Swanky Seventeener Kati Bartkowski recently interviewed Bryan Methods, author of THE THIEF’S APPRENTICE, a middle grade historical novel published by Carolrhoda Books on October 1, 2016.
About the Book:
Oliver, the meek son of a wealthy British industrialist, discovers the identity of a notorious thief, a man who has been skillfully evading Scotland Yard and snatching priceless artifacts for sport: Mr. Scant, his family butler. After first fearing for his life, Oliver discovers Mr. Scant’s secret within a secret: the butler’s crimes are actually a series of strikes against an underground group of business tycoons trying to master black magic.
THE THIEF’S APPRENTICE can be ordered from amazon.
About the Author:
Bryan Methods grew up in the sleepy village of Crowhurst, on the south coast of the United Kingdom. After studying English at Trinity College, Cambridge, he found work as a professional drummer, which lasted as long as it took for the singer and guitarist to fall out and split up the band. He currently plays in progressive rock band Paradigm Shift. He is in his final year of his doctoral thesis on the poetry of the First World War at Royal Holloway, University of London, but currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. He also enjoys fencing, video games and capoeira.
Kati: The Thief’s Apprentice was such a fun story, full of thievery, fight scenes, and excellent settings. What inspired you to write this?
Bryan: Thank you! Im so glad you liked it. My main aim was to write something fun! When I started the novel, it was just after Id been working for years on a PhD on First World War literature. As you might be able to guess, that’s a pretty heavy subject, so after I finished the first draft I really wanted to take a break and write something relaxing and a bit silly. Since I had been studying the years 1910-1920 in England, I decided to use that setting for my story while keeping things on the lighter side.
Kati: The fun element definitely came through. But back to your exciting fight scenes, on your website bio you state that you do fencing, did this help when writing those action sequences?
Bryan: Maybe! I’ve been fencing for about 8 years now, and it teaches you a lot about predicting others movements and tricking them with feints, which definitely finds its way into how I write fight scenes. I’ve tried a lot of different martial arts, including kendo, capoeira and kung fu, and while fencing is the one I’ve stuck with, all of them give me some ideas for action scenes!
Kati: That is really neat that you have done so many martial arts, and I love how they’re arts that are traditionally from many different countries! Now, onto your fun characters, while I loved Oliver as the protagonist – he feels so authentically twelve – Mr. Scant was probably my favorite character. He isn’t just the typical quick-witted trickster thief, but a straight faced curmudgeon, too. How did you come up with these characters? Are any of them based off of real people, or other fictional characters?
Bryan: Good question! Actually, both the characters came to me at once. I was working a rather boring job to help fund my PhD, writing correspondence for an insurance firm. One letter had to be addressed to a Master Diplexcito and the two names struck me as very funny. The image of a slightly fussy young boy with an upright, grim-faced butler came to me at once and I knew I had to write about them. Of course, there’s a touch of Reginald Jeeves to Mr. Scant, but he’s mostly an amalgam of all those dour-faced British actors you see so often in movies and on TV.
Kati: I was really impressed with the plot twist nearing the end, which made Oliver question all the earlier events and the people who he had grown close to around him, did you know you were going to have this happen from the start? Do you carefully plot out everything, or are you a pantser?
Bryan: Haha, I love the term “pantser”. But I am definitely a plotter. When I first tried writing a novel I just winged it, and the result was a monstrous 250,000 word sci-fi epic that could euphemistically be referred to as Since then, I’ve very carefully worked out full plots in advance, chapter-by-chapter. While of course things can and will change, I usually have a solid idea of where everything is going when I start.
Kati: Can you give us a teaser on what to expect in upcoming adventures with Oliver and Mr. Scant, or is that a big secret?
Bryan: No secret! I’m hard at work on book 2 at the moment. My plan has always been to start with a small-scale story based in a small English town and then to have the characters see more of the world in the sequels. The next book is set in 1911, which is a very important year in the history of China, so expect our heroes to do a bit of traveling!
Kati: That sounds super exciting! I cant’t wait to read it! Lastly, what do you think is the most important advice you have received while trying to publish or write The Thief’s Apprentice.
Bryan: I think by far the most important thing I learned during the pitching of The Thief”s Apprentice is that you need a conceptual hook. By this, I mean that while the quality of your writing, the strength of the opening chapters and those vital cover letters to agents and editors are very important, above them comes the central idea of the book. It’s very important that an audience can very quickly understand your concept and then the details can come afterwards! This was lucky for me, because I made a total mess of my first query letters, but things worked out ok.
Thank you for all that great information. Now, onto the lightning round questions!
Favorite fictional trickster.
Lyra Belacqua from His Dark Materials.
Great choice! I love Lyra! Best music to write to?
Progressive rock! I can’t get enough of it, especially as I play drums in a prog band too.
Who is the better thief, Aladdin or Robin Hood?
Robin Hood – he’s a plotter!
Favorite book from middle school?
Oh, Watership Down by Richard Adams. The political struggles of bunnies have never been so compelling.
I feel guilty admitting that I have not read Watership Down, yet. I will have to add it to my t.b.r. pile. If you could steal one thing, what would it be?
Stealing is bad, kids. But that’s a toughie. Hmm. I wish I could steal Terry Pratchett back from the afterlife to write more wonderful books. Sorry to end the interview on a sad note, but I’ll really miss having a new P.terry to read every Christmas.
Good answer! Thank you Bryan, and good luck with all your future Oliver and Mr. Scant novels!
About the Interviewer:
Kati Bartkowski’s middle grade fantasy novel, A DASH OF DRAGON, will be released from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, Summer 2017.
Thirteen-year-old Lailu is the youngest master chef in the kingdom, able to hunt and cook the most dangerous and delicious mystical beasts, and apprenticed to the man who literally wrote the book on dragon cuisine. But in a land where steampunk scientists feud with gangster elves, Lailu will find her most ruthless adversary is a vicious loan shark who will stop at nothing until Lailu and her culinary talents belong to him.