Kevin Gerard's third book in the Conner and the Crosswinds series, Surviving an Altered World, is due out this December. I had the opportunity to interview Kevin regarding his series:
This series seemed to spark to life during your childhood – did you share Conor or any of those adventures with your own boys when they were young?
Yes, as a matter of fact, a few of the Crossworlds Champions’ personalities are based on what I’ve learned about my boys during their lives. I guess it’s time to disclose a secret – my boys are all furry cats. I have no human children, so my wife and I consider our animals our kids. The personalities of Eha, Ajur, and Maya all sprang from daily interactions with my furry sons.
I first began day-dreaming about Purugama the flying cougar as a ten year old boy. I can honestly say that I never shared him with anyone until I finally sat down and wrote the first book in the Conor and the Crossworlds series. That was thirty four years after I first imagined him flying down to my bedroom window. Purugama is a wonderfully complex creature, and he takes to Conor as quickly as Conor develops a deep bond with him.
Five seems to be a magic number (my own YA series has five books) – what made you decide to pursue/end on five books?
Actually, I never intended to write more than one book. Something very profound occurred that made me continue the story. A dear friend’s cat, a very dignified and classy fellow, was attacked and killed in his front yard by a roving pack of pit bulls. When I spoke to his mistress, I told her I was going to make Maya immortal. That’s how he became the Lord of the Champions, with a very important role in the story. I wrote Book Two about his journey with Conor to repair the corridors, and the story just swelled from there.
I’ve always had a thing for the number five and the number seven. Both carry great significance in the Conor and the Crossworlds story. There are five books, the Five Keys of the Creators, the Council of Seven, and the seven Champions of the Crossworlds, etc. Comes from my childhood I suppose.
The interesting aspect of the number five rests with the fact that there may be another five books in this series. Like any good author, I left a huge hole at the end of the fifth book. I think readers will be screaming for me to fill it. I’ve already begun toying with the sixth book, and I can definitely see the series mushrooming out to ten books.
Young adult fantasy to political espionage thriller – that’s quite a leap! What prompted you into the thriller genre?
I’ve read every Robert Ludlum book ever produced. He can craft an espionage story like no one else in the world. I came up with an idea for a great story along the same lines, and I’ve been writing it off and on for a year or so. I’m also I’m writing a proposal for a non-fiction book as well.
I have a cool idea for another teen fantasy series also. It popped into my head one day when I was presenting an author talk in Southern California. I’m finally going to write a story about a dragon!
Tell us a little more about the upcoming contest!
The Hunt for the Five Keys of the Creators! Here’s the link to the youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFHxUIZ2Ks8
In Book Three of the Conor and the Crossworlds story, Conor reveals his association with the Crossworlds to his girlfriend, Janine. He was told never to do that, and everyone pays the price for his mistake. The Circle of Evil descends upon the Crossworlds. They attack everything, including earth, and the only way Conor can reverse the damage is to find the Five Keys of the Creators, the source of all power.
I decided it might be fun to have a real hunt, so I found some old keys at a salvage store and painted them the same colors as the keys in the story. I also had some very cool key boxes made. I’ve hidden one in the South, the Northwest, the Northeast, in San Diego County, and I’m not sure where the fifth one will go. Whoever finds a key box will receive $500, a MacBook, and i-Pod, and signed copies of all five books.
The first clue is in Book Three. After that, beginning January 1, 2009, twelve clues will appear, one per week, on Conor’s website. The cool thing is that even if someone doesn’t live close to one of the hiding places, they can still play along and help someone else find one of the key boxes. It’s going to be fun fun fun!
Here’s Conor’s website – http://www.conorandthecrossworlds.com
I see the first book was offered through AuthorHouse and it is rare to see an author break away & find success taking that route. Is it a path you would recommend to others?
My first impulse is to say no, I wouldn’t recommend going it alone as a self or subsidy published author. It’s a tremendous amount of work to produce a book by yourself, and beyond that, there are endless doors you’ll have to kick in to get your story noticed. None of the favored reviewers will touch it, no chain book store will stock it, many schools will ignore it because it doesn’t have accelerated reader tests attached to it, and on and on and on. If you are going to pursue this path, you have to make absolutely certain your book is top quality in every respect. Self published books have a very tarnished reputation in the literary world, so if you’re going to put one out there it better look and read as good as any traditionally published work.
Along with that is the fact that there is a wide assortment of subsidy publishers out there. Some are legitimate, some are not. Some take more of your royalties, and some allow you to make a good profit from each book you sell. You have to be extremely careful about whom you sign a contract with; that in itself takes a great deal of time and research.
