My guest this week is celebrating the release of a new adventure in his popular future detective series for young readers.
Cameron Macintosh was born in Melbourne and has been trying very hard to grow up there ever since. He studied Psychology and Italian at Melbourne University, and Professional Writing at RMIT. Since then, he has written more than 80 books for primary and early secondary students. He has also honed hundreds of books for teachers and students in his other life as an editor in the educational publishing sector. In the few minutes per week that he isn’t wrestling with words on the laptop, he loves playing the guitar, reading music biographies and drawing angry-looking owls.
To find out more, visit Cameron’s website: cameronemacintosh.com.au
Why do you write? It’s just something I feel compelled to do. I think a lot of it comes from being quite introverted – I’m generally a person of few words, outwardly, so writing is how I make my noise.
What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t become involved in the world of books and writing? I think I probably would’ve done an art or music therapy course, and gotten into that line of work. I still like the idea of doing something like that in the future, using creative writing as the medium.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think my own rush to get published actually hindered the journey. I sent a lot of things off before they were ready, and then took it pretty hard when they were rejected. I’m taking things more slowly these days, and it’s definitely proving less painful!
I love the idea of a future detective and his robo- dog. What sparked your idea for the Max series? The first spark of the idea came about a few years back on a visit to Pompeii, and the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. I was especially fascinated by domestic items from the Pompeii excavations, particularly the most mundane things like hair combs and cutlery. I found myself wondering if future people will find our domestic items so interesting and mysterious. From that question came the idea to invent a character in the distant future who actually does find our present era fascinating, and who makes a living from investigating long-forgotten everyday items that would be familiar to a present-day reader. Max Booth soon popped into my head to apply for the job!
How involved have you been in the development of the series? Do you suggest the ideas for new titles to your publisher or is a brainstorming session? How closely do you work with your illustrator? So far it’s been quite simple – I conceptualise and write up the stories, and hope the publishers like them (so far so good!). I’d envisioned Max being a series from the get-go, so I was very excited that Big Sky were open to the idea of further adventures.
As far as the illustrations go, I write the illustration briefs as I write the manuscripts, and our illustrator, Dave Atze, interprets them beautifully. I get to see Dave’s rough sketches and comment on them, but he really understands the characters and the feel of the stories, so it’s been an incredibly smooth process with the three books we’ve released so far.
Do you have any detective buddies who give you clues about how they solve crimes? Sadly not, but if you know anyone, feel free to give me their email!
How does your experience as an editor influence your own writing? Although I never trust my editorial eye when it comes to my own writing, I do think my editorial background has helped me write more concisely, and to be aware of my own convolutions. Having worked in-house, it’s also given me an appreciation of how incredibly busy publishing people are, and how passionate they are about what they do. I implore everyone out there to be very nice to them!
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The freedom to work strange hours is something I’ll never take for granted. Being a total night owl, this suits me extremely well.
—the worst? Constantly facing your own demons and insecurities as part of your job is arguably a strange way to make a living… but then again I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Probably not much. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, and experienced so many knockbacks, but they’ve all paved the pathway to the opportunities I enjoy now, and hopefully more in the future. As I mentioned earlier, I think I’d probably take the journey a bit slower, and pay more attention to who’s publishing what in the genres I’m interested in.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? You might possibly require a secondary source of income! (That aside, go for it – it really is the best job on earth.)
What’s the best advice you were ever given? My teachers at RMIT constantly encouraged us to keep actively seeking out constructive criticism, particularly by joining a writing group. They were so right about this. I’d be in all sorts of bother without my trusty writing posse.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Don’t take rejection personally – if you’re struggling to find a publisher for your book, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. There are so many factors at play in publishing decisions – if you really believe in your work, keep polishing it and sending it out. You never know when it will land on the right desk at the right time.
How important is social media to you as an author? I haven’t needed to use it to market my educational writing, but now that Max has taken flight I’m working to build up that side of things. It’s a very useful promotional adjunct, and I’ve already found it a great way to connect with kindred spirits in the writing community.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t know if I’d call it writer’s block, but there are definitely times when ideas just aren’t there when I need them. I usually find physical exercise helps clear the mental fog. If that fails, I often make a spiderweb-style mind map, writing the main problem I’m facing in the middle, and branching out with any possible solutions, however ridiculous they seem. It’s amazing how often seemingly disparate ideas link up to get me back on track.
How do you deal with rejection? I’ve experienced enough that it should be water off a duck’s back by now, but it’s never enjoyable. I do allow myself a few days of sulking! I think it’s reasonable enough to feel deflated for a while, especially if you’ve put a lot of heart and sweat into a story and other people aren’t seeing its potential. But I try to get back on the bike pretty quickly.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? Clear, fun, unpretentious (I hope!)
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? He isn’t a children’s author by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have to be Dante. I was lucky enough to study his work at uni, with the guidance of some incredible lecturers who were able to draw out its astonishing levels of meaning and symbolism. It was extremely humbling, to say the least, and I’d love to know how he structured his work days (200 years before coffee made its way to Italy!).
Written by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze
A tiny piece of paper from the year 2019 might not sound very interesting to most people. But Max and Oscar – Bluggsville’s sharpest sleuths – aren’t most people! Max has a hunch that this ancient patch of paper might be valuable, and extremely rare.
Max is right – this isn’t just any old piece of paper. It’s a strange, sticky thing called a postage stamp, and it’s more than 400 years old! It’s an exciting discovery, but before long, it leads Max and Oscar into some very sticky situations…
Check out Cameron’s blog tour at the following sites:
Monday Nov 12 – Wednesday Nov 21 www.justkidslit.com/blog
Monday Nov 12 http://sharingyourstory.com.au/
Wednesday Nov 14 www.readforfun.com.au
Thursday Nov 15 www.meganhigginson.com/blog
Monday Nov 19 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au
Tuesday Nov 20 www.kelliebyrnes.com
Wednesday Nov 21 www.whenigrowupiwannawriteakidsbook.blogspot.com.au
For details about Books on Tour visit www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour