Basset hounds are supposed to be good at finding things and people, right? Young Jack likes to play hide and seek with his basset hound, Sam. While Dad’s working on his car in the garage and Mom’s busy in the kitchen with his baby sister, Molly, Jack tells Sam to wait in his room while he goes to hide. He knows the perfect place and he knows that Sam will never find him. It’s a small closet under the stairs, a storage space. It’s dark, dusty, and Jack’s never hidden there before. So he knows he’ll confuse poor Sam. What he doesn’t know is that in the process he’ll upset his parents who think they’ve lost him forever. And Sam? Well, he’s a dog with super powers that are supposed to help him solve problems and protect his family. Only his super powers seem to get him into more trouble than be of any help.
What are the super powers of Sam the basset hound? How will he use them to make protect his family? Monty J McClaine, has set aside some sleuthing time to undercover the miraculous powers that Sam uses to save the day. Monty, thanks for sitting down with me today. First things first, how did the supernatural Sam come to life?
I woke up one morning and the character was in my head.
It’s always nice when you’re working hard on story ideas while you sleep! How were you picturing Sam at this stage?
I originally imagined the dog as a “Walter Mitty” type character, escaping into his imagination as trouble unfolded but then I thought I could create more tension, suspense and excitement allowing the dog to call upon “Super speed” abilities.
Sam obviously needed some companion characters to keep the tension, suspense and excitement going. How did the family unfold around him?
I needed a little boy, Mom and Dad, and then I added the baby Molly and her special relationship with Sam the dog just to add a further dimension.
In your effort to add dimension it feels like you almost assigned roles to the characters. In this family, what roles do each of the family members take on?
In some ways Jack the boy had to be a good boy but with a devilish streak. Sam the dog is also loyal and unassuming. Mom being Mom and the alpha male whereas dad well he knows how lucky he is and is more than happy with not being the alpha male.
You’re created a wonderful little nuclear family here. Did you find that you used many of your own family experiences to shape the relationships and the events?
Yes in the family environment I had Mom as boss, Dad always tinkering with his car, a small boy with his trusty four legged best friend and a small young baby called Molly who can actually speak to and understand the dog Sam. They have a special bond that we exaggerate in book 4 “Come Fly with me”.
This is the first book in the series, and you’ve mentioned you’ve already written the fourth, so we can see that you’ve been hard at work for a while. What was the main objective that you were trying to achieve with this series?
They’re all clean, no bad language, sex or drugs but they all have an underlying message and that is to do with Health and Safety issues and the theme is “Be safe”. Oh, and nobody gets hurt apart from a light bulb falls onto the kitchen floor in book 6. Apart from that it’s all very safe :-)
Was creating that safe family environment the most rewarding part of writing, or were you taken more by another aspect of the writing to publishing process?
I enjoyed the reviews – I enjoyed people enjoying the books. I was over the moon when book 5 -Santa’s Rescue Dog” won the 5th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards in the “Holiday” category. Most of my books are also Story Monster Approved – and generally get “Honourable Mentions”.
It’s fantastic to see that not only have you seen positive feedback from readers, but also your books have been judged and recognised for their merits. What have you learnt on your from the start of your writing journey to where you are today?
How demanding on time the whole process can be.
What would you change to try to reduce those demands of the publishing process if you were to start again knowing what you know now?
I’d stop at a series of 6 – a 12 book series – even if they are only chapter books – takes a huge amount of time and effort.
*Laughs* So making sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew! How many of those twelve have you chewed through so far?
Well there are 12 books in the series – so I have my work cut out. To let you in on a secret though – I’m still working on number 12.
But if you’ve started working on book twelve I’m guessing you’ve at least make it to the notes stage of each of the books beforehand, so you’ve made fantastic progress. What keeps drawing you back to publish each new update to the series?
Writing allows my stories to escape from within me to you!
And with books planned, how do you keep tracking of those ideas completely escaping from you? Do you find yourself avidly taking notes?
I try not to – you can spend a long time developing and managing ideas – which can act as a distraction to my current objectives.
