9 May 2014

Q&A with Maximillian Timm - author of The WishKeeper

Max is a risk averse, blindly ambitious, forcefully sure-footed writer who continuously laughs at his ability to avoid confrontation. It is, however, equally comical that he chose a profession within the world of the arts and entertainment since his aforementioned 'misbehaviors' are constantly challenged.

Q: Describe yourself in 3 wordsA: Committed. Stubborn. Methodical (These could easily be considered “negatives”, and in some ways inter-related, but it sums up my personality quite well. I do these things with inspiration and love, of course, and always keep my values at the top of my priority list. In such a competitive artistic field such as writing, one must keep a balance!)

Q: 3 funny facts about youA: A) I have driven across the United States, from Chicago, IL to Los Angeles, CA, 10 times - nine of those times by myself, and in eight different cars. That is a total of roughly 22,000 miles. That’s about 10% of the distance between us and the moon.
B) I have held 14 different jobs since January, 2000 (none of them include any freelance writing assignments I’ve worked…which are many).
C) I grew up in a tiny town (population of about 6,000) that was the circus capital of the U.S. in the early 1900’s. Directly across the street from my house was the Clown Hall of Fame, and less than a block away was the town park…which had a statue of a giraffe, and a statue of a an elephant with a clown between its legs. All of the drinking fountains in town were the open mouths of lions. All of these monuments are still there today.

Q: Why did you choose to become an author?A: Because I couldn’t play professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs. I am kidding of course, but in some ways it is partially true. I grew up as an athlete and really didn’t focus on the arts until I was in college. Telling stories, though, always came naturally to me. Storytelling never felt as if I was being artful or creative; I was simply being myself. My father has always been a gifted storyteller and listening to him telling stories around the dinner table was always a highlight of the week - it still is.
By the time I made it through my first year of college, I could tell I was coming into my own a bit. Most 18 and 19 year old kids go through this life affirming stage during college, and while I didn’t feel as though I was suddenly breaking free from any bindings or boundaries, I did at least feel more comfortable with who I was and therefore my creative and artistic side slowly emerged. It’s fascinating how awkward the stages of growing up can be, and as clichéd as the butterfly metaphor may be, it truly does feel like you’re a worm during your freshman year. By the time your junior or senior year rolls around, you’re spreading your wings and showing people what you can and were meant to do.
So, why did I choose to be an author? It wasn’t a conscious choice as if, one day, I sat up in bed and exclaimed, “I will be a writer!” I do remember sitting in my tiny dorm room watching Braveheart for the first time and having a realization that people make these things called movies for a living. “I want to do that!” I had no idea what “that” was, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it. After years of whittling down the movie and TV-making process, I realized that telling stories was at the core of any movie or show. After a while, I just naturally gravitated toward the writing process and finally made the decision, because I loved every bit of it, that I didn’t want to be anything else. Any other job or assignment I get that has nothing to do with the writing process is just a way to pay my bills. Writing is and will always be at the forefront of my goals and wishes.

Q: Was it your own choice to become self-published? (Why / Why not)A: For a long time I thought self-publishing was really just “vanity publishing”. It was something for people who just wanted to see their writing printed in a book. After I researched the self-publishing world and noticed how it was booming, I started to wonder why it was suddenly so popular. Like I usually do before making a decision, I did a ridiculous amount of research and compared the pro’s and con’s between the self-publishing world and the “normal” publishing world.
While it is a huge accomplishment to be published by one of the big publishers, it is not necessarily a guaranteed success story. There is an immense amount of work that goes into releasing a book - marketing, social media, book fairs and conventions, signings, advertising. What most people don’t realize is that whether you are with a major publisher or not, you will end up doing most of this work yourself regardless. Yes, a publisher will cover the cost of printing the books, and yes, they have a team of editors on hand to work through your book and make it the best it can possibly be (hopefully…and truly, the editor aspect of a big publisher is the most important element), but in the end, you are spending time publishing your book just as much as your publisher is.
People are taking self-publishing a little seriously now. By no means is it widely accepted within the literary world and for reasons I completely understand, however if approached with an extremely professional eye and with an incredible amount of patience, self-publishing a book can be extremely rewarding. I self-published The WishKeeper because it crosses genres a bit. How does a publisher market a traditional, Tinker Bell type of fairy to a young adult audience who just finished reading The Hunger Games? It is an issue a lot of agents raised when they rejected my query, actually. I have a steep uphill climb ahead of me, but I love the marketing and business side of the industry.

