Q&A with Author Paul Cude
ashley | Recently, author Paul Cude reached out to us about his YA fantasy adventure series Bentwhistle The Dragon. I haven’t read a lot of fantasy, especially not about dragons, but I was really intrigued by the premise and after getting to know Paul a bit more, this was definitely a series I wanted to check out.
But this is not time for a book review! My review of the first book, Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Threat from the Past, will come tomorrow. First, I want you to get to know Paul like I did. I love hearing about how books come to be and how authors, especially those who are doing something they love without the support of a big publisher, have got to where they are. So here’s a little Q&A with Paul about his journey as an author and his adventure series!
CityGirlScapes: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Paul Cude: I’m not sure I knew, and sometimes still don’t feel like I am one, despite working many hours at it every single day. It kind of crept up on me all of a sudden. You go from having a dream about a story, to ignoring it for months, to suddenly trying to bring it to life, to completion. For me, the first book took ages, with life, two small children and everything in between, constantly trying to get in the way. But eventually I got there and the feeling was well worth the wait. Stupidly though, I spent far too much time (weeks, if not months) sitting back, patting myself on the back, waiting for the knock at the door from all the major book companies. I mean…..how stupid? How would they even know that I’d completed my work of art? I’ve learned a lot since then.
CGS: What influences your writing?
PC: My dreams and life experiences more than anything. Oddly it started with a dream. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my elder daughter was just a baby (she’s not far off 11 now) I had the single most realistic dream I’ve ever had. I didn’t remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my head…..so graphic, so intense, so…..mesmerizing. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, “You have to write it, you just have to.” At the time I just laughed off her idea, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story…….sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly…..3 months, and then, well………..I began. At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn’t a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I’ve learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. It has taken a long time, and I was surprised how hard and crucial the editing process was. But in the end it was most definitely worth it. The life experiences part is more about the human sport mentioned in the book. I’ve played field hockey for well over three decades now, and it’s changed my life beyond recognition. I have a great affection and admiration for the other sports mentioned as well, hence the reason they’re included.
CGS: What was the most exciting thing about publishing your book?
PC: The best thing without a doubt is when someone you don’t know, and have never met, gets in touch with you to tell you just how much they like your book/books. On those occasions, nothing feels better. Not only can it turn a bad day good, but it brightens your whole week, no matter what’s going on.
CGS: What have you learned as you continue to write?
PC: That it’s really a process of evolution. It and you are never standing still, never stuck in one place. The process of putting the story into words from your head gets easier at times, but the actual writing, the words on the page, never stay still, not even for a moment, currents in the wind or sea, rearranging everything on a day to day basis. I don’t doubt what, or how, I write changes every day. My mood, concentration, if I’m feeling unwell, worried, how busy I am, all change the way in which the words come out. Sometimes it’s even possible to look back after the event and see a quite dramatic change.
CGS: Where’s your favorite place to write?
PC: Normally at my computer at home. But once a week I play squash with a friend who, despite never actually being busy, always insists on making me wait about fifty minutes for him. In that time, I sit in the entrance to the local sports centre and, with a pen and notebook, lose myself in the world of Bentwhistle the Dragon without any other worries. It’s about the only time I ever find to do this.
CGS: Did anyone in particular inspire the character of Peter or his friends?
PC: The main character, Peter Bentwhistle, is loosely based around me. The lacrosse playing dragon called Richie Rump is based on one of my best friends who was captain of the England lacrosse team and is also a fantastic hockey player. A dragon shopkeeper who sells the best mantras in the world shares the same name with one of my best friends. An important human businessman who is duped, is also named for one of my best friends. Other more minor references feature other friends and acquaintances. When looking for some of the character names I used references from everything around me at the time, while sitting working at my desk. There’s a dragon called Axus….his name was gained from my Canon camera at the time, with just a tiny amendment. Also one of the bad characters is a combination of one of my favourite author’s first names and surnames combined. I now have a long list of dragon names tucked away in my computer somewhere, that I can use whenever I need.
CGS: In the book you spend a lot of time building up dragon culture. How much time did this take you and what helped inspire it? Also, what’s your favorite part of this dragon world?
PC: I suppose it’s a coming together of everything in my mind. The books I read, the films I watch, the fact that I like playing RPG’s on my computer…just everything. I go to bed at night and, as previously mentioned, my dreams seem to take over. Not all the time, but I would say one out of three nights, I dream about dragons. Sometimes I won’t remember until much later on the next day, sometimes I wake up and remember instantly. The dreams can be about anything…..the overall plot of the books and the way forward, or just some tiny little detail that I’ve missed and that matters so much. And if I ever find myself stuck with something in the plot, all I have to do is think really hard about it just before nodding off, and more often than not, I’ll have the answer the next day. Strange, but true.
CGS: Which writers inspire you?
PC: When in my late teens, I mistakenly ordered a Tom Clancy book…..Debt of Honour. I was too lazy to return it, so it sat on my bedside table for weeks. Until one evening, when I picked it up and started to read it. Many hours later I put it down, only because I needed a few hours of sleep before I went to work. I was hooked. After finishing that, I went out and bought all the other Tom Clancy books I could find. It was also about that time that the Star Wars expanded universe books started to appear. I caught sight of the first one while working in a book shop in my role of service engineer. I can remember it clearly: Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. It had a striking blue cover with some of the Star Wars characters on it, and I had to buy it there and then, in the middle of doing my job, much to the amusement of the owner of the bookshop. My love of the expanded universe has continued ever since, and as soon as the next book comes out….I have to have it. It seems my love of books goes in phases. If I have nothing to read, I wander around a bookshop until I find something I like the look of and then read it. If I get hooked, I go back and find other books by that author. Examples of this for me are Terry Goodkind and Christopher Paolini……I love all of their books. The detail, the plot……the characters….are just all amazing. I can only dream of writing as well as they do. Other authors I’ve found and loved this way include Robin Hobb, J.V. Jones, David Gemmell and Trudi Canavan, to name but a few. I love the way they use their imaginations and the worlds that they create on the pages of the book. They’re all very easy to visualise.
My favorite author of all though, is the wonderful Terry Pratchett. If you haven’t read one of his books you really should. While I love pretty much all the books he’s written, the ones about the guards of Ankh-Morpork, Captain Carrot, Sam Vimes, Corporal Nobbs, Angua and of course the Lord Vetinari, are easily my favourites. The characters themselves are described in magnificent detail, all with their own funny little ways. The plots twist and turn like a raging river, and the humour……….well, let’s just say that is exactly on my wavelength. I’ve cried with laughter on many occasions reading some of Terry Pratchett’s books, and I can’t recall doing that for any other author I’ve read. If you’re a reading fan, you really must try one of his books.
Check back tomorrow for our review of Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From The Past.