Tuesday, January 29, 2013

John Rykken, Bloodwood

AUTHOR: John Rykken
BOOK TITLE: Bloodwood
PUBLISHER: iUniverse

Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

I write character-driven, young adult thrillers. I write in that genre because it allows me to be less serious than I'd be if writing books for adults. Also, my goal has always been to write fun, adventurous stories. For some reason the young adult genre seems conducive to telling these kinds of tales.

Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.

I'm currently promoting Bloodwood. It's book two in a series called the Chronicles of Max Mayhem. In Bloodwood, Max and his best friend, Lydia, travel to a cold, remote part of Canada in search of a missing girl and hidden vampire town.

How long have you been writing?
Eight years.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
I've been a lifelong fan of stories, whether they're told in a book, on screen at the theater, or in person around the campfire. That aside, however, I think I first wanted to write a book because I thought I'd make a lot of money. That hasn't happened, obviously. And I've since learned that writing a book because you think you're going to get rich is pretty naive. These days I write because I love my characters and the crazy adventures they have. I actually want to find out what's going to happen to them. Also, I write for my readers. 
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?

I usually start with a premise—e.g. a couple guys have pocket watches that let them travel through time, one guy is going to do something bad in the past, the other guy has to stop him—and then, from there, I write a loose outline that changes as I write the book.

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
Character. Premise. Plot.
Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

I try to love them all, especially the villains. If you hate one of your characters, it comes through in your writing and your reader begins hating the character, too. And I don't think it's ever good to inspire negative emotions in your readers. (Unless, of course, you are JK Rowling and are writing a character like Dolores Umbridge. But even there, Umbridge is a character you kind of love to hate.) Anyhow, the point is, when you consider all the villains who've captivated you in the past, there's usually some aspect of their wickedness or humanity that you like a little bit or can at least relate to. It's rare to unequivocally dislike a character, though I admit it does happen. 

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Coming up with the plot and then reigning in the plot so it's not too dumb and unbelievable. Also, I have a difficult time writing the opening chapters of my books. It's because in those chapters I am laying the groundwork for the plot and what will happen later on. If I don't lay those stones correctly, the house I build will be crooked and not hang together too well. 
Did your book require a lot of research? 

Research? A marginal amount. Mostly I look up the names of roads and things like that. I also make sure that things like my characters' travel times from point A to B are realistic, and try to authentically describe cities, neighborhoods, and so on.

How long does it take to write a book for you?

How long does it take me to write a book? I've written four books. The first three took six months apiece. The third, Bloodwood, took a year and a half. I'm currently writing my fifth book, The Oddclock. It's far and away my most ambitious project. So far I've been working on it for two years. It's excellent and I love it, but it's only halfway finished.

What are some of the challenges in your writing process?

Grinding through the days of frustration and, like I said, having the discipline to write and rewrite the opening chapters until the groundwork and plot threads have all been laid correctly.

Describe your writing space.
Coffee shops. Tea shops. My room, which has a desk, lamps, incense; bookshelves crammed with dictionaries, writing manuals, all of my favorite novels.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Run. Meditate. Play guitar. Eat al pastor tacos. Hang out with my family and wonderful group of Portland friends. Dream about meeting that one woman who will make all else fall away...
What books or authors have influenced your writing?

Ernest Hemingway. Anne LaMott. Justin Cronin. JK Rowling. Graham Greene.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

Synopsis of Bloodwood:

When skateboarding, fifteen-year-old Max Mayhem learns that his neighbor, Peter, is a vampire whose girlfriend has gone missing, Max’s dreams for a normal life are turned upside down. Before he knows it, he and his best friend, Lydia, are sucked into a daring hunt for Peter’s missing girlfriend—a hunt that leads them to a suspiciously empty town in northern Canada, where Max guesses things are not what they seem. As the sun sets over the ice-blue mountains and the town falls into shadow, cries echo through the woods and Max realizes it’s too late. Now the missing girl is the last thing on his and Lydia’s minds, and it will take all their cunning to survive until sunrise.


There was a long, pregnant pause while Ward, panting, missing his suit jacket with his hair dripping wet, darted his eyes from Max's face to the manila envelope to under the desk and back to Max's face. 
And he was on Max, wrapping surprisingly strong, wiry arms around Max's middle and trying to wrestle him to the ground. Max squirmed, his back to Ward, and threw an elbow out.
It connected.
The arms released. Ward crashed backward into the desk and sent up an explosion of paper; the computer monitor flew into the curtains and smacked against the window.
Max turned.
Ward sat sprawled on the desk. Blood gushed from his nose. He put a hand to his face and stared in shock when he came away with slick red fingers.
"Oh, gosh, I'm so sorry, man! I didn't mean to—" said Max.
Ward's face went ugly. He lunged.
Max ducked under the outstretched hand and shouldered Ward in the chest; he flew backward. Max exited the office and slammed the door. All was chaos in the lobby: sprinkler water illuminated by flashing lights, like rain lit up by police flashers at night; Ruben's bulk blocking the hall, his back to Max while he barked into a phone; guests moving quickly toward the front door; smoke smell; shouts.
The office door shuddered.
Max wedged himself between the file cabinets and in a burst of strength slid one in front of the door. Then he turned, envelope in hand, and shouldered through the emergency exit. 
He glanced back, through the diminishing door-gap he saw Ward fighting the file cabinet. 
Still looking behind him, Max took a long runner's stride and—
It felt like he'd crashed headlong into a cement statue. Max staggered backward, tripped, and hit the ground, hard.
He looked up to find himself staring at a very tall man in a black leather motorcycle jacket. The man was brown-haired, his face sharp with Scandinavian angles, and his skin had a nearly translucent, ash-white pallor. He held a motorcycle helmet at his side.
The man cocked his head, bird-like, a predatory movement. As Max watched the man's irises grew large, flooding the whites of his eyes like a flowering ink-stain until they were black.
Crap, crap, crap, thought Max. He snatched up the folder and stood up, backing away. The vampire said nothing.
Police sirens wailed and bright red and blue lights flashed off the buildings a block away. Max crossed to the other side of the street, keeping his eyes on the vampire, who did nothing except watch him. When Max was twenty yards away, he turned and ran, just as a fire truck and two police cruisers pulled up outside the Queens Hotel.
Max did not bother looking behind him. He sprinted down Water Street and then it hit him: his dad.
The van, his dad had said, make it to the van.
Max spurred himself faster, recalling the map: up Water Street, left on Abbot, right down Trounce Alley, left on Cambie. The pavement seemed to fly beneath him. He was breathless as he ran onto Cambie.
And there up ahead—thank goodness—with the lights on and pulled halfway into the street, was the old white Volkswagen.
Dr. Mayhem threw the passenger door open as Max ran up.
Max jumped in, slammed the door shut, and the VW roared down the street. 

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