Interview with Maxwell Grantly

What is the title of your latest work? What is its release date, or is it out already?
My latest ebook is called “Fingers and the Dream Thief.” It was released just a few days ago, on the 5th of April and it formed the last part of a trilogy involving a character called Fingers: a young shoe-shiner who picked the pockets of his wealthy clients. I know that authors are not meant to have favourites from their own work. When I speak with other authors about which of their books they prefer, they often reply that they like them all. (I guess this may be due to a reluctance to admit that, if one book is stronger, then there must be others that are not so strong.) However, if you ask me, “Fingers and the Dream Thief” is a firm favourite of mine and so, sadly yes, consequently it can be deduced that some of my other books must therefore be weaker.
In 25 words or less, what is this book about? [Note: this isn’t really 25 words, but if you had to pitch your book in a couple of sentences, what would you choose to say about it?]
A wealthy steampunk photographer, Mr. Snude, finances the local orphanage but abuses his generosity, by stealing the children’s dreams. It is left to a street urchin, called Fingers, to turn the tables on Mr. Snude and teach him a lesson he will never forget.
What inspired this? What decisions brought these characters to this place and time in this genre?
Initially, I was planning to just write a single graphic novel, based on the character of Fingers the pickpocket. He was created to steal a pocket watch from a steampunk inventor, only to discover that the device was actually a portable time machine. It was my intention to allow Fingers the opportunity to go back in time and confront his parents, in an attempt to make sense as to why he had been abandoned on the streets.

As I worked on the development of his character, I saw a great deal of potential for further stories. I found that I had really enjoyed working with a devious young pickpocket as a main character. A second story followed immediately called “The Incredible Adventure of Fingers and Boston,” where Fingers used his pick pocketing skills to distract a villain at a critical point in the plot. This time, I used a picture book format for the story and I really enjoyed working on it. I simply didn’t want to stop developing this interesting character. Additionally, I had deliberately left the first book with a loose end and so I thought that a third and final instalment would be ideal to give perfect closure to this character. Quite simply, I felt that Fingers had earned himself a happy ending.
Without giving anything away, did you intend to teach a morality fable or a life lesson, or were you simply telling a rollicking good tale, entertainment for its own sake?
When I write, I just want to tell a good story. I feel that it is a basic feature of every human being to be creative. Some people find their creativity in their hobbies, art, dance, music; other people find a release for their creative spirit by consuming the creativity of others. I find that the production of stories is a great release that allows me to be creative, simply for the joy of doing so. Sometimes a fable or lesson might arise naturally from the plot but, when it does, it is often unintentional. I would like to think that, when a reader browses through my work, they are able to enter a magical world of suspended belief and join me in my bizarre world of fantasy, if only for a brief moment.
Settings may be real or imagined, but it is a vital component of any narrative. How did your story come to be told in this setting as opposed to any other?
My last three stories have all been steampunk but I don’t always choose this particular genre. Many of my earlier stories are fantasy but, again, I am not one to stick rigidly to any particular style. I love to experiment, to dabble with styles and themes. I have written short novels, longer novels, graphic novels, picture storybooks and I have worked in the first person tense as well as third person tense. My heroes have been elves, robots and people. As for my interest in steampunk: I have always had an interest in the Victorian era. I love the dress, the innovations and the architecture of this period. When I stumbled across an online steampunk simulation (New Babbage), my interest was galvanised.
Without giving anything away, who are your heroes and villains, what went into their makeup, and what nuances should we watch for to maximize our enjoyment of the book?
My books are strongly graphical in nature. I love to create my stories around beautiful imagery. The production of each story starts with the selection of characters, both good and bad. The characters are then tweaked and modified until I am happy with their construction. Next, I place these characters into an environment and add some dilemma that needs to be resolved. Since I aim my stories for young children, my characters are instantly recognisable as being either good or bad. The hero is often a child who is disadvantaged in some way. His or her psychological make-up is usually based upon someone I know: a friend or relation. I have heard that friends of famous authors sometimes explain that they recognise themselves in the stories of these authors. I wonder if my friends or family may ever recognise themselves in mine! Using known people, on which to base characters, is a great way of ensuring effective continuity in a story. Each time a character is faced with a dilemma, I just wonder how my friend or family member would react in this scenario.
Have you ever had a character that was intended to be part of the background stand up and take over the narrative, or a substantial part of it?
I can’t recall a time when a minor character stepped forward and became a substantial part of the storyline. However, this nearly happened in the story called “Runs Like Clockwork” when a small clockwork toy found himself employed in a wealthy home, as a reader for a sick child. In this story, it was my intention to add a twist to the plot and use the butler as a villain. The butler would rob the family of their silverware and then frame the clockwork toy. This was the longest story that I have ever written, at nearly 25 000 words. The theft and resolution was planned to happen in the latter part of the book. As I was working through the story, I found that the development of other parts of the plot required more input than I had anticipated. I realised that, if I complicated the matter by adding a burglary, it would require a substantial amount of work to bring this sub-plot to closure. I felt that this might become a major distraction to the main storyline and so I revisited earlier chapters and deleted a lot of the groundwork that I had already written, regarding the butler’s deviant character. Finally, in the story, he just ended up as being a basic servant who occurs randomly throughout the plot as a subsidiary character and simply “fills a space” in the story.
Here is your opportunity to show off your skills. Choose a scene, from a hundred words to a thousand or so, from the book, that highlights your major skill, be it dialogue, description, suspense, or whatever, and paste it right here. Dazzle us.
Edward watched as the mechanical carriage rolled backwards and forwards across the floor of the cotton mill.

