1. What was your inspiration for this book?
The first seed of the idea came to me the night I lost my job in 2009. It was a scary idea, but it was a scary time, so I figured why not? I'm glad I made that choice. The idea for a fun and fantastic adventure novel, if anything, sounded like something to occupy my time while I suffered my unemployment. I looked back at the books I had enjoyed reading while growing up, and I even pulled out some of my old notebooks from when I was a teenager, and there it was--the kernel of the story, written in my own teenage handwriting: “What makes bad people bad?” Simon’s story, by and large, is about that question.
2. Would you classify your writing as plot driven or character driven?
70% plot driven, 30% character driven.
3. Can you tell us a little about your main character?
Simon is a fourteen-year-old who suffers a near-death experience and as a result is pulled into the world of magic and monsters. He’s an adopted son who has to learn the truth about his family. He’s a loner who has to learn to trust others, and he has the potential to become a very powerful wizard. But, unlike most teenagers, his problems could have literal earth-shattering consequences. Also, he likes waffles.
4. Which of your supporting characters was the most challenging to write?
Fellis Boeman, the Boogeyman. Boeman is the primary antagonist of Bad Apple, and I went to great pains to write somebody who wasn’t just a cardboard villain. I wanted him to have depth and conflict. I wanted a conflicted, complex character. Lots of what I came up with for him will be dealt with in future books. Then there was the language aspect--I wanted his manner of speaking to be dynamic and charismatic while still be terrifying. That’s a hard line to walk!
5. Without giving away too much, tell us a little about the main conflict in this book.
The main conflict comes when Simon’s adopted father is abducted by a supernatural monster, and Simon sets out to rescue him. It’s a flip on the kidnapping story--the parent is the one who is kidnapped, and the kid is the hero.
6. Why did you choose this genre?
Because it’s the most fun I’ve found, and it resonated the strongest with the story I wanted to tell.
7. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
First and foremost, I hope they have fun. I had fun writing the story, and my primary goal is to entertain. Beyond that, I hope any teenage readers would see that you can find strength in the darkness. My own coming of age went through some very dark stuff, and I wish I had a character like Simon to relate to and draw courage from. In a lot of ways, I wrote Simon to give my own teenage self strength, and I hope that comes across to those who would need it.
8. Who are your favorite authors?
Neil Gaiman, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, David Sedaris, Edgar Rice Burroughs.
9. Do you have any interesting rituals or habits when you write?
The Locking of the Door and the Turning Off of the Phone. Like many beginning writers, I was once into the ornate rituals, but they quickly became counter-productive. In my view, you’re just conditioning yourself to live a life where there is a right time and a wrong time to be writing. I’ve known too many writers who hamstrung themselves because of things like, “Oh I can’t write unless I’m listening to my favorite jazz album and eating my favorite ice cream.” All they’re doing is limiting themselves with this attitude. That being said, I do tend to wear my lucky Thor t-shirt when I’m writing. That might just be a lucky laundry coincidence though.
10. Can you tell us about any future projects?
Well, I’m working on a sequel to Bad Apple, titled Revenant Moon, which takes Simon and his mentor on their first assignment. Outside of the Warnerverse I am working on a teenage mystery series called Pepperoni Noir, and a detective series featuring a fallen angel.
Connect with Clay online at:
I'm Clay Held, a refugee from wild world of video game testing, currently a project manager passing my days in the wild (and very flat) plains of Central Illinois. Once upon a time I was the editor for Grassroots Literary Magazine at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where I earned my Bachelors of Arts in Creative Writing. Today I help make sure software ships on time, and at night I'm busy making things up and writing them down.
In my spare time (what is that again?) I like to read and cook and play with my cats and maintain my blog at www.clayheld.com. When the weather is right, I go storm spotting. Illinois is good like that.