Genre: Young reader/Fantasy
Number of pages: 61
Word Count: 15465
Cover Artist: Damonza
“I am older than you can comprehend. I am eight.” – Emily Spellmaker.
Emily Spellmaker is missing. She didn’t return to Witchwood Park Elementary this year and Kendra, the shy little girl she befriended, is heartbroken. Kendra waits alone on the park bench after school each day until the Tuesday a troll walks out of the woods. He chooses Kendra, Jimmy (the school bully), and Daniel (an outcast) to come on a magical journey where they must overcome an evil queen and her Army of the Faceless to free an enslaved land. In the process they learn who they really are and what friendship means, while getting closer to solving the mystery of Emily Spellmaker.
Available at Amazon
They were falling.
“What’s happening?!” Jimmy shouted. “Where’s Daniel?”
Jimmy and Kendra had jumped through a hole in the top of the sky. There was no water to swim in and no ground beneath it. They were simply falling, from hundreds of feet above the kingdom.
Kendra looked around. Daniel was nowhere to be found.
“I don’t know!” she shouted.
Jimmy and Kendra reached desperately for each other. They clasped hands and watched as they fell toward certain doom.
They could see the whole of the kingdom below. There was the central mountain Tree Stump had told them about, with the False Queen’s giant castle atop. A river ran from the north of the kingdom, around the mountain on both sides like it was an island, and into an endless, shining sea in the south. To the northwest were rock-strewn plains with volcanoes and rivers of lava. To the southwest was a welcoming and vast, lush forest. And to the east…was nothing but an impenetrable wall of grey clouds.
They were falling straight for the castle.
As they fell the ground became clearer and clearer. The False Queen’s soldiers were coming out of the castle barracks. Two red shapes began to rise into the sky beneath them.
“Dragons!” Jimmy screamed.
Jimmy was right. There were two, giant red dragons flying toward them.
“Maybe they are good dragons?” Kendra asked.
In response, the closest dragon shot a burst of yellow flame past Jimmy. The next shot wasn’t going to miss. Kendra and Jimmy held each other and waited to be fried. Then a terrifying roar like nothing they had ever heard shattered the air. It must have filled the entire kingdom below. The red dragons heard it, but the sudden fear on their evil, snarling faces was coming from something they could see…
Jimmy and Kendra looked up.
A massive, black dragon, larger than the two red dragons combined, was flying directly above them. It opened its jaws and launched green dragon fire down at them. The stream of blazing hot flame rushed past them and hit its true targets, the red dragons. When the flame cleared, the red dragons were plummeting back to the ground.
The black dragon grabbed Jimmy and Kendra, one in each of its back claws, then turned and flew away from the army below. Kendra wanted to see if they had faces, but that was the least of her worries right then. In a matter of minutes they were low above the trees of the giant forest. The dragon dropped them both into the treetops.
Jimmy and Kendra crashed through the branches and onto wooden platforms built high in the trees. They were shaken, but alive and together. Through the trees they watched the shadow of the great dragon disappear over the mountains in the north.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I remember the day I dropped my major in Poli-Sci at Villanova to pursue Philosophy instead. People wanted to know what was wrong with me. I told them I wanted to write and teach. That’s when the writing thing really started for me. It didn’t hurt that my cousin Jim (“James”) Morrow was winning Nebula awards and sending me his manuscripts to advance review, either. I’ve been writing all sorts of stuff since, and have been all through multiple industries including the Life Sciences and Law Enforcement with allegedly unmarketable degrees in Philosophy. Turns out if you can write and speak – things the liberal arts value for some reason – you can do all sorts of stuff. I will always be a writer. But when I grow up I want to be a manager in the WWE. Strictly of bad guys.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I went through a weird period in the 1990’s when I was freelancing and most of my stuff was hitting slush piles without kill fees. I couldn’t afford to eat – but a local restaurateur in West Chester found out I was doing assignments for Philadelphia Magazine, and he used to hook me up with free high end meals and drinks, even though I told him I couldn’t promise him any coverage.
That’s when I first called myself a writer. Note that I seem to associate the term with a lifestyle more than with the act of writing….
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
A Knight of Witchwood Park is book two in the Witchwood Park series. Boy meets girl, girl insults boy, girl gets kidnapped, boy saves girl and whole world, girl still insults boy.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
I don’t have a good answer to that. The actual writing of A Tale of Witchwood Park probably took a total of 16 weeks for something that is deliberately shorter in length. But I came up with the idea and first drafted it back in 2010. I decided to finish it in late 2013 and actually did so early this year.
Dinner, Sex and a Movie – a stage play – took about the same. That was based on a novel I wrote years ago called Strategies for Dating in Hell. I got it in my head to dust off the underlying premise of the book and make a little spin-off. So it had the advantage of being partially fleshed out when I started it.