Edward was a doffer and it was his responsibility to remove the spools filled by the spinning machine and replace them with empty ones. Doffering was a difficult job; it required quick spurts of fast energetic work, spaced with long periods of inactivity. How Edward hated this task. Not only had he to climb upon the machines, in order to change the higher spools, but he also had to do it barefooted, in order to be quick and agile. Often a misplaced foot or a hesitant hand had been the cause of the tragic passing of many a young worker. It was common to see a new face working in the textile mills, after the body of a previous child had been removed from the innards of the moving machinery. People often said that the Shadow was always busy in the cotton mills, taking the souls of those who had departed, to their final home in the heavens. Edward was determined that he should not wane in his chores for he did not want to see the Shadow just yet.

Mr. Grimes had told him, “Time is money and money is cotton!”

Edward was unsure what Mr. Grimes meant but, since the repetition of this chant was accompanied by the slap of a hand around the back of his head, the young boy kept his mind focused upon the spools of the machine and carefully minded them with great care, so that the bobbins would not falter.

The air of the mill was shrouded with countless particles of dust and lint from the cotton of the clanking machines. Edward’s eyes reddened, partly due to the dry fibres floating in the air and partly due to the incessant rubbing from the back of his sleeve. It was then that he noticed the threads from one spool becoming full and so he clambered up onto the frame of the massive mechanical brute, to attend to his work.

Had he not have rubbed his eyes so severely he might have seen the thick layer of cotton dust that had amassed beneath his foot. Tragically, for Edward, he was tired for the want of rest and he was weakened for the lack of nourishment. His foot slipped as the belts of the machine stretched and pulled. Instantly, Edward felt the cruel bite of metal upon his flesh, as his shirt became entangled within the workings of the spinning machine.

He shrieked out in agony but it was too late. His life was expendable but the profits of the mill were not. It was then that Edward met the Shadow for the first time.

As Edward lay with his body twisted in the machinery, a vision appeared within his head: he thought he saw a dark hazy figure, without form, approach him and speak to him. It was the turn of Edward to meet the Shadow.

“I am the Shadow,” explained a voice within Edward’s head, “but do not worry, your time to come with me is not yet. You will not fly with me today, young child. I will stay with you for just a while but I must leave you soon. Your time upon this earth is not yet spent.”

Another voice boomed and its noise drowned out the quiet whisper of the Shadow. The Shadow faded into the light and Edward’s limp body was tugged from the machinery.

“Damned careless child,” cursed one worker harshly. “Should’ve watched what ‘e was a’doin’.”

The rough hand of an adult briskly pulled the lifeless carcass of the boy from the machine and the spinning continued as before.

“Time is money and money is cotton! Get another doffer and get him quick,” shouted a voice from across the floor of the mill, “and get the body of that child sorted too!”

An adult picked up the limp corpse of the boy and carried it away from the mill floor, towards a courtyard at the rear of the factory. A lone figure stood there waiting, as if expecting a gruesome delivery of some sort.

“Five shillings for the body?” the figure enquired, “I’ll take it and save you the hassle of a pauper’s burial.”

The worker looked up, to see the sharp penetrating gaze of a clean-shaven face staring down at the dead boy. Five shillings was a substantial amount of money for a common worker and he needed no prompting, other than a quick glance around the courtyard to check that no one else was eavesdropping on the muted conversation. He held out his hand and beckoned for the coins. The deal was done. Within seconds the lone figure had left the courtyard with his gruesome trophy, the worker strolled back into the factory jangling five small coins in his pocket and all thoughts of the passing of an innocent child were lost from the minds of those who slaved the impoverished conditions in the cotton mill.
Where do you see yourself as an author in five years?
As I said earlier, I write stories simply as a release for my creativity. I love to see my work being appreciated and valued by others but I don’t view writing as a means for me to earn a living. I am happy to keep the cost of my ebooks as low as possible and I thrive on receiving positive feedback from satisfied readers. (I guess all authors do too!)
What advice do you have for young people just starting out on the grand adventure that is writing?
I once heard that writing a book is like making love to an elephant. You have to be crazy to start! It’s an incredibly difficult task. You have to wait twenty-two months (usually longer) before you see the results of your labours. Finally, you may get killed in the process.