Having said that, if you honestly believe you’ve written the next great story, I mean if you believe it blindly, then self or subsidy publishing might be for you. I initially queried every agent and publisher in the Literary Marketplace text, some multiple times, with no luck at all. I couldn’t allow Conor, the Champions, the creators, and even the Circle of Evil to fade away anonymously. Their story is just too good. I know in my heart that Conor and the Crossworlds will be a huge hit, as long as I put it in the hands of those who will shout loudly enough about it. Books One and Two of this series are in school libraries from California to Vermont, and the librarians all tell me the same story. My books have yet to see the library shelf. There are waiting lists up to six months long to read Conor’s story at these schools. I believed in Conor, blindly, and now I have the proof of my convictions. Conor and the Crossworlds is a big hit with teens.
When can readers expect the final two books?
My father told me that Book Four is the titanic book of the series, and he’s right. Book Four is where the battle for the Crossworlds takes place – Conor and the Champions take on the armies of the Circle of Evil – five hundred thousand strong, and every segment of the battle becomes more treacherous for our hero. They have followed the Lady of the Light into the Shadow World to retrieve the Five Keys of the Creators and save Conor’s girlfriend, Janine. I can’t get specific about what happens, but I guarantee you Book Four is roughly 800 pages of non-stop action. It’s a great book, due out in October 2009.
I added a special twist in Book Five, which is titled The Author of All Worlds. As you may have guessed, I am the author of all worlds, and I actually wrote myself into the story. The Circle of Evil sends their most horrible destroyer, Nemelissi the Assassin, through the corridors to find me in San Diego and slay me. If it succeeds the Crossworlds will be wiped away from existence. I remember the day I was writing the actual scene when Nemelissi came through the final corridor – right in my driveway – to come after me. I was sitting at my desk shaking and looking out the window every few seconds, I felt certain the assassin was coming. It seemed absolutely real to me. Of course, someone else arrives a second before Nemelissi, and the story goes on. It is also a great book, about 600 pages, due out in October 2010.
Your appearances are mostly libraries & schools – do you find that is a better venue for you?
Libraries not so much, but schools are the greatest venue in the world for a young adult series. You have a captive audience, sometimes over five hundred students in one setting, and they are totally into your book talk. I went to Oregon in October and visited seven schools. I saw almost fifteen hundred young readers, sold a ton of books, and recruited a whole pack of new fans. By the end of 2008 I’ll have introduced Conor to ten different states. That’s what you have to do, put out a tireless effort toward spreading the word as widely as you can. Again, if you truly believe in what you’ve written you will find the strength to do this.
You obviously love animals and the photo on your website shows a white & black cat on your shoulder. Tell us more about this passion, as well as a little about your furry feline friend!
Good old Sunny! Can you believe he was twenty years old in that picture? Sadly, he passed away about a year ago, an event that shook my wife and me deeply. Sunny was a magnificent creature, very vocal, very pleased with himself, and just a great guy. I miss him a lot. His brother, Lenny, also passed away about six months ago. Lenny was wonderful also, but in different ways than Sunny. I dedicated Book Three in the Conor and the Crossworlds series to both of them.
We have four other kids at home now, three males and a female. Little Man is our oldest, a black Halloween cat that we rescued from PetSmart. He’s about eleven years old. Toby, our sweet snow cat, is three, and Jesse the Wonder Cat is six months old. I give an update every month about Jesse in my newsletter; you should sign on by sending me an e-mail and asking to be put on the list. Kitty is a neighbor’s cat who loves hanging out at our home. She’s about six years old I think, and weighs over twenty pounds. She keeps her brothers in line!
What does your family think about your journey as an author? Do your boys read the series, too?
Sometimes the boys sit on my lap when I’m writing or editing. I think they want to share in the experience. As I said before, though, some of the Champions in the Conor and the Crossworlds story get their personalities from our cats. I like that; it kind of keeps them alive for us.
When you tell your family you’ve decided to write books, you get a wide variety of responses. Whatever they say, though, you can always spot the look of concern in their eyes. My brother is a musician, and now I’m an author. The odds of success in either field are stacked against you like you can’t believe.
I’ve always been a dreamer. To me, if you’re not dreaming, you’re not living. Sure, I want all the material success that comes with a bestselling series, but at this point it’s all about Conor and the other characters in the story. They are real individuals, and I want the whole world to know about them. I know the story’s good enough. I believe in it with all my heart. I guess we all get to sit back and see if I can pull it off!
Visit his website and click on the contest video for exciting details regarding The Hunt for the Five Keys of the Creators which begins in January http://www.conorandtheCrossworlds.com