The Craft of Writing — February 2022


The Mad River Magic Series with Dr. Steve Hooley


I’m excited to continue this year’s CRAFT OF WRITING blog where we’re focusing entirely on mystery, suspense, thriller, and fantasy novels. 

My guest today is Dr. Steve Hooley. Steve is a retired physician who has written the Mad River Magic YA Fantasy Series and has agreed to share his journey with us. So grab your magic wands, hop in your barrel cart, and get ready for a wild ride into fantasy land!

You can find the series at



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Steve Hooley is a physician/writer. He has published seven short stories in four anthologies, his father’s memoirs, and is currently working on a middle-grade fantasy series, Mad River Magic.

Steve lives with his wife, Cindy, in rural western Ohio. They have five children and seven grandchildren. When not writing or practicing medicine, he likes to do woodturning and care for his enchanted forest.


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Welcome Steve Hooley, and thank you for joining us!

Thank you for the invitation.

A physician’s life doesn’t sound like it would leave a lot of time for writing. Can you tell us why you decided to write?

I became interested in high school, but set aside the humanities for science and math in college, so that I could pursue medicine. When my father was 89 (with severe dementia), and our family was planning a 90th birthday celebration for him, I edited a memoir he had written years before and never published. I gave him a box of his books on his birthday. Even though he didn’t understand, the look on his face gave me the desire to get into writing again. I took a correspondence course, began going to writers’ conferences, and reading everything I could get my hands on. Until retirement about a year ago, I wrote on Wednesdays and weekends. Now, I am excited to be able to writer every day.


What inspired you to write a YA fantasy series? Did you know it would be a series from the start?

About four years ago, I became frustrated with the direction children’s literature was going. I had six grandchildren at that point (seven now, and another one on the way) and I wanted them to have some clean and wholesome literature to read when they became middle-grade and teen-young adult. I also wanted to give them something that would last generations. I call it leaving a legacy.

I did plan for a series from the beginning. (See below.)


You have some very interesting characters in Mad River Magic. How did you create them?

The main characters are based on the seven cousins (my grandchildren), and it has been fun watching them grow up and see what kind of personalities they are developing. The main character, Bolt, is the “red-headed daredevil on crutches.” I noticed that many of the fantasy series gave the main character a handicap. I gave Bolt Becker Muscular Dystrophy, a form with late onset and possible sparing of the shoulder muscles. This allowed him to function on crutches and provided a need for magic flying barrel carts. Other recurring characters are allies who embody wisdom, knowledge, healing, etc. The really strange characters that are unique to each book are “created” according to the need of the theme and plot – the stranger and more unusual the better.


How do you incorporate your knowledge of medicine into your books?

Each book is set in a biological/anatomical system. For example, the first book is set in the conscience (abstract), the second on a giant DNA molecule, the third in the skeleton, the fourth in the cardiovascular system, and the 5th (not yet published) in the skin. The system is picked according to the theme of the book.


Do you have plans for future Mad River Magic books?

Yes. #5 is in editing and beta reading. I plan for another five or six. The next one will probably be set in the muscular system, with a theme of the dangers of sedentary (pandemic) lack of activity and exercise.


I know you’re interested in honing your craft. What resources do you use to become a better writer?

I read craft of writing books along with fiction. I’ve attended many conferences, and will probably resume going when the pandemic craziness has settled. I am fortunate to be associated with some very talented fellow bloggers at The Kill Zone blog, and learn a lot from them. I follow some writers’ blogs and newsletters. And I’m always on the lookout for new resources.


What advice would you give an aspiring author of YA Fantasy?

I would encourage them to read several of the successful series, ex. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc. Look for some of the most popular books on writing specifically for YA, and for Fantasy. Then look for general fiction writing classics. Start with James Scott Bell’s books on craft. And maybe follow a craft blog, like the Kill Zone, where they can interact and ask questions.


Where can we find out more about you and your work?

My author page is here 

My website is

And I write a blog at The Kill Zone every other Saturday.


Thank you, Steve, for being with us today.

Thank you for the invitation. It was a pleasure!

Flying barrel carts, magic wands, and YA fantasy today on the Craft of Writing blog. Click To Tweet



  • Good morning Kay & Steve!

    I think Steve’s idea of setting his YA fantasy series in a biological/anatomical system is one of the most original concepts I’ve seen. Talk about world building! What a great way to bring your medical knowledge forward and help young adults learn more about their bodies and overcoming physical weaknesses.

    I’m always interested in the experiences of writers who followed their passion while still obligated in another career or full-time job. (Probably because that’s my situation.) Steve, you mentioned writing on Wednesdays and weekends while you were still practicing. Can you tell us what your writing process is like now that you’re writing full time? Are you strict in keeping a daily schedule. I fear I would be very prone to giving in to distractions.

    Thank you again for sharing about your work and writer’s life!


    • Good morning, Lisa, and thanks for stopping by. I am always in awe of those who can write while still working a full-time job. Good for you.

      And let me know how that third novel is coming along.

  • debbieburkewriter

    Thanks for hosting Steve, Kay!

    Steve, your story about your dad’s memoir and giving him the box of books brought a lump to my throat. Probably the best present you ever gave him.

    I’ve long admired the reason behind your current series–a legacy for your grandchildren.

    One suggestion: install seat belts and shoulder harnesses in those magic barrel carts b/c you take readers on wild adventure rides!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Debbie.

      For those who don’t know, Debbie Burke, Steve Hooley and I are the “Partners in Crime – Authors conspiring to write great books.” Steve covers fantasy, Debbie writes thrillers, and I take care of mysteries. Our books are a steal. (Okay, I’ll stop now.)

      I’m looking forward to next month, Debbie, when you will be my guest. Have a great day.

  • Thanks, Lisa for stopping in and commenting. About the world building; it’s been fun using the anatomical systems. My wife let’s me know when I go too far “into the weeds.”

    My schedule for writing, now that I’m retired from medicine, has been strict. I’m a morning person and more creative in the mornings, so I have a fairly regimented routine of getting up early and getting to the writing. I try to put all the distractions aside until the afternoon.

    I hope you are able to continue following your writing passion, and sometime have the “luxury” of pursuing it full time.

  • Thanks, Debbie. Good idea with the seat belts. I have a sibling that tells me I need to start inventing another type of flying device for Bolt when/if his muscular dystrophy worsens. I’ve chosen, since this is a fantasy series, to instead allow Bolt’s rite-of-passage ceremony give him a pause in the progression of his disease.

    Bolt’s drive and fearless attitude, reminds me of your main character, Tawny. She’s amazing. I wouldn’t want to be at odds with her.

    Thanks for your comment, Debbie.

    • debbieburkewriter

      You absolutely don’t need to age your characters any more than you want to, or worsen Bolt’s condition. After all, Nancy Drew stayed 16 through dozens of books!
      Thanks for your kind words about Tawny. Maybe she and Bolt should meet up??? And invite Reen from Kay’s book!

  • I love that you give your hero a handicap. I would have loved to have you series when my nephew (who had spina bifida) was growing up. I now have an eleven-year-old grandchild who wants to write fantasy. I’m going to send her one of your books. 🙂

    • Wow, Pat. Thank you! And thanks for stopping by today. If your granddaughter inherits any of her grandmother’s writing talent, she should be very successful.

    • Hi Patricia, Glad you stopped by. How fortunate for your grandchild that she has you for a grandmother! She has an expert to help her with her writing. Best of luck to her!

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