Author interview with Conrad Mason
The young adult/children's genre has always been of interest of me. They often feature these amazingly rich stories with great usage of fantasy element that allow you just dream of into them. The Tales of the Fayt is exactly like this. The Demon's Watch (book one) and The GOblin's Gift (book two) are amazing experiences for younger readers, they have a great set of protagonists and Conrad Mason uses the storyline and perspectives of the protagonists Joseph and Tabitha in a superb manner. Making it a journey of self-discovery, showing whats good and whats wrong, which will make the younger readers think twice when acting rash or being hard/bullying on someone. But above all the Tales of the Fayt is an piratesque adventure with the Half Goblin Joseph in the lead! It's magical, dynamic and a whole bunch of fun to read!
I was born in 1984, grew up in Oxford, went to school in Abingdon and studied Classics at Cambridge. When I left I was sure I was going to be an actor or a theatre director. The idea of writing a book hadn't even crossed my mind.
I didn't get very far with acting, but I did manage to find a job in publishing. I enjoyed it so much that I kept going. I became an editor at Usborne and wrote books about dinosaurs, the Second World War, polar bears... Did you know they have black skin? I know a lot about polar bears. I was also a volunteer reader at a local school for charity.
Somewhere along the way, I realised that what I'd loved about acting was telling stories. And by writing, I could tell all of the story myself. It was like being the actors and the director (and the playwright, producer and set designer) all at the same time. I began getting up early every morning and tapping away at my laptop. Two years later, I finished my first novel - The Demon's Watch.
Nowadays I live in London with my girlfriend and work as an editor at Working Partners, creating children's fiction. I like to read, run and play the mandolin. Some of my favourite books are the Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams, Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan and the Arthur books by Bernard Cornwell.
Hi Conrad welcome to The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions.
BP: First off, could you tell us a bit more about yourself? What do you like to do in your spare time, your work and hobbies?
CM: I work most of the week for an awesome company which creates and sells children’s fiction to publishers. We spend a lot of time sitting around and discussing stories... I love it! I have one day spare for writing, and I also write in the mornings before work and occasionally in the evenings and at weekends. I like to squander what little spare time remains by playing mandolin or going for runs if I’m feeling energetic. And I’ve just discovered Breaking Bad, which has been a disaster for my productivity.
BP: Tales of the Fayt has many fantasy elements, like the shapeshifters, Ogre’s, Trolls, Goblins, Fairies and a lot more but it all is featured in a piratesque setting, how did you come across this idea to write about?
CM: I’ve had the basic idea knocking around for ages. I was a massive Tolkien fan when I was young, and my family used to go to Cornwall every year on holiday. I remember going for long walks along the cliffs during which I’d imagine being attacked by elvish highwaymen, defending the beaches from shiploads of trolls, discovering a magician who lived in a lighthouse...
BP: The Demon’s Watch was your debut book. The whole story in The Goblin’s Gift feel much more confident; did you approach writing the sequel in a different manner?
CM: Thank you! I wrote the Goblin’s Gift in half the time because I had a publishing contract for it and, hence, a deadline. I think that actually helped in some ways. I wanted it to be a pacy adventure and writing it quickly gave it a certain momentum. I also went down fewer blind alleys because I had more of an idea what a blind alley looked like. Writing The Demon’s Watch was an exploratory process because, to put it bluntly, I didn’t always know what I was doing.
BP: Why did you choose to start writing children’s books and not an adults book?
CM: Actually, I didn’t know it would be a children’s book when I started it. I wanted to write a big, swashbuckling adventure story with some funny bits and some scary bits, that entertained me, if no one else. I’m delighted that children have been enjoying it, but I know quite a few adults who’ve enjoyed it too!
BP: What was your biggest challenge in writing this series so far?
CM: There are a lot of characters and a lot of points of view, which makes the stories quite complex. I like that – I think it makes it richer – but it does make the plot hard to keep track of at times.
BP: Did you encounter any difficulties along writing the books?
CM: Yup, every difficulty you can think of! The hardest thing with the first book was just to keep going. You’ve got no guarantee that the thing is ever going to see the light of day, and so every time you hit a problem you think, well, I could just pack it in. The problem is, there’s always something to do that’s easier than writing – a tv show to watch, a book to read, a sandwich to eat... And of course, there’s the dreaded lure of the internet. It’s really incredible that writers get anything done at all.
BP: The storyline so far has been one great adventure. Which part of the series did you liked most to write about?
CM: I love writing the last few chapters of the books, where the plot strands all come together and things get really exciting. I also love any scene with Slik the fairy in. Slik’s a natural born troublemaker, so basically when I’m writing him I think, what’s the most inappropriate thing for someone to say at this point? And then I have him say it.
BP: If you would be given the chance to rewrite any of the scenes of the series would you do so? If yes, which part and why?
CM: Oh wow, I’d probably rewrite all of it! This is the curse of writing. As you get better, everything you’ve written previously seems like it could do with just another few little tweaks. But that’s the way it is. I’m immensely proud of both books, even if I’ll always wish I could have just one more round of edits...
BP: The children’s book segment has many books, where do you think your books draw their strength from? So if you would have to sell your book what are the key features?
CM: I like to think of the Tales of Fayt as a fantasy series that’s primarily about the characters rather than about the world that they live in. Some fantasies place a lot of emphasis on the mechanics and details of the invented world at the expense of the story. In fact one of my favourite things is when a child says to me ‘I didn’t think I liked fantasy but I liked your book.’ Having said that, perhaps an easier way of selling the books would be my own little ‘elevator pitch’: it’s like Lord of the Rings crossed with Pirates of the Caribbean!
BP: The first book in the series, The Demon’s Watch, introduced us to both Joseph and Tabitha and were shows in a great way both singular and taken together. The boys find themselves in Joseph and the girls in Tabitha, did you plan this in advance or did the characters grew into their parts?
CM: I didn’t plan it, but it’s great that it’s there. I was a bit worried that the book would only be enjoyed by boys, but that’s not the case at all – I was completely wrong to assume it would be a ‘boy’s book’ in the first place. Tabitha is a very cool character, I think.
BP: If you read the books carefully and especially the parts of Joseph and Tabitha it seems that you have hidden some messages in how they act and react to certain events, they hold some wise lessons. Did you add those on purpose or did they just happen to be?
CM: I wanted the main characters to be likeable but also realistic. So Joseph and Tabitha have flaws. Joseph is incredibly courageous in the way he tries to create a better life for himself, but he can be selfish at times (particularly in The Goblin’s Gift). Tabitha is fiercely loyal to her friends, but she has a temper. I don’t think of the books as teaching lessons, but I hope readers will recognise what’s good about these characters, and what’s not so good.
BP: What do you like most about writing fantasy?
CM: It’s fun writing this kind of ‘traditional’ (for want of a better word) fantasy because it comes with a lot of expectations. For instance, most people have an idea of what a wizard is like – old, long white beard, pointed hat – and as a writer you can have fun with those expectations (eg instead of being an old man, a wizard could be a school boy who lives under the stairs, has a pet owl... etc). But fantasy is a very broad term, and really all fiction is fantasy when you get down to it.
BP: Tales of Fayt is a planned series, there are two books released so far, have you already plotted how many books the series will run, and can your reveal a bit of what might be in store for us?
CM: I’m actually working on a prequel at the moment in the form of a comic, drawn by the incredible artist David Wyatt, who did the covers of the books. It’s about the Demon’s Watch before the events of the first book, and it stars Tabitha rather than Joseph. The plan is for it to run initially in the Phoenix children’s comic, then hopefully it will be published as a comic book in its own right. As for the books themselves, there’ll be one more, which I’m writing at the moment. It’s based in a huge city – Azurmouth – rather than Port Fayt, where the first two books are set. In fact everthing about it is bigger, as befits the final book in the series! I might write further stories at some point, but I haven’t any plans to at the moment.
BP: Are you working on any other projects besides Tales of the Fayt?
CM: Nope! The third book and the comic are keeping me busy. When they’re done I’ll probably do something very different. I have a few ideas...
BP: and lastly if you would have to recommend your five favourite books which would they be.
CM: Argh, favourites! I don’t really have favourites. Or I do, but they change every day. Right. Here, now, today, I recommend these wonderful books: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Skellig by David Almond. The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. Coraline by Neil Gaiman. And the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.
BP: Thank you for your time Conrad and looking forward to read about the further adventures of Joseph.
CM: Thank you for having me!
Learn more about Conrad Mason at his website
Learn more about Conrad Mason at his website