Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Interview with Michael Scott

My interview with Michael Scott

By Rory Hawkins

On the 9th of May, Charters school was lucky enough to welcome fantasy author Michael Scott, only a week after being visited by another author, Michael Grant. Mr Scott visited to promote his 106th book and the last in a six book long series: The Enchantress, which, as he stated in his presentation to the year 8s, took him a year to write. I was lucky enough to be asked on the school’s behalf to interview Mr Scott, or, as I was allowed to call him, Michael.

   I found Michael to be a very agreeable person, I enjoyed talking to him and he answered the questions the Book Club and I concocted with both enthusiasm and detail. I got the sense that he enjoyed the interview as much as I did.

    When I asked why he became a writer, Michael answered: “I’m a writer because I’m a reader. I believe you can only really be a good writer if you’re a reader. I remember picking up a book, reading and thinking: ‘Wait- I can write better rubbish than this’.” I nodded to this; if you’re someone who’s into creative writing you’ll come across this at one point or another. Michael went on to say this was when you were ready yourself to write. “But,” Michael continued, “you’ve also got think if there’s space for you, what makes your writing different.” When I continued the question to: ‘Why did you decide to write for young adults?’ Michael answered eagerly; “They’re a very interesting audience and, in my opinion, this is the golden age for YA writing; when you’ve written a book, it’s pure story for teenagers. An adult will come up to you and say your book was rubbish. A teenager will come up to you and point out all the bits they liked, from chapter three or four and so on. But that’s also one of the hardest parts. With this genre you have to create your own logic and you need to keep to that or-”

   “Or they’ll point that out and scrutinise you for that,” I said.


   “Have you actually based any characters on people you know?” I asked.

   “No,” Michael replied bluntly, “my golden rule in writing is to not base characters on people you know, not just because you may point out a not too endearing thing about them. People look for themselves in book characters, most people want to find something that they share with a character. In fact, the only characters I made up in the Flamel series are the twins themselves. As you already know, I brought together mythological figures from all across the world. I simply gave them personalities from how they were portrayed in their myths.”

   After what Michael had said about not basing characters on people, I hardly thought that we wouldn’t be straying from the questions I had written down previous; ‘Which character do you think you are most like?’ was next. Michael agreed with me on this. After quickly concluding that he was like none, we went on to the topic of which he proffered.

   “Most people would think that Nicholas Flamel was my favourite. Really? No. I like my villains: Dr Dee and Machiavelli especially. Dee, actually, used to the hero, in a few of my other books.”

   “But in the Enchantress, things change for Dee.”

   “Of course; I had flip with the Enchantress, circumstances change for Dee and, in the end really, he becomes good.”

   I got Michael to reveal some of his writing ‘top-tips’ when I asked the next question: “Did you always know how the series would end?”

   “Yes,” Michael began, “I wrote the ending first. It’s like setting yourself a target; you want to get from here... to there. The fact that there are six books is only because when I wrote the whole series out in note form I saw six synopses which let me divide it into six books.”

   “So you wrote all of the books out in note form beforehand?” I asked.

   “Not completely, I left some room for the characters to surprise me. The Flamel series was very interesting to write, one of my best and favourite series, I have to say.”

   For anything I had missed asking Michael, the year 8s certainly picked up in the Q and A part of Michael’s presentation. He told them that ‘At the heart of every legend there is a grain of truth’ and ‘As you collect stories across the world you find similarities’ among other things. When asked why he was a fantasy author, Michael replied: “Fantasy is the best genre. You can do anything you like; you can make your own world with your set of rules.”

   “Which do you prefer: reading or writing?” asked one pupil.

   “I spend as much time reading as I do writing. And I have to say, writing is the best job in the world. Being a writer lets me travel all around the world. I often ask my publisher if I can sell a book in, let’s say, Australia, or promote it or something, just so I can go there.”

   Michael went on to say that in terms of publishing one’s work, this was the golden age for young people, websites like Wattpad allowing publishers to snap up up-and-coming young authors.  His tips to year8s wanting to go into a career involving creative writing were ‘Never put out second rate work’ and ‘Try and set yourself a writing goal; I aim to write four A4 pages a day, much to my editor’s delight.’

   One cheeky year8 couldn’t hold back the question of: “Do you like vampires?” (clearly meaning the stereotypical cliché of modern-day bloodsuckers becoming charismatic yet moody models).

   “Well actually I have one vampire as a main character, Scathach. In Flamel, I went back to original vampires. You see, original vampires drained energy, which later was confused with blood, and some didn’t even look remotely like people. One,” Michael said with a wry smile, “is literally a floating skull with fangs and a spinal cord trailing behind it,” much to the girl’s displeasure.

   When asked about the book ‘The Enchantress’ itself, Michael said: ‘If you’re not surprised by the ending there’s something wrong with you.’

If you’ve already read the Flamel series, then you’ve got the joy and annoyance to look forward to ‘The Alchemyst’ movie in 2014. As Michael told me, with a budget of $120m, parts are being filmed in the same CGI studios as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit.’ And if that’s not enough for you, the first book in ‘The Earthlords’ trilogy is to be launched next year with the aptly named title of: ‘The Earthlords Rising.’ Michael told me of its simpler to follow storyline; “One main backdrop and all major characters introduced in the first book.”

   But if you haven’t already completed ‘The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel’ then you’ve got some catching up to do.
I would like to express thanks on the behalf of all the Year 8s and staff at Charters School who really enjoyed Michael's talk.

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