Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interview with John Rykken

Tell us about your book, Bloodwood, the Chronicles on Max Mayhem:

Fifteen-year-old Max Mayhem is a skateboarding kid in love with his
best friend, Lydia. All he wants is to live a normal life and forget
about the secret world, the Underverse. Unfortunately for him, his
neighbor, Peter, is a vampire smack in the middle of the Underverse,
and he is in dire need of assistance. Before Max knows what's
happening, he and Lydia are drawn into a hunt for Peter's missing
girlfriend, and the chase leads them to a hidden town in northern
Canada where things are not what they seem. As Max and Lydia gaze at the town's steep roofs, they realize something is horribly out of
place. But when the sun sets they realize it's too late. The sleepers
in the woods are awake and they smell blood.
Now, as darkness falls, the missing girl is the last thing on Max and
Lydia's minds, and only time will tell if they survive to see the
sunrise.
Where is your book available?

Bloodwood is available through various online retailers such as
Powell's, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It will available at brick and
mortar locations this fall.

Where did you get the idea for your book?

Many places! I've read a lot of vampire books and seen a lot of
vampire movies, so I guess the book's central premise--that of a
hidden vampire town--came from those places. But the characters, Max Mayhem and Lyida Witherton and Dr. Mayhem and Vivian, are either figments of my imagination, based on people from my life, or some combination of both.
Generally speaking, I've found that inspiration come from dozens of
sources. Sometimes it comes from something I read. Sometimes it comes from a snippet of dialog I hear when passing people on the street. Other times it comes when gazing up at a black, starry sky and then having the moment's peace broken by police sirens passing on the next block. And yet other times if comes from even stranger places: a funny picture in a comic strip, a particularly compelling description in a book. The good thing about being a writer is that you are always surrounded by potential material.

How did you come up with the title?

I brainstormed. I wrote a list of words that I associated with
vampires (e.g. blood, fangs, undead, immortal, fiend) and then wrote a list of words that related to either the characters in the novel, the
novel's setting or the novel's theme  (e.g. forest, woods, trial,
desolate, wind, melancholy, snow, woodsmoke, love lost, chess player,
skateboarder, friends). I then combined the words in varying
combinations until I came up with something that I thought catchy and somewhat original. It's a fun process and you can always come up with some interesting things: The Ravenwood Trials; A Desolate Wind; The Immortals; Love Me, Please, I'm Dead :-)
You could also pick a few evocative words that describe your central
character or the book's main idea. Or you could simply name the book after something that appears in your story, the way J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter books.
Who designed the cover?
The publisher's design department designed the cover based on some of my paintings.

Who was your inspiration for writing?

I've been inspired by many authors, story-tellers, and stories,
whether the stories were told on page, on stage or on screen. Here are a few of my favorite stories, characters and story-tellers.
Star Wars
Arthur Conan Doyle
Ernest Hemingway
Anne LaMott
Indiana Jones
Christopher Moore
Batman
Graham Greene

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have written four books. The first two were bad. The third book, The Indian Portal, was okay but not great. The most recent book,
Bloodwood, turned out well. It's my favorite.

Do you have to travel a lot for your books?

Nope, not yet. I mostly sit in coffee shops when I write, although I
did take the train to Vancouver BC to do research for Bloodwood.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I wrote my first book when I was twenty-four. I'm thirty now.

Do you think your book has the potential for a good movie?

Sure :-)

Do you have any suggestions for me on how to become a better writer?

1. Write simply.
2. Tell the truth as you understand it, as the words come to you.
3. Make your character want something, right away. (This advice comes from Kurt Vonnegut.) When your character wants something, the reader wants to know whether the character gets what he wants. This creates tension and suspense and keeps the reader turning the pages.
4. If you are stuck and can't figure out what to write next, remember
Ernest Hemingway's advice. "Do not worry," he wrote. "You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know."
5. Figure out what your character wants most in the world. Once you
know that, you'll have some idea how he might behave.
6. Pay more attention to character than plot. Plot, as Ann LaMott
said, is secondary.

About John Rykken:
John Rykken was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Early in his
college career, he spent time studying abroad in Germany before
returning to the States and receiving a degree in political science
from Portland State University. Since then he has worked various odd
jobs, including soporific stints in the insurance, retail and
restaurant industries. He has freckles and plays chess and guitar. By
his own admission, he has an occasionally dark, occasionally silly
sense of humor. He likes the wind in the trees, the city, and black
coffee. He first realized he loved books, language and the written
word in a high school English class. Bloodwood is his first published
work.

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