Q: Which authors do you turn to for inspiration?A: In a very general, open-ended answer, I turn to all authors as a source of inspiration. I know you are looking for a specific list of authors, and I definitely have that list, but every author is an inspiration. We are all in this together. We all know how difficult, and lonely, and painstaking, and heart-aching it is. The amount of energy it takes to work at something until you hate it, and then drag your slouched spine up from the floor and learn to fall in love all over again - it’s exhausting. But when you finish - especially when you have a true, doubtless feeling that what you’ve just written is actually good - the reward is monumental.
To specifically answer your question, I am a fantasy and adventure fan. I gravitate toward the big ones, of course - J.R.R. Tolkien (he is at the top of the list, for me), Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling. Most recently I fell in love with a fellow Wisconsin-based writer named, Patrick Rothfuss. He wrote the most beautifully written fantasy I have read since Tolkien. His series is called The Kingkiller Chronicles. Book one is titled The Name of the Wind, and book two is Wise Man’s Fear. I marvel at how epic his story is, and yet he pushes the reader to be so intimate with his characters. It is a rarity for a fantasy author to create such a character-based experience within a massive world. Most fantasy adventures are about the adventure, the story, the concept and backdrop. Pat’s books are all of the above.
And because he caused me to fall in love with fantasy as a kid, I have to thank James Howe for writing the middle grade (possibly a couple years younger than middle grade) series called, Bunnicula. It is easily my favorite middle grade series of books.
Ultimately, I read Lord of the Rings every year for fun, so I think that basically answers your question.

Q: Why did you choose to write about fairies?A: This could be a very long-winded answer, but I will try keep it concise. I first wrote 12 drafts of The WishKeeper as a screenplay. For years, The WishKeeper was simply called “Paragonia”, and it had nothing to do with fairies or wishes. It was, at first, centered around the human character in the book, Grayson. Grayson was the long lost prince of this fairytale world called Paragonia, only he didn’t know it. It was far too basic and the story just wasn’t “popping”. After a few rewrites and killing off characters by adding new ones, a particular minor character appeared. Her name was Shea. Shea was a fairy with a chipped wing and she was Grayson’s companion in early drafts.
After I continued rewrites, Shea kept getting louder and more prevalent (possibly, “obnoxious”) and I couldn’t shut her up. I had an issue of wanting to focus on both Grayson and Shea as main characters, but it just wasn’t working - still! I finally scrapped everything and made the decision that all of this “Paragonia” business had to go. I started from scratch. Shea turned into a broken-winged rebel hell bent on proving her worth. The wishes and the system of wish granting came later, but once I had Shea fit within that system, everything started to click.
I didn’t set out to write a story about fairies. The fairies wanted me to write their story…it took me a long time to finally give in.

Q: Describe The WishKeeper in 3 wordsA: Emotional. Unexpected. Relatable.

Q: Favorite book by another self-published author?A: I most recently read a book by Jeff Mudgett called, Bloodstains. It isn’t a fantasy adventure, or even a fictional narrative (though it has those elements). It’s a true story about how the author came to find out that he is the great great grandson of America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes. What is so intriguing about the book is how much research (an absurd amount of research) Jeff did about Holmes, and how the author believes (and proves, in my opinion) that H.H. Holmes was actually Jack the Ripper. It’s a fascinating read. I highly recommend it.

Max recently wrote a guest post about what it means being an indie author, you can read it here. Back in April I received a copy of The WishKeeper for review and I absolutely loved it and couldn't do anything else than give it 5 hearts - my review will be up tomorrow and who knows you may get a book or two yourself!

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