, character development, time travel stories, history and research and more. He caters his presentation to the unique requirements of the school, library or organization in which he is speaking. He is also available for presentations, workshops and public speaking engagements with a wide range of adult audiences and summer camps each July and August and children's parties.

He offers a variety of creative services designed for both writers and the business community, including editing, critiquing and manuscript evaluation, as well as freelance writing services, including website content and copywriting for businesses.

The Interview

What was the reason you decided to write for middle grade children?

Like most people, unless they are teachers, I came into contact with very few children's books as an adult, until I had children of my own. The first ones were naturally picture books for very young readers and some were either very impressive and I wished I could have written them, or very poor and I pondered why they had ever been published. Like most of us, I wondered if I could do better, so I enrolled with the Institute for Children’s Literature and took their course. I had younger children at the time and thought I’d be devising picture books or fairy tales for four and five year olds. Then I read the Harry Potter books and realized that was the age range I was looking at writing for. However, I had no desire to write about wizards, dragons or classic fantasy topics and still don’t. Rather, I found myself drawn to what interested me when I was nine or ten years old - science fiction, time travel, history, superheroes, ancient mysteries and so on and the books have been in those genres, at least so far.

Would you share with us the story of how you were able to have your first novel published?

I was fortunate to attract the attention of a publisher quite quickly with my first novel, but had been sending out submissions of short stories and magazine articles for a while before that with no success at all. My first contracts were signed in late 2001 and The Alchemist’s Portrait was published in 2003, followed by The Sorcerer’s Letterbox in 2004

What do you think of the importance of networking in relation to book sales? Which social networks do you think work the best for marketing and why?

I have a website and blog and belong to various professional groups. Some are very useful, while others I get very little out of and reassess my memberships from time to time. I sincerely believe in the value of fellowship with fellow writers, but if there an annual fee for an organization, I like to think I’m getting some tangible benefits. I check my website statistics regularly to see where referrals are coming from, which helps me determine which groups are the most valuable to me. I subscribe to several listservs, where there are a good mixture of published and non published writers and do value groups where there are some great discussion topics or useful information about the writing life, such as taxes, legal stuff and so on. I am a member of SCBWI, for which I am the ARA for Western Canada, and belong to SF Canada, CANSCAIP, the Writer’s Union of Canada and a few others and also meet with writers and illustrators over coffee locally throughout the year.

I do use Facebook all the time, but have never used it for advertising my workshops and services for writers, I don't think. However, I am connected to writers all over the world and created the Children’s Writers and Illustrators on Facebook group at the beginning of 2009 and we now have almost 1000 members. I do have a page on MySpace, but find it much less effective and since it will not allow a feed from my blog, it is usually very out of date. I am on Jacketflap and some other sites too. I have considered Twitter, but decided I simply have no time for it, despite what everyone tells me. I’m at the computer every day, but because of all my marketing, promotion and work with schools, summer camps etc, I have a lot of e mail to manage, as well as trying to actually write the books. Another place to manage online is just too much at this point.

How much marketing does your publisher do and how much do you do on your own?

I do all my own marketing for the schools visits, workshops, conferences, book signings and launches, plus operate my own blog and website. I am always very grateful for any help my publisher has given me in the past, such as for travel and festivals, at least in Canada, will often approach him first.

Anyone who visits your website sees how diversified you are. You give workshops, school talks and author in residence weeks, as well as maintain a strong presence online with the Children’s Authors and Illustrators. In addition if this week is an example, you are being interviewed on several blogs. Do you have a system to keep yourself sane?

I'm not sure. I do try and keep things organized, but the good thing about Blogger, for example, is that you can do a whole series of entries and schedule them to be posted over several months. I started doing that last summer when I knew I would have less time, since it was school vacation time, but I didn’t want to temporarily abandon my presence on the web. I simply don’t have time to write a new blog entry every few days, so scheduling them works very well for me. No system really.. It’s a full time job and somehow I keep on top of things, but it is tougher if I’m traveling, even with remote access to e mail and everything. I find it much easier to keep track if I’m working in the home office for prolonged periods.

When you start a novel what is most important to you, character development or plot development? Please tell the readers why you work this way.

Plot for me, not sure why, although the nature of the stories, the subject matter and the age group they are written for are most likely the main factors there. I work on a detailed outline of the storyline before I even start with the actual text, dialogue and so on. Character development often comes at the same time, sometimes later. That being said, I usually have at least the main characters in mind as soon as I get the idea. I just need to know where the story is going, if the project is going to actually become a full-length novel.

How important do you think critique groups are for writers and do you have one?

I have never had a critique group, but acknowledge that it is important for some people, either in person or online. Writing is by nature a solitary occupation and can be a lonely business, without the benefit of hordes of cheering fans on the sidelines. A critique group is a place where you can ask questions and receive constructive feedback to help you with your writing as you try to build your career as a professional author. A group can also help you conquer a stumbling block, help you to regain momentum and get back to your writing or make a start on a new project.

Do you have any advice for someone who is beginning to write for children?

Read lots of kid’s books of course to get a feel for what is being published at the moment, but also just to get really into the genre. It’s also a good idea to take a writing course, either in person at a local college, by correspondence with someone like the Institute for Children’s Literature or online with someone like myself. Writing is in some ways the easy part. It can be a very long process not only to write a book, but also to get it published. A book is a marathon measured in years rather than weeks or months. Don’t be afraid to revise and revise over and over again. Most authors go through many revisions before their work reaches its final format. Remember too that your book will never be to everyone’s taste, so don’t be discouraged. A firm belief in your own success is often what’s necessary. After all, if you don’t believe in your book, how can you expect other people to? Read as much as you can and write as often as you can. Keep an ideas file, even if it’s only a name, title, sentence or an entire outline for a novel. You never know when you might get another piece of the puzzle, perhaps years later. You also mustn’t forget the marketing. You may produce the greatest book ever written. However, no one else is going to see it if your book doesn’t become known to potential readers. Be visible as an author. Do as many readings, signings and personal appearances as you can. Get your name out there and hopefully the rest will follow. Especially for newly published authors, books don’t sell themselves and need a lot of help.

When do you think a writer needs an agent? How helpful is an agent both before and after publication?

I have contacted agents on numerous occasion and met them in person at conferences and other events, but no one has ever showed an interest in representing me, I’m not sure why. You would think that they’d jump at the chance to be involved with a writer who has already published six books, is all over the internet and does so much promotion himself, but there is no interest, very odd. Of course, many of the larger publishing houses will only take manuscripts through an agent, so literary agents remain very useful for writers. I think agents have been very good for some authors and there are some great agents out there. However, I have talked to just as many writers who have had agents who did nothing for them at all, despite their reputation with other authors. Of course, this could be the fault of the author’s material, but to sum up, a really good agent with all the right connections is probably worth his or her weight in gold.

What do you think of e-books and e-book readers such as Kindle? Are any of your books in e-book form?

None of my books are in Kindle format yet, as far as I know. However, I think these things, or at least what follows on from them, are here to stay. People from older generations may like to think that everyone will always want a real book, but although I used to think the same way, I’m not so sure these days. After all, even older people have iPods, Blackberries and all the rest and have become used to looking at text on a small screen. Why could you not get used to buying a book as a pdf, read some of it on your desktop computer, take it on a laptop to another part of the house, then read more on a handheld device on the bus or train on your way to work? It’s not that much different than taking a real book along with you, is it really?

Technology is changing many aspects of the way we live, and the pace is increasing all the time, it seems, with products becoming obsolete so much faster. Decades ago, it was said that TV would kill newspapers, but newspapers survived. Yet now, the Internet is seriously damaging newspapers as we speak, mostly from an advertising revenue aspect, but also because people have become so accustomed to seeing news items online. People no doubt thought tapes, vinyl and even CD's were a fixture in our lives, but the music industry changed dramatically and compact disks in particular had a very short life span, when you think about it. The Kindle certainly isn’t the end of this, and I’m sure other products will come along, but I think it’s the start of something that will change the way we look at books in the future. Not sure how this will play out with picture books, but I guess we’ll wait and see.

Graphic novels are becoming very popular. Do you have any plans to write a graphic novel?

No, I don’t think so. I have seen them and appreciate their quality and popularity, but I guess I shouldn’t rule it out, as long as I would have an illustrator to work with.

Thank you for joining us today, Simon and for your very informative answers to my questions. If anyone is interested in asking Simon a question or commenting, please leave it in the comments and Simon will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you to all of my readers. Until the next time, I would love to host another guest author. Please let me know.

For more information about Simon please visit his website and his blog.


  1. Hi Simon,
    I'm a fellow graduate from ICL. I'm going to join Facebook & look your group up. Great interview you guys!
    Deb :-)

  2. Thanks for stopping by today,Deb. See you on Facebook maybe.

  3. Great Interview Barbara!

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to get to know Simon and learn more about his work.

    Jan Verhoeff

  4. Deb, Thank you for stopping and hope you do join the group.

    Jan, thanks for stopping and glad you enjoyed the interview.:)

  5. Hi Simon,
    What a fine job Barbara did with your interview posting. Your interview was very interesting and I wish you lots a luck with your writing and marketing efforts.

    I am on a two month Internet Virtual Book Tour myself at various sites. Today was at

    Best Regards,

  6. Thanks to the newest visitors. I'd be happy to answer questions if anyone has any?

  7. Thank you Jerry.:) Does anyone have a question? Please leave it here. Simon will answer it.

    Simon, you're doing a great job! I'll go see if we can get more people here.:)

  8. Well it is a little lonely. Invite everyone you can think of.

  9. Hi Simon,
    Have you written fiction outside the realm of kid-lit?

  10. Not fiction, no, although I do write articles at places like Ezines, write copy for websites, have a column called Simon Says every Wednesday at the National Writing for Children Center write articles for online magazines.
    Here are a couple of my latest ones at Dark Roasted Blend:

  11. Barbara and Simon...terrific interview!

    Simon with all that you do already, how do you find the time to manage the Children’s Writers and Illustrators on Facebook group?

    Congratulations on having 1000 members...WOW!

