Kevin Brooke talks to us about writing, research and relaxation. Links have been included, you can also find Kevin’s books in our INKSPILL BOOKSHOP.
1. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My main focus as a writer for young people is to publish as many books of the right standard as I can. In doing so, it will allow me to contact local schools and speak to young people with the aim of encouraging reading and writing. As someone who didn’t start reading for pleasure until I was about 25, this is particularly important to me and tend to write stories that are accessible for all. I also concentrate on stories of the type I would have liked to have read when I was younger and base my characters on two demographics i.e. 7-11 and 11-15. For me, these are such crucial ages of development for young people and I therefore focus on themes that are suitable for these age groups.
2. So, what have you written?
My first book, The Roman Citizens from Class 6B was utilised as a resource in a primary school in Malvern in 2016.
I regularly use my second book, a Young Adult novel, Jimmy Cricket, as a resource to encourage reading in schools (I am currently Patron of Reading at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College in Worcester).
I have added this in, as Kevin is too humble… In 2015 Jimmy Cricket was studied in school in Austria. International Success
I am hoping that my third book, Max & Luchia: The Game Makers (aimed at 7-11 years), will be just as successful.
I’ve had approximately 35 short stories published in various publications that include Short Stories From Black Pear, in Graffiti Magazine, as a member of Worcester Writers’ Circle, in WorcesterLitfest Flash Fiction collections, University of Worcester magazines and WWI remembrance publications.
A full list of publications can be found at www.kevinbrooke.com
I often enter short story competition and was awarded first prize in the Erewash National Short Story Competition in 2014 and the Kishboo Magazine Spring Competition in 2016. Several runners up prizes, a number of commended and highly commended awards have also led to publication in competition anthologies.
Although I don’t consider myself as a poet as such, I do write poetry and publications include Contour Magazine (as organised by former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Nina Lewis), on the Goodhadhood website, WorcesterLitfest publications and several collections aimed at Young People.
3. How much research do you do?
I’ve just finished a degree in Creative & Professional Writing and English Literature at the University of Worcester and one of the main things I’ve learnt is the need for proper research. Although I’d always researched in the past, I tended not to delve as much as I do now. This includes the need for visiting the place I am writing about as experiential research, to fully utilise the five senses. For example, I recently wrote a short story about a protagonist who headed into a dark forest and replicated their situation by going to a nearby wood and turning off the torch. The results of taking shorter steps as I walked, holding my arms out in front of me and a general sense of disorientation were then utilised in the story. In my opinion, people observation in cafes, bars, train stations etc. is also crucial to pick up on individual mannerisms and to create genuine dialogue. As a writer for Young People, I also try and read as many modern stories as I can to enable me to gain a general sense of what is popular at the time of writing a story.
4. What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Max & Luchia: The Game Makers, is based on a young person’s imagination. The two main characters create a world in their minds and then, after doing something special to help other people, they are given the chance to play the game they’ve created for real. The hardest aspect, therefore, was creating something a 7-11 year old would be inspired by. Fortunately, I carry out a number of creative writing workshops with young people and this gave me a sense of the fairy-tale, mythical world they created in their stories. After that, it was about creating the imagery that a child would relate to. For example, instead of an adult description based on feelings to describe “a beautiful night’s sky” I tried to use clearer, descriptive phrases such as the one I heard an 8 year old use about the sky being “filled with a thousand stars”.
5. Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
In giving advice to a writer, J K Rowling has been quoted as saying “Write the story as well as you can, revise it, refine it, and if it still seems alive to you, you’re done” and I tend to offer this advice creative workshops for young people. For me, if this means leaving gaps between revisions to ensure the story has had chance to grow then so be it. I wouldn’t particularly use the time-span of one month, but enough time for a few ideas to develop or for external influences to enter the story.
6. Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
If you are going to write a children’s story, make it current. Winnie the Pooh was successful in 1926 because of the world in which it was set, but if you’re going to write a children’s story now, read a few that are fast-paced, modern and relevant to young people today. I made this mistake and spent an entire year writing a story that I wanted to read as an adult. The agents and publishers who rejected it (and these are the kind ones that replied) said, in a nutshell, “Go away and read some children’s stories that have been written in the last ten years.” They were right.
7. How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Although I use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the aim is always to direct people back to my website www.kevinbrooke.com
8. What do you do to relax?
I am a member of a local contemporary choir called Voices Unlimited. The photograph I have used for this (taken by nature, landscape an event photographer, Jodie Stilgoe) is from a show entitled ‘Welcome to the 60s’ in which I played Davy Jones at The Swan Theatre in September 2018. I also use this photo (and similar) for marketing purposes and send it to schools to introduce myself as someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously. As for singing itself, as well as being therapeutic, I find there is something in its very act of self-expression that helps with my writing.