I’ve only learned to actually finish things now that I’m in my forties. I wrote an immense volume in my twenties – and never finished any of it. I just kept writing and expanding and redrafting and moving on to the next idea. So I’ve been revisiting this stockpile and cherry picking it. May God help us all when I get around to resurrecting The Thirty-Day Hangover.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m committed to the Witchwood Park series for a five-book initial run. After that, we’ll see. If Witchwood Park is well-received and there is reader interest, I could easily do more. A Knight of Witchwood Park releases on Kindle in June 2014.
At some point I’ll move back into writing for an adult audience. I have some darker, Urban fantasies planned and there’s always room for romance. There is nothing more fun than examining romantic relationships – especially when there are conflicts in the way.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
I’ve written a lot of as yet unreleased stuff about Thomas Blacklake. He’s a deeply flawed anti-hero, and that’s why I love the character. He’s real (mostly), right in the middle of a bunch of unreal scenarios. He’ll show up in Tales from Lapidum and Of Brass Tigers and Drunken Mermaids.
I also have a fondness for Kendra, the heroine on the cover of A Tale of Witchwood Park. I’ve enjoyed watching her come into her own. I hope readers do, as well. She’s a genuinely good person with a lot to offer. And she’s learning to offer it without worrying whether others will reject it…
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
No, I have to write to where and when I can. That has involved trains, planes, and hotels. That means some stuff is getting written on paper then transferred later. But there have always been places I’ve haunted as well. Give me the end chair at a dining room table and some background noise to keep me company.
Do you read all the reviews of your books?
For the most part. I’d love to get to the point where I am so well known that the reviews are everywhere. Then I’d care a lot less. Right now I’m grateful for the exposure. I’m also interested in people’s reactions. I’m willing to consider negative feedback if it’s genuine and not the post of an internet troll. I don’t like negative feedback, but I’m open-minded and if there’s something to be learned from it, I’ll take it. Of course the positive reviews I always want to read…
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I usually try to come up with a working title first. That title can always change up to the last minute, however.
How do you come up with place names in your books?
For Dinner, Sex and Movie it was all real places I’ve lived: Andover, West Chester, Bryn Mawr. Witchwood Park is somewhere in the U.S. Beyond that, it’s deliberately vague. Witchwood Park sounded like a scary place to me. So I went with it. As it turns out, there is park named that somewhere in Australia.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
Both. I go into the story with an idea of who the characters are. Then I learn things about them as they go through their different experiences along the way. It’s very rewarding to get to the point where the characters start telling you things about themselves. Its then that you understand them and some of your early ideas about who they were begin to show as forced, necessary evils that simply fall away.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books?
There are messages, but they aren’t hidden. In fact, my biggest fear is that they are too heavy handed. I don’t want to be preachy. I normally love hidden dimensions, but for a grade school and middle school audience in the Witchwood Park books, I wanted to be straight upfront:
Be you. You are worthy of being loved, whoever you are, and if life isn’t going your way, it will get better. Try and you’ll find you are not alone.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
Great Expectations. It has meant different things to me over the years. When I was younger, I loved the open-ended, unfulfilled original ending where Pip and Estella pass on the street. It rang of authenticity and real life’s refusal to do happy endings, especially where love is involved. But Dickens was urged to reconsider it, and the unhappy ending didn’t make the final cut. Instead we got the “I saw no shadow of another parting” bit that I thought was infinitely inferior. Then I got older and somewhere along the way things changed. Now I desperately need Pip and Estella to be together at the end.
Do you think books transfer to movies well?
That’s a loaded question. When we read, we have our images of the events and characters in our heads – but how fully defined are they? The images in a movie are necessarily fully defined. We see them with our eyes, not our minds. All the details and attributes, the director, costumers, make-up and every other cast and crew member has to fill in. These details aren’t in the story and they can’t and shouldn’t be. That means when we watch the movie, it is necessarily something different than whatever we had in our heads. And sometimes we hate the end result.
I remember NPR doing a piece in the mid-nineties about how upset many people were that Harry Potter was coming to the big screen. They didn’t want the Harry in their heads taken away by some director’s version. But for the most part, it all worked out fine in the end, didn’t it? Although maybe the version of Harry and company you had in your head got replaced by Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, whether you liked it or not? All I know is Alan Rickman is the penultimate Snape.
Then there’s the whole issue as to how faithful the movie’s story has to be to the book. Peter Jackson has been assaulted from many quarters for creating “Tauriel,” who isn’t in the book The Hobbit. OK, I get that – but the original story, as great as it is, is all about a bunch of guys. Is inserting one girl too much to ask in a two and a half hour stretch in 2014? I think Peter Jackson got it right.
Your favorite food is?
Two (maybe three) eggs over easy, hash browns, rye toast. Feel free to pour creamed chipped beef on the toast and add bacon, sausage and scrapple. Add ketchup and Frank’s Red Hot. And maybe a pint of Fuller’s London Pride.
Your favorite singer/group is?
Blue Öyster Cult. Or the Stones.
Your favorite color is?
Your favorite Author is?
Pynchon. I’m still in awe of V.
S.W. Develin lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania with his wife, Julie, and their three children: Brigid, Jack and Garrett. He has a dog named Pink, a cat named Floyd, and a small kitten disguised as a cow.