THE CRAFT OF WRITING – MAY 2023
THE CRAFT OF WRITING – MAY 2023
I’m excited to continue this year on the CRAFT OF WRITING blog by focusing on authors who write series. This month, we welcome back my good friend, Steve Hooley, physician, craftsman, and author of the Mad River Magic fantasy series.
Again this month, we’re doing something fun for this interview. The name of each person who enters a comment will be put into the drawing for one of Steve’s hand-crafted pens made from wood that was around before the Civil War, so join the conversation and earn a chance to win.
(Because of the expense to mail internationally, only people with mailing addresses within the United States are eligible to win. Former winners are excluded from the drawing.)
I’ll post the name of the winner in the comments tonight around 9 PM CDT, so don’t forget to stop by to see if you won!
Here’s a look at Steve’s Mad River Magic fantasy series::
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Welcome back, Steve, to the Craft of Writing blog and thank you for joining us!
Thanks for inviting me, Kay. It’s good to be back.
Give us a little background. When did you first start writing?
I got a taste of the fun of fiction in high school, when we had a new English teacher, created a ghost student, and turned in assignments that pushed the limits of acceptability. It was great fun hearing her read the stories and entertain the class.
I got truly serious about writing in 2009, when my father was turning 90, had dementia, and had an unedited copy of his memoirs that had not been published. I spent that summer editing and organizing his book, self-published it, and presented a box of his books to him on his birthday. He didn’t understand what was happening, but the joy on his face as he autographed his books was priceless.
That hooked me on writing, and I began taking correspondence courses, reading every craft book I could get my hands on, and attending writer’s conferences.
This year we’re concentrating on writing series, and I know a little of the history of your work. Please share why you decided to write the series.
I had two unpublished books (adult thrillers). A small press had accepted the first book, then went bankrupt before it was published. I found an agent, who promptly forgot me. I had been following The Kill Zone, and decided it was time to go indie. I also realized that what I wanted to do was write for my grandchildren. The oldest were just starting school and kindergarten. I thought I would aim for 6-10 books and write middle-grade fantasy, hoping to have the series finished by the time my grandchildren were old enough to enjoy them.
Can you give us an overall description of the series?
The Mad River Magic series is “clean teen” fantasy, set in rural western Ohio, where I live. Each story is set in a different fantasy “organ system” (heart, skin, DNA, skeletal, immune system, etc.). Seven to nine cousins fly magic barrel carts (55-gallon oil drums with “turbo-levitators”), practice magic based on the Shawnee language (the Native Americans who lived in this area), and set out on missions to solve problems that are destroying the Mad River Valley.
There are six published books in the Mad River Magic series. How do you keep the series fresh, book after book?
Using different organ systems with each book means that the gang will have a new fantasy world to explore with each book. The number of grandchildren has grown as I’ve written, and each book has a different group of cousins going on the adventure to create different personality dynamics. Each book has a new major ally that is crucial in their survival and success. And the books are full of hidden symbolism for older readers who care to look for it.
How do you handle the situation where a reader jumps into the middle of a series without reading the first book or two?
That is a significant problem with so many cousins in the stories. I had asked the experts at The Kill Zone for their opinion of a “series update” – a chapter or a section of the appendix with a summary and background. The overall consensus was, “Don’t do it.” But with my last book, Perfect Strand, I lost a beta reader because of her frustration. I decided to depend on my own judgement, and added a section in the appendix with a description of each cousin, the family tree, and a tease about each of the previous books. I placed a very brief Preface as chapter one, letting readers know that a series update was available in the appendix, then got out of their way. I still introduce each cousin, when they appear in the story with a brief summary and background.
The latest book in the series is Perfect Strand. Give us an idea of what this book is about.
The theme is the Covid “religion.” An ancient wizard, Vid, at the end of the dark ages, learns that he can pass traits from one generation of dragon flies to the next with his primitive genetic experiments. He determines to pass his genetic code into the future and become immortal by freezing dragonfly larvae and storing them from 1313 to 2020 high in the Transylvania mountains, ready to be unleashed on the world by his descendant, Vid VII.
The Mad River Magic cousins become involved when mammoth Nautilus shells begin popping up in the Mad River Valley, each shell filled with prisoners who have been captured to further spread Vid’s genetic code. When Scout, member of the Mad River Magic group, is captured, the gang goes into action.
How far do you intend to take the series?
My next book, based on the underground world of Central American fentanyl trafficking, may be my last book of the series. I am eager to start an adult thriller series that has captured my imagination.
What advice would you give an author who’s considering writing a series?
First, make certain that is something you are really passionate about and will hold your interest for years. Look for an arc for the whole series that will hold it together, but still give you freedom to keep introducing new elements. Don’t make the mistake I did of having too many characters to confuse the reader. Consider a “series update” in the appendix, announced with a very brief note at the beginning. And use the brief description of each book as a tease to interest readers in going back and reading earlier books. Consider who your beta readers will be. I have found that it is very difficult to get teenagers to find the time to beta read, when they are involved in sports and other after-school activities. Also, consider giving away a novella or short story, that introduces and gives some of the history of the main character. This can be delivered free by BookFunnel.
Tell us more about you. What interests do you have outside of writing?
I have always been intrigued by the inventive process, working with woodworking, landscape design, graphic design, house design, and finally writing. My current interests are writing, woodturning (legacy pens), and caring for my wood lot – my enchanted forest.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My website is – SteveHooleyWriter.com – where you can learn more about my books, and see some of the legacy pens I have made from historical wood and offer for sale.
If you sign up for my newsletter, you can get a free novella, Bolt’s Story, that is a prequel to the Mad River Magic series.
Thank you, Steve, for being with us today.
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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. Each of the six books in the series finds a group of young cousins in a new adventure. The books are:
THE HEMLOCK, a middle-grade fantasy set in rural Western Ohio. THE TETRA-CHROME SPIRAL-SKYWAY is set in a giant DNA molecule above the Mad River Valley. CRYPTOFLUX CALCIUM CAPER takes place in a large cavern along the Mad River Valley. HEART BRAIN 180 plays out in a giant circulatory system inhabited by giant chess pieces and playing cards. UNITED WE STAND, DUDE! takes place in the skin and subcutaneous world. PERFECT STRAND is set in a giant Nautilus shell and is centered around the Vid religion.
Steve’s other works include entries in the anthologies OUT OF THE STORM, DANCING UP A STORM, and FAITH LIKE A MUSTARD SEED.
He also contributed to CHILDHOOD REGAINED, a charity anthology to raise money for and awareness of child labor in Asia.
Steve lives with his wife, Cindy, in rural western Ohio. They have five children and nine grandchildren. When not writing, he makes legacy pens and takes care of his enchanted forest. To learn more, please visit SteveHooleyWriter.com.