Friday, March 30, 2012

Forever Waiting Writers Series: Interview with Thomas Taylor

Today we have the pleasure of spending time with Thomas Taylor. He is not only a talented illustrator and picture book author (Jack's Tractor, It's Hard to Hurry When You're a Snail, to name just a few), he also designed the awesome banner for my blog. His science fiction thriller, HAUNTERS, is set to come out May 2012.

Here's a bit about HAUNTERS:

 Eddie, Adam and David have the same gift. They can time-travel, appearing as ghosts in the past. But each of them wants something different…
 Eddie is sworn to protect the course of history. Adam wants to change it for his own ends. And David must find a way to keep them apart – and save the future of the world…

Thomas, you're a talented author and illustrator with many published picture books and a Science Fiction Thriller and a Comic-Gothic novella soon to be released. Which do you enjoy more, drawing or writing?

The biggest difference between writing and drawing is the level of concentration needed. With illustration, once I have decided what I’m going to draw, I can listen to the radio or chat with friends while I work. With writing I need total concentration and, if possible, silence. For this reason, I like to break up my writing with illustration jobs if I can. A change really is as good as a rest, at least for me. But I can’t really say I prefer one over the other. 

What inspired you to write HAUNTERS?

I have been thinking about ghosts since childhood, mostly because I was terrified of them. So scared, in fact, that I honestly thought I’d seen them as a boy. Of course, I realise now that I never did – well, probably never did, anyway – but I have spent a lot of time wondering what they may be if they do exist. There are several more-or-less scientific explanations for ghosts out there, and these, along with a hundred other things, helped me put together the idea behind Haunters.

Haunters is an inverted ghost story, where the living are the ghosts, and where the dead are the ones being haunted. It’s intended to be an exciting experience for the reader, rather than a scary one. I wish my 12-year-old self could have read it.

The Forever Waiting Writers Series is about how long we sometimes have to wait to see our dreams come true. Can you tell us how long you had to wait before you saw your first book (picture or novel) published and what that journey was like?

I was first published as an illustrator in 1997, having graduated from art school two years previously. My first written picture book came out in 1999.

It wasn’t until about 2005 that I realised what I really wanted to write was fiction for older children/young teens. It took me two years to write my first novel – a piratical sea-faring adventure with more than a dash of the fantastic -- but it didn’t find a home after several submissions. I had begun Haunters by then (under the working title of ‘The Ghost Effect’), and gave up on the pirates. Haunters was taken on by The Chicken House (Scholastic) in summer 2010 and has taken two years to reach publication.

How did all this feel? Well, ‘slow’ would be a good word to describe it, as well as ‘frustrating’, ‘exhilarating’, ‘confusing’ and ‘elating’ (when I finally signed the contract). But ‘slow’ seems the best way to sum up the actual journey. ‘Glacial’, even. 

Any advice to those of us who are pre-published and in the trenches?

It’s often overlooked that publishers don’t simply take on books, they take on authors, and by extension all the books they hope they’ll write in the future. Taking on a new author is therefore expensive in time, money and effort, and carries huge risks over many years. It’s rare for a publisher to feel they’ve got a good return on that investment from a single book. No wonder publishers find it so easy to say no.

So I wouldn’t advise anyone to work hard on the text of their debut novel, because anyone serious about publication is doing that already. But make sure you don’t forget to work on yourself at the same time. For example, look into joining SCBWI, read extensively in your genre, know the market, follow submission guidelines, etc. Do everything you can to be part of the publishing world, even if you feel you are not. And above all, when you do make contact with editors, you should be able to talk about your projected career, about the kinds of books you want to write in five year’s time, about your (realistic) ambitions, and about the challenges of publishing today.

Do all you can to look like it’s only a matter of time before someone snaps you up, and -- if your book’s good too -- somebody probably will.    

Wow. That's great advice. Thank you.
The characters in HAUNTERS are dreamwalkers, if you could have any supernatural ability what would it be?

Dreamwalking would be cool. To be able to detach your mind from your sleeping body and drift, as a ghost, through the waking world, terrifying your enemies or going into the past the visit lost loved ones – yes, dreamwalking for me, please. Even better than telekinesis!

Thank you so much for spending time with us Thomas! 
Sadly, HAUNTERS isn't available in the U.S., but you can get it from Amazon. Also check out Thomas' Comic-Gothic Novella, DAN AND THE DEAD, at Amazon.


  1. Great interview. I love a good ghost story. Thanks.

    1. I'm really looking forward to reading this! Thanks for visiting!

  2. Thanks again for a great interview, Anita:)

    1. Thank you! Can't wait to read Haunters next month!

  3. Anita, you asked some great questions and I'm really glad you did because the answers Thomas gives are brilliant - particularly his answer to your "pre-published and in the trenches" question (great line, btw). It's startlingly similar to the advice I was given as an art undergrad - that the painting is the smallest factor in the success equation. There's such a lot more to being a writer than the writing but it's much easier to get somewhere with the support and advice of writers like Thomas! Thanks both.

    1. I agree Thomas did give some fantastic answers. Thank you for stopping by!