What inspired you to write The Evan Ross series?
I've been a fan of nautical fiction and, in particular, books involving the age of sail for many years. Specifically, I find the period from the beginning of the American Revolutionary War of 1776 through to Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815 fascinating. The Caribbean was the setting for much of the action during this tumultuous period of history. It's all plenty of material for a historical fiction author to work with.
Why the British Royal Navy, the Caribbean, and spies?
I've been devouring the works of many authors writing about the British Royal Navy in this era for years. Authors like Julian Stockwin, Dewey Lambdin, Douglas Reeman, CS Forester, and Dudley Pope have done a far better job than I ever could of writing about life aboard Royal Navy ships in this era. I wanted to write about elements not covered by others, which is how having a Navy officer in a land-based role as a spy came to mind. The activity of spying is as old as human history and the Navy was no stranger to it. Add the opportunity to write a story about heroes in action in an exotic setting with the diverse history and beauty of the Caribbean and you have everything a historical fiction author could need.
How important is it to be accurate?
In my research for this series I've made every effort to ensure the historical framework supporting the stories and the facts woven throughout are as accurate as possible. I've also made a point of sticking to the actual timeframes associated with historical events. I like historical novels where I come away with a sense the story is as close to what the historical reality was as possible.
What is your goal for the story you weave into the historical framework?
The goal is to create a story with more than just interesting characters in action. I want to immerse the reader in the lives and loves of my characters. I like character driven novels in series, because over time the characters grow and take charge of the story as they face new challenges. This is why the element of slavery is a seam running constantly through the series. Just as it would be impossible to write a story involving this era without touching on the role of the Royal Navy, the same applies to the impact the scourge of slavery had on people's lives. The overwhelming greed that brought it about and the dominance of sugar in the world economy at the time created challenges for everyone.
What writers/books have influenced you?
Every one I've ever read. In Stephen King's book On Writing he asserts that an essential requirement of any author is to read voraciously and widely. I completely agree. Having said that, the authors I mentioned above have certainly influenced me in my work on the series. There are many, many others I could add, like Hemingway in particular, that have influenced me from the wider perspective.
When did you start writing?
I gave my grade six school newspaper permission to publish a story they heard I had wrote! It was called The Swing and, if memory serves, it was a somewhat melancholy story of a boy haunted by the death of a friend on a swing set. My next effort was back in the nineties when I wrote a rather literary work called The Monkey Puzzle Tree that garnered me lots of 'thanks but not for us' replies. To be fair, it needs rework. Who knows, I may pull that off the shelf some day and do just that.
What inspired you to write the Stick Bug Stories?
My wife teaches elementary school children, mostly grade two. For a few years she had stick bugs in her classroom that had to be cared for over the summer, which became my job. I was putting fresh leaves in their cage and listening to the radio when a news item about people abandoning their pets came on the air. Wondering how anyone could do that, the question of what would happen to a family of pet stick bugs abandoned in the forest appeared in my head and simply wouldn't go away.
What was your goal in writing the Stick Bug Stories?
I grew up watching all those wonderful Disney animated movies. My favourite was Bambi. Bambi captivated me as a child because I love animals, because the central character was someone young, and in particular because it is a story of the underdog, someone succeeding against the odds. From the moment I sat down and started typing my goal was to create a story worthy of being an animated movie like Bambi. Ultimately, I'd like some day to be sitting in a movie theatre watching Stick Bugs! on the big screen.
Are the Stick Bug Stories just for kids?
Absolutely not! I wrote this to appeal to all those little kids still present in all those adult hearts out there too. Stick Bugs! is actually a metaphor. Abandoned animals are really abandoned people and a place called Junk Town is really the rough part of town that exists in every city in the world. As I said, I like stories of characters not expected to succeed finding inner strength to do just that, despite having big challenges to overcome.