We’re delighted to welcome YA author Trevor Stubbs to the blog, to kick off a series of interviews with authors and illustrators on how they go about creating their books. Trevor is the author of two series of books, the White Gates Adventures and the Flip! trilogy. He’s passionate about encouraging teenagers to read.
Welcome to our Storytale blog, Trevor. I guess the first thing we’d like to know is where do you get your ideas from?
There is no simple answer to this question. I guess I start with people – especially young people. Looking back, teachers and youth workers encouraged me to expand the limited horizons and expectations in my home life and enabled me to fulfil more of my potential. I have always valued that and it has inspired me to do what I can for teenagers ever since. So I have given time for them, and now in my retirement I can write for them as well. Young people can be surprising, resourceful and honest; they can inspire us if we are willing to listen to them. They can be just, like, amazing!
As a minister I have experienced a lot of the downs as well as the ups that people experience in the course of their lives. I bring these into my stories – how people encounter light and hope in the darkness that often surrounds us.
I have also had the privilege of living in three different parts of the world – Papua New Guinea, Australia, and South Sudan – as well as several very different communities in England. All of this helps to give background and context to the stories.
How do you know when you’ve got a good idea?
I bounce them off other people. In my case, it’s mostly my wife – she is one of the people who introduced me to vast stores of classical books that I had not much idea about. We had few books at home; I began reading the Authorised Version of the Bible, Chaucer and Shakespeare at school and then studied French at A level so knew more about De Balzac and Camus than Dickens or Huxley.
Where do you write?
Mostly at a desk upstairs using a desktop and surrounded by books. Pretty boring really. I can also write on a laptop if I’m travelling.
Are you a plotter or a pantster?
A bit of both, I guess. I begin with a plot arc but as new ideas come in, I alter it. The first draft may have the bones but can be dull and needs more excitement, humour, tension and so on. So I rewrite and introduce new angles and cut down the bits that are too self-indulgent, and by the time I’ve finished, the story may be quite different to the original plan. And the other thing is the characters have to be true to themselves and sometimes – often – refuse to behave in the ways they need to in order to forward the story. Then I have two options – introduce a new character or change the plot. Both of these happen.
How long does it take you to complete a book?
It depends on the other things I do – writing is something I do in the gaps. And, of course, how long the book is. I have written eight novels – seven of them published – and a dozen or more short stories since I began in 2010.
What hurdles do you encounter along the way?
See the answer to the previous question! There are always demands on a retired clergyman’s time – and it’s good to be useful.
I can honestly say I have never encountered writer’s block or the tendency to prevaricate like some speak of.
How do you know when your book’s journey is completed?
There comes a time when the polishing gets finer and finer until it’s just the odd word here and there. Then you must get other people to read it and be prepared to begin again, incorporating their suggestions and comments. Then get a final opinion, adjust, and finally just draw a line.
And finally, what’s your next project?
I’m experimenting with a spin off from my Flip! trilogy published in October 2019.
And lastly, please tell us 3 random facts about yourself!
1. In 1971, when I was a high school teacher in Papua New Guinea, I travelled with a colleague into the remote interior to the home village of one of our students. On arrival, we were told by the chief that we were the first white people to have set foot in that place. We were made very welcome.
2. I’ve always been attracted to the flat and empty. I delighted in inland Australia in the early 1970s where I wrote my first poem.
3. A few years ago, I was at a dining table with five other writers. The one on my left wrote weird adult fantasy. On my right was a man who had written his grandfather’s story in the First World War trenches and next to him was a woman who was writing medical papers. Opposite sat two other very different young women – one wrote children’s poetry and the other was embarking on a career in hot steamy romance. That’s the great thing about being a writer, you get to meet some really interesting characters.
Learn more about Trevor Stubbs and his wonderful books at: