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Thanks to Chris for answering all my prying questions!
Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
I never planned to write Young Adult Urban Fantasy. When I returned to writing a couple of years ago after taking a break — to do some ‘proper’ journalism — I was well into adulthood and decided it was about time I wrote a grown up book. After completing the first draft, I showed it to a few friends and one of whom asked why I was writing a book for adults when the main character was a teenager. He suggested I try reading some young adult fiction and recommended The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I was so impressed with that book that it totally changed my attitude. Why was I wasting my time reading all these dull adult books when there was all this fantastic YA stuff I could read? My friend was right; I ditched the adult book and re-wrote it with the 15-year-old boy, Michael, at the heart of the story.
I love the genre because it is so plot-driven. Young people want a story that is interesting, draws you in and keeps you turning the pages. That’s what I wanted to write and YA gave me the chance to do that.
What research (or world-building) is required?
Mind Secrets is set in contemporary London, so I had a couple of research trips into town to recreate a few specific places which are mentioned in the novel. There’s a scene where the Perceivers — young people with mind powers — march on Parliament, so I walked from Buckingham Palace to Parliament Square making notes and taking pictures with my phone so the scene would seem authentic.
Developing the rest of the world was more tricky as this involved sitting down and working out the consequences of teenagers with special powers. If it happened in today’s society, I asked myself, what would be the result? Adults would be scared of teenagers, they would try to ‘cure’ them of their powers and this would create a tension between two segments of society.
But I also wanted to know how it had all happened. Michael, as he journeys through the story, uncovers not only the truth about his past, but also how teenagers became Perceivers in the first place, and the conspiracy to keep it quiet. As a writer, I had to know the answers ahead of time, which involved a lot of thinking, scribbling on pieces of paper and getting stuck.
But I don’t like to over-think my story or the world because some of it has to emerge in the writing. If it is an exciting journey for the writer, it is an exciting journey for the reader, and if I think of a great idea half way through, I can always go back and add it in.
Name one thing you learned from your hero/heroine.
This is a difficult one. My hero, Michael, begins the story having had his memories wiped, so he literally knows nothing. It’s difficult to learn from someone who doesn’t know anything!
There are some writers who say things like “I was half way through the novel and my character turned round and said ‘I wouldn’t do that’ and made me take the story in a whole different direction.” That’s not the way I see it. I may change my plan or discover things, but that’s because I’m spending hours thinking about the story and characters as they emerge on the page. So I learn the best way to shape the novel and to tell the story, but I don’t learn anything personally from my character because I’m the one who made him up!
Any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
I must start the day with a pot of tea made with loose leaf Assam, on a tea tray with tea strainer, tea spoon, tea spoon rest and jug of milk.
Plotter or pantser?
I have to plot out my novel first. This is a lesson I learned many years ago when I wrote a book in the white heat of excitement, got to the middle and realised I had written myself into a deep dark hole. There was no depth to the characters, to the world or to the story. After that, I decided I would always write down the plot first. I may change it as I go, but I always start with an outline because I remember that deep dark hole and it wasn’t a pleasant place to be.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
My wardrobe. I’m sitting up in bed writing this on my netbook, which I do far too often. Any sensible person would be sitting on their ergonomic chair, at their expensive height-adjustable desk and working on their more sophisticated desktop computer. But it’s Sunday morning and I don’t really want to get up yet.
Anything new coming up from you? What?
Some readers have already asked me about a sequel for Mind Secrets. It’s a self-contained novel, but I’ve left a little door open to allow me to write more, so that’s a possibility. I’ve also had an idea for a series of short stories about the characters and ideas in Mind Secrets which is begging to be written. But, then, there’s the idea for a series of time travel novels which I’ve already plotted out. I’ll sit down and write one of these things later this year, but it sort of depends how Mind Secrets goes. If it’s a huge success, that time travel idea will have to wait.
Do you have a question for our readers?
There’s been a lot of talk about the difficulty of young people being able to buy electronic books because they need things like credit cards and bank accounts to do so. Are they having to rely on parents to buy them books or give them gift cards, and is this a problem?
(c) Chris Reynolds, 2012
Mind Secrets is a compelling thriller set in a contemporary world and will appeal to anyone who's ever wondered what it's like to have mind powers.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Chris Reynolds is a lover of adventure stories. Chris spent her time growing up avidly reading them, watching them on TV and writing them in her school exercise books. She was often frustrated that stories written by other people didn’t go the way she wanted them to, so she decided to write her own. In the interim, she has worked for the BBC and independent radio as a journalist, written for magazines and some published non-fiction books. Now her stories are available for all to read, following the release of her acclaimed debut novel “Mind Secrets”.
Chris lives among the Chiltern Hills, north of London.
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