As you’re not using lots and lots of notes, do you have a solid plan for where each book is going?
No – I’ve known the beginning, middle and end of all 12 books – for a long time. The trouble I’ve had is sitting long enough for the stories to escape onto the paper.
Do you use any rituals that help you firstly get to your writing chair, and then get those words flowing when you sit down?
I’m a subconscious writer. I form most of my writing with my imagination – then sit down and “empty my mind”. Once this rough outline is formed – then I selectively work on details, events or scenes.
So there’s no music that you turn on to get you into the mood?
I do not have any music playing – but sometimes I do – it’s just that at one time – the music can be a distraction – at other times – a help – sounds strange I know.
Not really, sometimes it can be difficult to get into, or stay in that writing zone. What do you do when you can’t get a word out?
Take a walk. It’s amazing how many situations (both story and life) are cleared, filed and actioned during a walk. It may be the fresh air, the physical stimulation – or the differing vista – I do not know – but it always helps.
It’s probably a combination of the two, and outside in nature is where humans are supposed to be so it does make a lot of sense that a walk works so well for you resetting your thinking processes. When you’ve restored your thinking processes, returning to your writing and completed a draft, do you personally take on the task of editing?
Mainly first pass – grammar and structure. Then off to the editor for pace – trimming – suggested additions and timings.
Have you also looked into using professionals for the creation of your own ‘author brand’ round out the voice that your editor has helped you craft?
I have looked into this – and it needs an enormous effort. Writing the book is only 10% of the journey. I am however, looking back into this – using a more professional and structured approach.
Good luck working through that next 90% of the author journey! What have you learnt from the progress you’ve made through your own writing journey, and what tips can you share for other authors who are just setting out?
Do the same as you are doing – but better. Nothing comes easy – it is a lot of work – and hopefully you’ll be happy with your work. If it sells in any number – that’s a bonus – but still deserves a huge congratulatory slap on the back :-)
Indeed it does! Has your day job helped you become better at the writing and publishing games?
I am computer engineer by trade – which possibly helps with some of the situations I place the poor McClaine family into :-)
If you weren’t a computer engineer, are there any other careers that you’d like to try that you think might also have a positive impact on your writing?
Photographer – capture the moment
I really do think that professionally capturing moments through film, digital or otherwise would really help you capture moments through words. So far we’ve done a good job at capturing your personality through the lens of writing, but I feel to really see what’s lurking behind the author’s keyboard then we really need to look at more, which is why I’m going to end our interview by tossing you a few random questions from our quick fire question set. Let’s kick it off with: What is your favourite quote?
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
That’s so true. Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Be honest – be kind
Who decides what morality is?
What is your zodiac sign?
What is your favourite ocean?
Where is the line between insanity and creativity?
At the top
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
If they made a movie from your book who would you choose to play the main characters?
Not lassie :-) – Tom Cruise
*Laughs* Poor Lassie, getting passed over for one of the best dog roles to come around in quite some time! Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
That may just be it! Have you tangoed in the snow?
If that involves slipping onto your butt – then yes
If you invented a monster what would it look like and what would you call it?
I hope you’re making some modifications to this mosquito, because I don’t think that mosquitoes unchanged rate very highly on the monster scale. Add some fangs or claws to get them to rank a little higher. What happens if Batman gets bitten by a vampire?
He gets revamped
Are you left or right handed?
What is your favourite Jellybean flavour/ colour?
If all of the world is a stage, where does the audience sit?
In the middle
How are the colours in rainbows made?
What happens when you get scared half to death twice?
You’re three quarters of your way to the grave
What is your favourite flavor of ice-cream?
Yum! Now, as a writer do you have a favourite word, and if so what’s your pick?
What is your favourite line, quote or statement from your book?
Time for action!
Monty, thanks for sharing your time today, and I’ll let you return to your world of super Sam filled action!
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Super Speed Sam : Hide and Panic Stations ( ASIN: B01CO4DYXY )‘.
Want to find out more about Monty J McClaine? Connect here!