    Best wishes,
    Donna McDine

    P.S. I feel the same way about Twitter, but gave in and signed up. Social networking to say the least can be quite time consuming.

  12. The Children's Authors and Illustrator's Group isn't that hard to manage, even with almost a thousand members. I did invite people at first but the last seven hundred or so members have just joined from out of the blue. The interviews seem to be very well received and enough people were interested to fill three slots a week until October. Its just a case of posting the new interview every few days. There have also been some lively discussions, which often seem sadly lacking in some of the other Facebook groups related to writing and books.

    With everything I am involved in these days, the one thing that is hard to find time for is the actual writing of novels. However, marketing and promotion is very important and if you stop moving, the world will still move on without you. Nevertheless, The Doomsday Mask is now mostly wrapped up and will be published in May, so I can start thinking about new projects.

  13. Hi Simon...thanks for your insightful response...much appreciated. Sounds like it has turned into---if you build it they will come----and boy they sure did. Keep up the great work.


  14. It's great to see a writer do so much to promote his books in schools. Eric Wilson used to do school visits, and Robert Munsch as well for younger kids. Wilson told me once that he didn't write a book until he had sold it. Munsch has said many times that he makes up at least one story at each school visit, and if he can remember it he will tell it again. The stories he tells dozens of times become his books for young kids. I'm wondering where Simon Rose fits between these extremes of writing not from inspiration, but from a contract, and the exuberance of inspiration being scattered freely.

  15. Twitter's value is certainly suspect, although I joined about a month ago. They are having severe tech problems at the moment and I can't think of anything to recommend them, so your decision is correct.

    We write in different genres, Simon, but look me up on FaceBook if you have an interest in historical fiction. Either way, I always welcome communication with another author.

    Good job today.

  16. Thanks for sharing, Simon!

    All best,


  17. Thanks Jerry.

    I will look for you on Facebook but feel free to send me a friend request too.

  18. Hi Simon, I'm on a virtual tour this week as well with my historical western for young people - Longhorns and Outlaws, with today's stop at the Maw Books blog. I just love the many opportunities to meet my readers right from my own desk, thanks to wonderful hosts like Barbara.

  19. Ah, the wonders of technology.

  20. Simon, I think your neat ideas of connecting in cyberspace and participating in virtual tours is simply fantastic! It makes the authors of kid's books seem more "real" and approachable. It makes writing books an even more exciting prospect than it was before. I haven't published a novel yet, but meeting authors like yourself makes it seem more realistic. Your interview by Barbara was so well done I don't have any questions.

    Loretta Houben

  21. Thanks Loretta. I'm pleased that you found the interview to be both helpful and enjoyable.

  22. Hi everyone,
    Had to leave for a few hours, but thanks to Simon for your excellent participation and thorough answers to all who commented. Please if you could stay a little longer that would be great. But I guess it's getting close to dinner for you in Calgary.:)

    Thank you to for the lovely comments about the interview. This was my first time and you know what they say about first times.:) Please come back and check on this blog again. I highlight blogs I love and prattle on about my crazy life and my writing.:)

    Please leave questions and Simon has said he will stay for tomorrow too if necessary to answer them.:)

  23. Linda,
    I am very happy to know that you enjoyed my interview questions. Thank you!

  24. Thanks Barbara. I will be around tomorrow if there are any further questions, no problem.

  25. Thanks Simon.:) I hope you had fun. I know I did. I will be here tomorrow. Will send you an email to check.

    Thanks again for being the very best first guest author anyone could have!!!!:)

  26. very nice and good for spirit!!
    bravo !

  27. Marcello,
    Thank you for stopping and commenting. If you have a question please ask it here and Simon will be back tomorrow to answer it.

    Hope you come back again.:)

  28. Really enjoyed your interview Simon and appreciate being part of the writers' group on Facebook.

  29. Thank Vicky. There is a new interview with another author on the Facebook group today if you wanted to check it out.

  30. Good interview! Simon, I will check out your website.

  31. "Remember too that your book will never be to everyone’s taste, so don’t be discouraged." - Good advice! Nice to meet you.

  32. Thank you Simon for staying today. I will check back and see if there are more questions or comments later.

    Thank you to everyone for your comments and questions. It has been a pleasure hosting Simon Rose as my guest author. Come back another time for the next guest author, Tim Hooker.

  33. Thank you Agnes and Lynda. Check out my blog too and perhaps become a follower/subscriber?

  34. Appreciated your interview with Simon Rose, especially the part about agents.

  35. Thank you. I hope you'll find time to visit my blog and become a subscriber.

  36. Hi C Lee,
    Thank you for stopping by and please go check out Simon's website and blog. Glad you were able to learn something new.

    Hope to see you here again. I am lining up more writers for interviews in the coming weeks. Read more on my new post.:)

  37. Simon,
    Thank you so much for coming back for more comments. I appreciate your attention and only hope that every writer I interview will be as good about this.:)

    Happy Spring everyone!!!!

  38. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  39. Thanks Ann. Please visit my blog and become a follower at or even meet me live and in person, almost, on YouTube at


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