Hi Paul! Thank you for being the next of my Britain’s Next Bestseller colleagues to join me for an interview!! I’m hoping to chat to everyone from the site as we have all had similar but oddly different experiences with our campaigns. But for right now, Paul Ferns; dancer, teacher and author...tell me a little about ‘The Element Order?
What was your inspiration?
My inspiration for The Element Order series came mostly when I was a teenager (many years ago) I’d always had an interest in the prospect of alternate realms and that at the exact same time we exist in this world a parallel world could be happening! When writing, I tend to draw inspiration from paintings, sculpture, architecture that type of thing. The element of journey that is apparent throughout the series I drew mainly from ‘The Divine Comedy’ by Dante Alighieri or ‘Dante’s Inferno. The amazing journey he took whether fictional or non -fictional fascinated me, and the characters he met along the way I thought were ridiculously exciting.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I’ve spent 23 years dancing and choreographing so creating something visual has been a huge part of my life. As a creative you are always looking for the next challenge and the bigger creation, but often budget isn’t available to create what is exactly in your mind. Writing a book gives you an unlimited budget. The biggest thing for me though was learning how to write, as I have never studied English at such a level as to write a book, I had to really do my homework and train myself along the way but loved the process.
How do you create your characters? Are they based on real life people you know or completely fictional?
Ella Jack Harriet & Oliver, the four teens in the story, are actually based on teens I have taught or still teach now. The other characters have an essence of many people I meet in my quite often, random life! One character is based on my mum, another based on my nan. The book is very personal and often areas of it reflect my own life metaphorically.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Research was tricky at times, for instance I had to choose a building in Canterbury as the setting for Blackcrowns, the boarding school featured in the book. I also had to research numerology, which was an important factor to the age of the children in the book. The only psychological negative aspect I had was letting the book go in the end it was like giving a baby up for adoption I cried. In the book Cats and spiders are prominent, cats I adore, spiders I’m petrified of so you can imagine the tricks on my mind those areas played when writing.
Was it challenging to be creating a world amongst the Young Adult reader majority? It has definitely channelled the zeitgeist in regards to what readers are looking for.
I honestly never thought about the challenge of creating a world to appeal so much, I was more concerned in writing a world and characters that were away from current trends so no vampires, witches or werewolves are involved and as yet there are no love interests (as yet) I wanted to create a fairytale type adventure so influences there included The Goonies, The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe, Labyrinth. Classic and epic tales of adventure and escape.
This is the first book in a proposed trilogy. Can you tell us a little more about it?
It’s actually the 1st of four books with the 4th being in two parts. And the only thing I will tell you is that each book is plotted, the whole synopsis complete and the end has been decided. Even my partner knows nothing of each book or my mum.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I’m extremely disciplined when it comes to writing, actually with everything else as-well. Workaholic my friends call me whatever that means! As I teach odd hours and teach so many dance classes a week I have to structure carefully so unfortunately for me my writing hours are 7-11am and then 10pm onwards until I fall asleep, that’s every day.
Where do the your ideas come from?
I once read a great article on creative writing, unfortunately I forget where it who it was by, but they spoke about drawing from your own hates and likes, like I mentioned above I have a genuinely terrifying phobia of spiders so I knew I could write the terrifying aspects of them in the book. I love cats I own 2 myself ‘Dante and Bunch’ Cats play a feature in their aswell, I find them to be very powerful animals, in the book there are ‘Lava Cats’ scary and ferocious animals that spit fire and swim in lava. I’m fascinated by powerful and strong, beautiful woman so again, some characters ‘Fire Sirens’ play an integral role. Other influences in terms of the visual I like PS3 game characters and deviant art. Paintings and sculptures from the likes of Dali and Rodin influence me. I love high fashion and couture pieces on runway, any characters I write that need to appear powerful I love to dress them in couture looking outfits however fantastical.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I chapter plot 10 chapters at a time, I bullet point everything that needs to happen in each chapter and then flow through those bullet points, rarely I stick to the bullet points as sometimes an idea will pop in my head in another draft so it evolves as I go. I think it’s impossible to not improvise in each chapter. For instance in my 1st draft of book 1 I wrote a whole chapter about a spaceship in draft 2 I scrapped the whole idea.
Which part (if any) was the hardest part to write?
Battle scenes are a struggle for me, the point of view of various angles and characters can be tricky, often those chapters alone don’t complete for several drafts. I don’t write in 1st person or 3rd my style is omniscient , so this can be a more tricky way of writing, I stand in the room, or area the action is happening and describe everything that is going on around me.
Who are your favorite authors/books?
I love Dan Brown’s short cliffhanger chapters, J K Rowlings descriptive imagination and Stephen Kings warped brain, and of course Dante’s Inferno. This book for me has and always will influence everything I do whether writing or choreographing, this is a stand-alone book and will feed my inspiration for life with all of its elements (no pun intended)
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Alive Madonna, she is the top of my list for anyone breaking boundaries in every area of art and culture. Dead, Dante of course.
If you could meet any of your own characters, who would it be?
That is an amazing question but it would have to be ‘Akasha’ I have 1 question that I would ask him but I can’t say what it is because that would spoil the final book.
And do you have a favourite character in ‘The Element Order’?
I have 4 favourite characters. Ella, Harriet, Jack and Oliver. I adore them like my own kids.
If you were going to go out of your comfort zone, what genre would you like to try?
That’s a tricky one, I currently have 2 adult books plotted in Horror and Thriller. These would be difficult for me however if I were to be given a complete challenge I would probably choose romance, I hate mushy stuff, yet romance affects me emotionally if its done in the right way, so I would probably be an emotional wreck writing it.
As ‘The Element Order’ is your first novel, what were the high points of getting it onto the page and published?
The biggest highlight for me was my mum receiving her copy, she bought me my notebook and pen when I told her I was writing my book, it’s still at home in my drawer filled with chapter plots notes and research.
And the low points?
I can honestly say I haven’t had any low points, of course any chance of a social life goes out of the window but it’s a small price to pay.
Do you have any advice for other writers who may be starting out?
Don’t edit as you go, take a break between drafts, don’t drink and write.
What are you working on at the minute?
I am currently working on Book 2 of the series
Do you have any special message you would like to say to your readers?
Pick up my book, open it and escape.
A huge thank you to Paul for taking the time out to speak to me. The first book in 'The Element Order' is now available for pre-order at these links on Amazon, Waterstones, Britain's Nest Bestseller and all good online booksellers and is due for release on 5th January 2015.