Meet Robert Treskillard, author of the Merlin Spiral Trilogy, a series for teens which Publishers Weekly calls “A sweeping, deeply detailed fantasy that re-imagines the adventures of Arthurian legend … The author skillfully crafts intense action scenes and vivid settings.”
My agent, who is also Robert’s agent, suggested the series to me because he knew my children loved to read. I have to say Robert is very good with kids! He personally conversed with my son via email after we bought the first book.
What writing lesson have you had to learn the hard way? I had a very hard time trying to get my first 50 pages right. I don’t know how many drafts I went through, cutting, rewriting, moving things around. A couple things I learned:
· Don’t introduce any character near the beginning that won’t play some important part in the plot. Readers naturally latch onto characters introduced early and think they’re critical to the plot and they keep looking for them to pop up later on, and when they don’t, they’re like “hey, what happened to so and so?” If you have to use someone, keep them nameless. I originally had these three fishermen at the beginning of Merlin’s Blade, and then they disappeared for the rest of the book and they just weren’t needed. Cut!
· Get to the main part of the plot as quickly as you can! I think I had sixty or more pages of Merlin and Garth wandering around the village picking up things to deliver. It was good writing, and fun to read, and you got to meet the villagers and begin to care about them, but it *REALLY* slowed the plot down. Cut!
· Really work on your first few pages! You MUST grab the reader! Jeff Gerke gave me some specific and excellent advice for how to bring my writing to the next level here.
What are some themes you worked into your books? I try to give each book some sort of major theme, but all sorts of little themes work their way in. Here’s my first three titles:
· Merlin’s Blade — facing your problems despite your disabilities.
· Merlin’s Shadow — overcoming doubt.
· Merlin’s Nightmare — overcoming fear.
What is your most effective platform-building tool—Facebook, blog, Pinterest, twitter? Why? I tend to gravitate toward Facebook, but try to keep all the other social media websites spinning at the same time. Some argue that Facebook isn’t as good for outreach as Twitter, but I’m not sure that is the case … I tend to get more interaction through Facebook. Maybe that’s just me!
Personally I haven’t used Pinterest, partially because I’m concerned about copyright violations. For my blog I try to use only public domain images, or images I create and own, so I’m not sure how Pinterest is quite legal. Maybe they’ve sorted that out already and I’m just behind the times! It’s a *really* cool concept, though!
Do you have a word (or words) of wisdom to pass on to other writers? Before you invest in the incredible labor of writing a book, make sure the premise behind it is absolutely stellar. Don’t just go with your first idea … you have to dig for that jewel buried in the haystack. Once you’ve found it, and you know how valuable it is, then that alone will motivate you to finish.
Who influenced you most in your life? Probably Gary Wood, the man who led me to the Lord when I was fifteen. I grew up in a broken home, and was coming off some bad years of delinquincy, and Gary was the first person to clearly explain the gospel to me, allowing God to change my life. The neat thing is that we had him stay the night a few years ago while he was traveling through Missouri and he challenged my son about how God might use him, and that was a seed that has now born fruit … amazing!
What do you think makes a good story? External villains and internal ones at the same time. If you can grab the reader on the outside and the inside simultaneously, you’ve got them. As part of this, it can be very powerful to watch someone’s world shatter and then see them put it together again piece by piece.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I read a lot of history, legend, and myth, and there is so much to plumb there that it’s not hard to come up with ideas. I also bounce the tougher parts of the plot off of my family, and they come up with great ideas. For instance, in MERLIN’S NIGHTMARE I was stuck at one point, and my son came up with the concept of Gogi as a character, and then I morphed him with the legend of Gwenivere’s father … it all fit really well and was a really cool idea!
Do you use your own experiences from real life in your books? I had a tough childhood in many ways, including some medical issues and an abusive father, and I draw a lot from that well, so yes. It’s also been a privilege to be a parent … a painful privilege, but a privilege, and I draw on those experiences a lot. The fun thing for MERLIN’S NIGHTMARE is that you get to see Merlin and Natalenya as parents, and it’s quite a change from the first two books!
What projects are you working on now? I’m plotting the first book of my next trilogy. The book is named ARTHUR’S BLADE, and the trilogy will be called THE PENDRAGON SPIRAL. This trilogy will finish off the traditional arc of the stories of King Arthur, and then I have a follow-on trilogy called THE EXCALIBUR SPIRAL after that.
Robert Treskillard is a Celtic enthusiast who holds a B.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies from Bethel University, Minnesota. He has been crafting stories from his early youth, is a software developer, graphic artist, and sometime bladesmith. He and his wife have three children and are still homeschooling their youngest. They live in the country outside St. Louis, Missouri.
Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2014