First, a bit about J. B.:
Originally from Oxford, England, J. B. Pelts lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, 18 month-old triplets, and two rescue dogs. Growing up on stories of wonder and adventure that dragged him into wanting to become a part of the tales themselves, the lure of an exotic mysterious island just waiting to be explored filled his head with imagination, and it was from these seeds that the island of Corentin was born. With its old Breton heritage and location in the Atlantic Ocean off of the south-west tip of England, it became a place where adventure reigned, where castle ruins and derelict stone towers are interspersed with chocolate factories and 7-story toy stores, and where a boy from middle England could spend the most exciting summers of his life.
Why did you pick to write books for MG/YA?
Two reasons really. First, if you get a good book/series in this age group (Harry Potter being a shining example), then they are so much fun to read for all ages. You get swept along with the story, and it’s not a chore to get through (those are the WORST types of books!). I figured if I was going to write a novel, it should be something that I would really enjoy reading myself!
Second as a kid I loved stories of adventure, like Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe (Hint: look out for Crusoe Park in Armorica, the capital of the mythical island in my Robin Pembroke series!), and Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It was the fact that these were adventures that you felt could possibly happen to you one day that drew me in, and I wanted to recreate something similar, but with the flow and bounce of the modern day classics.
What types of books do you like to read?
My tastes are a bit all over the board really. As with so many people, Harry Potter ranks right up at the top of my list, especially the earlier ones–I loved the way that they bounced along as you read them. Roald Dahl was probably my favorite author when I was a child, and I still go back and re-read him sometimes. Fantastic Mr. Fox, in particular, I loved.
I made the decision in my 20’s to go back and read some of the classics, having not really been exposed at school, and that was one of the best decisions I ever made. There are so many amazingly brilliant works out there, just waiting for you to get lost in. It was from this that I read The Grapes of Wrath and, that in turn, led me to read most of what Steinbeck has written—East of Eden is another favorite of mine. F. Scott Fitzgerald created some masterpieces too.
A really gripping non-fiction book, or something semi-fiction, always pulls me in too. Erik Larson has some great books out there, and then the like of Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson is a great read—although maybe I’m biased being English—as well as his A Short History of Nearly Everything which gave me so many tidbits of information that I tend to bore people with!
Currently I’m reading through the Percy Jackson series, between other books, and next on my list is to start on the Divergent set of books.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
Other than reading, I am a big soccer fan, and whenever I can get the chance to kick a ball around it is a good day!
Mostly my remaining time is spent with our 18 month-old triplets – they are developing so fast, and with three little people now running around and questioning everything, my wife and I are constantly kept on our toes! It is a little madness sometimes, but a fantastically wonderful madness!
Tell us about Robin Pembroke: Pirates & Winged Horses and how the story came to be.
Robin Pembroke: Pirates & Winged Horses is my first published novel and is the first in a 6-part series that follows Robin through his summers from the age of 10 to 15.
In short, the story centers around Robin, who is from a very poor family living in middle-England. Then, soon before his 11th birthday, he receives an inheritance of a house on the island of Corentin from a great aunt he didn’t even know he had. After finding a way to visit that summer with his parents, he makes new best friends in Millie and Olwenn, a brother and sister who live on the island, and Georgie who visits every summer with her grandparents.
The book came to be as a story that I’d always wanted to write – something that you can get completely lost in, with all the aspects of real-life. To do this, I created the island of Corentin (off of the coast of England), and gave it a Breton heritage – many of the names and locations on the island are Breton, and this ancestry plays a big part in the mystery the kids uncover.
I’ve also always found it hard to follow books as to exactly what is happening and when, especially if I don’t read the whole thing inside a couple of days. I want a story to be easy to follow, and so to accomplish this I wrote the book as 35 chapters of consecutive days—after two introductory chapters—making it easy to remember where you are and to follow along. In addition, the kids’ cork board is used to pin up notes that help the reader to see easily what has been found out so far and are great spots to bookmark as you read through!
Here's a peek at Robin Pembroke: Pirates & Winged Horses:
They uncover the start of a pirate mystery that has lain hidden for over 200 years, and their clues and findings take them on a fantastical adventure across Corentin, culminating in a breathtaking finale that you don’t see coming. In between, they rope in help from the likes of Alfie Andrews and his group of super-smart friends, become engrossed in the local board game Cells & Giants, and have to contend with the evil Mauriers, and particular the son Seb, who is Robin’s age.
Robin hadn’t foreseen pirates playing any part in his upcoming school holidays whatsoever. But then again neither had he expected to find a secret treasure map, uncover a dinosaur fossil, sight a legendary lake monster, or make three fantastic new friends. That though, and much, much more, is exactly what happened...
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
The second Robin Pembroke book is being written right now and is taking shape nicely. The outline for all six books has been created. The flow is all laid out, and I’m currently writing the early chapters. The story picks up the following summer, leading from the revelations uncovered at the end of Pirates & Winged Horses, as Robin, Millie, Olwenn, and Georgie race on another adventure across Corentin, taking in old favorite places and characters, while introducing a whole new set of locations.
Oh, and watch out for Seb and the other bad guys in this one – they start to cross paths with Robin and his friends as they chase the same mystery…
What advice do you have for other authors?
It’s a long road, especially writing a first book, but you never finish unless you start. I know everyone says that, but it is so, so true. Pirates & Winged Horses took four years from initiation to publishing!
And then once you start, set yourself goals, but make them realistic. I started with the plan of writing a chapter a week, and that soon fell apart. Once you’ve missed a goal, it's tough to find the motivation continue. So what I did was to set up goals that I knew I could realistically hit, but were strong enough that those kept me moving along.
Also, write for the genre that you most enjoy—you are writing the book for yourself as much as anyone else—and what you like is what you’ll have had the most exposure to and what you’ll be best at.
Anything else you want readers to know?
Just that I am a big fan of feedback and would love to hear from anyone who reads the book as to what they’ve thought. I can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hugely appreciated the investment in reading my book, and I respond personally to all communications. I listen to any ideas readers may have for future books—one of the new characters in the second book is actually named after a suggestion from an early reader!
Where can readers find you and your books?
Robin Pembroke: Pirates & Winged Horses is available as an eBook on Amazon and as a paperback.
More details on the book can be found at www.robinpembroke.com, including the full prologue and first chapter of the book, as well as snapshots of all of the key characters and locations on Corentin.
Additionally, I have a Twitter account which I predominantly use to post weekly updates from what is happening on Corentin, and is a cool way to stay connected to the island.
Finally is the Robin Pembroke Facebook page which is a great resource for more general updates about the books.