I have ANOTHER amazing interview for you today, but not with just one author, BUT TWO! TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE!
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Check it out...
Born and raised in Arkansas, Brad McLelland spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South before earning his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini-Aussie who gives hugs, a chubby cat who begs for ham, and a blind kitty with ambitions of being an Instagram celebrity.
Louis Sylvester is a professor at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. He earned his PhD from Oklahoma State University. He enjoys playing tabletop games from his collection of over 1,000 card and board games, watching western films, reading fantasy novels, and spending time with his wife and two dogs.
Dark magic meets the Old West in Brad McLelland & Louis Sylvester's The Key of Skeleton Peak: Legends of the Lost Causes, the epic conclusion to the action-adventure series!
Keech Blackwood and his fellow Lost Causes have won their share of battles, but the war against the forces of darkness still rages on.
In their final standoff against the ruthless outlaw and sorcerer, Reverend Rose, the Lost Causes face their most perilous trial yet: stopping Rose and his henchmen from retrieving the ancient, powerful objects that would return him to his full, frightening strength. As the vigilante orphans race to the dangerous depths of Skeleton Peak, the site of the Key that would free the Reverend from his wicked prison, they’ll have to outmaneuver Rose’s most faithful—and menacing—ally: a creature spawned by darkness and shadow. But ever in pursuit of justice and vengeance for their fallen families, the Lost Causes won’t give up without a fight.
Packed with rip-roaring action, adventure, and powerful friendships, this series is perfect for fans of John Flanagan's The Brotherband Chronicles and Peter Lerangis's The Seven Wonders.
Follow Brad and Louis and get the latest right here...
LEGENDS OF THE LOST CAUSES
THE FANG OF BONFIRE CROSSING
THE KEY OF SKELETON PEAK
Who are you and what do you write?
Brad: By day, I’m proud to say I work as a technical editor and writer at Fire Protection Publications in Oklahoma, a company that publishes fire and emergency services manuals for an international market. So that means I get to hang out with firefighters and take interesting classes (such as Firefighter academy). On the fiction side, I write action-packed middle-grade adventures with my pard, Louis. I’m also a stepdad, husband, musician, and jigsaw puzzle fanatic.
Louis: I am an associate professor at Lewis-Clark State College. In addition to writing thrilling fiction with my partner Brad, I like to dabble in screenwriting and game design.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
Brad: I remember writing my first short story when I was 10 (it was about a haunted rocking chair, and it was spooky), so I’ve been dealing in words for most of my life. I didn’t get serious about writing until around my sophomore year in college, and I didn’t get SUPER serious until a few years after that, when I became a journalist at my hometown newspaper. Once I began to understand people, and once I realized I could tell an effective story complete with emotions and three dimensions, the writing bug sank its teeth in and hasn’t let go.
Louis: I’ve always loved to read and would simply devour fantasy books when I was young (I still do!) The more fantastic stories I read, the more I was inspired to create stories of my own. I started writing before I was a teenager and spent years developing my skills before writing the Legends of the Lost Causes series with Brad.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
Brad: Like many other writers out there, my journey started slowly and progressed gradually, as I learned more and more about the craft of fiction and the publishing industry (both being long lessons which don’t come overnight). I spent the bulk of my 20s deep in these lessons, drafting and revising short stories, sending them out to webzines, being rejected, reading “how-to” books on publishing, pulling my hair out over query letter drafts. Then in 2010, while I was finishing my MFA in creative writing at Oklahoma State University, my grad school friend and colleague (you guessed it: Louis!) and I began our Legends of the Lost Causes collaboration. We poured our hearts and souls into it, and in 2013, we struck a mine vein of good fortune. We landed our literary agent, a wonderful gentleman named Brooks Sherman. Fast forward a few more years—through lots of life and several manuscript revisions with Brooks as our guide—and Team Lost Causes arrived at our ultimate destination and dream-come-true. We signed a 4-book deal with Henry Holt for Young Readers. In terms of the actual collaboration, Louis says it best . . .
Louis: One of the best things about writing is getting to discover the adventure your characters have before anyone else. I love discovering what Keech and the gang are up to when I’m writing. Then I love seeing the book in print and realizing other people will get to share in the journey.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
Brad: For me, the hardest part has been the colossal learning curve I faced when entering the publishing industry. When you start as a professional author, whether self- or traditionally published, chances are good you’ve been thrown into the “deep end” with very little knowledge to guide you. I know I can speak for Louis when I say we had to learn everything from the ground up: how to understand contracts, how to decipher royalty statements, how (and when) to negotiate with our editor for manuscript or art changes, how to work with teachers and librarians to build successful school visits, you name it. I think even long-established authors will tell you there’s always something new to learn, and keeping up with that tidal wave of information can feel impossible at times. But therein lies the most enjoyable part too: the learning of a massive, exciting industry. It can feel quite overwhelming, but when I allow myself to enjoy the journey, I discover that the daily interactions and choices are such a delight to experience.
Louis: The best part of my job has been working with Brad. He’s been an incredible partner, full of exciting ideas. Whenever I felt stuck, he helped me and vice versa. The Legends of the Lost Causes series is so fun because of our partnership. The most difficult part of writing is when you have to cut pages out of your early drafts because they are not serving the story. It stinks to have to delete dozens of pages, but Brad and I are determined to publish only the best work we can produce.
Brad again: Forget I said all the other stuff. Working with Louis is the best part!
Would you go back and change anything?
Louis: There are always little word choices I want to change, but a writer can never be 100% satisfied. At some point the words have to be released into the world. I would not change the overall story, though, because I love Keech and Duck and the others and I think their adventures are cool.
Brad: Now that I’ve had a couple years to practice, I would probably go back to 2016 (the year Louis and I signed our contract) and do a better job building my social media platform. I feel like I missed several good opportunities to earn more readers and colleagues, so I would hop in my time machine (a DeLorean, naturally) and head to Twitter to apply the skills I’ve learned since releasing our first book. (I guess I could fight a little 2016 crime while I’m there.)
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
Louis: I’d like to still be writing books, of course. Our plan is to step away from the Lost Causes for now, but maybe in the years to come Brad and I will have an opportunity to write more stories about the continuing adventures of Keech and company. I think it would be interesting to see what they get up to as adults.
Brad: Well, Louis and I owe one more book (a standalone) to Henry Holt, so we'll most likely be publishing our fourth book in 2022. At the same time, I’m hoping the next five years will see the publication of my first solo project, a novel I’ve had on my heart for a long time. Over the next 10 years, I would love to write another series (or two) with Louis, if good fortune allows, and more solo books of my own. But for now, we just hope for a fantastic release of our third and final book in the Lost Causes trilogy.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Brad: Don’t be afraid to mess up. As I mentioned before, the publishing industry can be a fickle, challenging beast, a landscape full of just as many pitfalls as celebrations, so don’t be afraid to trip on your laces from time to time. Tripping, even falling, is part of the natural process and never the end, and luckily, the publishing world is chock-full of wonderful people willing to help you get back up. Embrace your writing community and try not to let new contacts grow cold. Keep in touch; let people hear your voice. But also know that when you need to step away, the industry and your colleagues and community will always be there, eager for your work, ready to welcome you back into the fold.
Louis: Writing is revision. Professional writers work on every sentence ten or twenty times to make sure every word is exactly perfect. Don’t get discouraged if your first draft isn’t flawless. No one ever writes a perfect first draft. Just write and then spend time making every sentence great. And don’t be afraid to cut sentences that don’t help the story.
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo?
Brad: Ketchup on hot dogs (I know, I know, gross, right?), mayo on cheeseburgers and sandwiches.
Louis: Ketchup on fries (never hot dogs!), mayo on burgers.
Night or Day?
Brad: I’m a night owl. I do my best writing in the dead of night (I also love to watch spooky movies at night, when it’s quiet).
Louis: When I was younger, I loved the night. Now I like to be awake all the time, both day and night.
Inside or Outside?
Brad: Outside, for sure. Whether that means walking around my neighborhood, playing in the yard with my stepdaughter, or sitting on my back porch, I have to be outside or I get fidgety.
Louis: Inside. That’s where I keep my stuff!
Dogs or Cats?
Brad: My family and I are cat fanatics, all the way (though we still love our pup). We have two stubborn, beautiful kitties and a very fluffy mini-Aussie. One of the cats is a blind kitty named Ophelia, who gets more attention than I do.
Louis: Dogs. I have two dogs. They are named Cake and Muse.
Twitter or Facebook?
Brad: I’ve gone back and forth with my social media habits over the years, but in the end I choose Twitter. I still use Facebook, but I’m scared of its political leanings and feel turned off to the point where I wish I could quit (and someday I just might). Though Twitter can also get too political and petty, I think I’m able to wield it better, and feel more comfortable using it for what I want: promoting my love for books.
Louis: I think Twitter has gotten too mean. I only use Facebook now to talk about movies I like.
Ebook or Paperback?
Brad: Paperback all the way. Sadly, I’ve never been able to get into ebooks, as I’ve always been a bibliophile and love collecting physical copies of novels.
Louis: Paperback. I love to be able to hold a book in my hands. I like to watch my bookmark move through the book as I make progress.
Walk or Drive?
Brad: I’m a serious walker. I LOVE to walk, especially around my neighborhood.
Louis: Drive. It’s too cold outside to walk.
Sun or Rain?
Brad: Though I live in Oklahoma and storms tend to get a bit scary (the whole tornado thing), I’d still have to pick rain. One of my favorite things to do is sit on my back porch in the springtime and listen to the rain cascade through the trees while I read a good book in my porch swing.
Louis: I like both, but I don’t like when it’s too hot, so I guess I’ll pick rain!
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook?
Brad: I tend to start a project using a pencil and notebook, taking down copious notes as part of my planning/structuring process. I typically abandon the pencil and notepad when I start drafting on my laptop.
Louis: I do my writing on a keyboard. My fingers can really fly. I like to draw in my notebook with a pencil.
Comedy or Drama?
Brad: I love great comedies, especially darker comedies like Cohen Bros. or Monty Python flicks. Two of my favorite recent dark comedies are Jojo Rabbit and Parasite, which do a fantastic job of making their audiences laugh while giving them something hugely important to ponder.
Louis: I love to laugh, but good comedy is hard. I watch a lot of stand-up comics and funny TV shows. My favorite movies tend to be dramas though.
Chips or Chocolate?
Brad: Hand me a chocolate bar any day over a bag of chips. I’m a chocolate magician; I can make that stuff disappear. However, put a bag of Gardetto’s in my hand, chocolate’s got some trouble.
Louis: I’m a candy fiend. It’s not good. I have to brush five times a day to keep all the sugar off my teeth.
Brad: Gardetto’s, man. I’m telling ya.
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