My advice for any young person starting out is that they should bear this in mind and simply be true to themselves. If they are happy with what they doing, then that is good. If they are not, then it is time to change direction and find other outlets.
Briefly describe your favorite movie. What feature about it makes it your favorite? What character in the movie is most like you, and why?
The film that inspired me the most was the movie called “Billy Elliot.” It tells the story of a young teenager growing up with his father and elder brother in a mining community (in North Yorkshire, UK) during the turmoil and hardship of miner’s strikes. Both Billy’s father and his elder brother were miners; it was expected that he would become one too. However, Billy had a passion for ballet dancing and, in the end, he was able to realise his dream. I loved the film because of its powerful storyline: be true to yourself. If you get an opportunity to see this film (or “Billy Elliot – the Musical”) it is well worth watching, if only for the beautiful dance sequences.
Published 2016-07-28.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Fire Starter!
Price: Free! Words: 2,550. Language: British English. Published: October 17, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
(4.00 from 1 review)
When a series of fires broke out around the city, the finger of suspicion pointed to William Marley, the chimney sweep. Was he negligent with his sweeping duties? However, as is common with stories by Maxwell Grantly, all is not as you might expect it to be.
Dancing Della
Price: Free! Words: 3,370. Language: British English. Published: April 11, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Della loves to dance at the Smugglers’ Arms, for loose change, to supplement her income as a match girl. This is why the regulars all call her ‘Dancing Della – the Match Girl.’ One day her life was thrown upside-down, when she accidentally stumbled upon a hidden den for thieves. Discover what happened to Dancing Della and find out whether she ever escaped from the evil clutches of the thieves.
Dancing Della Finds Her Hat
Price: Free! Words: 2,020. Language: British English. Published: April 10, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
(5.00 from 1 review)
In the last story (featuring Dancing Della) Della escaped from the sewer network but, sadly, she left her straw boater behind. In this sequel we discover how Della returned to the sewer complex, in order to recover her beloved straw boater from the maze of tunnels.
Dancing Della and the Empty Gin Bottles
Price: Free! Words: 1,860. Language: British English. Published: March 30, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other, Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
Della loves to dance at the Smugglers’ Arms for loose change, to supplement her income as a match girl. One day her life was thrown upside-down, when she accidentally stumbled upon a hidden den of thieves.
Bandit - The Short-Sighted Cat Burglar
Price: Free! Words: 3,320. Language: British English. Published: October 13, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Children's Books » Animals / Cats, Nonfiction » Children's Books » Animals / Pets
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Everyone in the town of Myopia was short-sighted and so it was no surprise that, when the time came, Sophie should fail her eye test too. Therefore Sophie's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Goggles bought their daughter a small kitten, as a present, in order to console her.
Gobbles - The Hungry Cat
Price: Free! Words: 2,120. Language: British English. Published: October 7, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Children's Books » Animals / Cats, Fiction » Children’s books » Animals
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
When Jack is given a baby kitten, his mother gives him just one rule, “Do not overfeed the cat.”
The Fingers Trilogy
Price: Free! Words: 170. Language: British English. Published: May 26, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
This beautiful trilogy features three incredible stories from the life and times of a Victorian shoeshine boy, Edward Croydon. (Also known as Fingers the Pickpocket.) These exciting steampunk stories by Maxwell Grantly have many beautiful illustrations that will enchant and captivate readers of all ages.
Fingers and the Pocket Watch Too
Price: Free! Words: 60. Language: British English. Published: May 25, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
This exciting steampunk story, about Fingers the Pickpocket, by Maxwell Grantly has been adapted from a previous comic format into an illustrated story, which has many beautiful illustrations to enchant and captivate you.
Professor Nibbler's Most Amazing Mouse Circus
Price: Free! Language: English. Published: November 13, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other, Fiction » Graphic novels & comics » General
Find out how two homeless siblings, Jacob and Molly, got to see their very first ever mouse circus. Of course, as is common with stories by Maxwell Grantly, things never go according to plan.
Alfred and the Broken Flute
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: August 4, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
A homeless busking street urchin becomes kidnapped by two thugs, who break his wooden flute. Discover how Alfred managed to regain his freedom, by the most unexpected way!
Hold Your Horses
Price: Free! Words: 2,450. Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Family / Siblings, Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
(5.00 from 1 review)
Two small elves are treated to a gift, a pair of hobby horses, at the annual village fete. When they discover that the donkey derby has been cancelled, chaos results.
Dear Diary
Price: Free! Words: 2,840. Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Family / Siblings, Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
In this ebook, the reader is introduced to some of the background of two young elves, in the form of a humorous diary. This book forms part of a series telling the childhood adventures of Maxwell and Skippy.
The Vampire Cats
Price: Free! Words: 4,760. Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Family / Siblings, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
(5.00 from 1 review)
A pair of elves raise two small falcons from abandoned eggs. Later these falcons rescue a wishing tree from a forest fire and the resultant wish leads to the most magical adventure involving vampire cats.
Lunar Dream
Price: Free! Words: 1,440. Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Imagination & Play, Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
One night, two small elves share a mutual dream that involves a journey to the moon, accompanied by their pet kittens. A bizarre and fantastical adventure results, as they sleep.
Conker Bonkers
Price: Free! Words: 3,780. Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Family / Siblings, Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
Two young elves discover the springtime secret of the Horse Chestnut tree. They use this information to locate every conker tree in the village with very exciting results.
Shiver m'Timbers
Price: Free! Words: 2,960. Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Action & Adventure / Pirates, Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
Two small elves hide their ears beneath wide-brimmed pirate hats, as they travel to the seaside for a day out. The resulting confusion leads to a most unexpected conclusion.
The Sugar Monster
Price: Free! Words: 2,090. Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Two small elves are asked to visit the village store for a bag of sugar. On their journey, the younger elf is told about the existence of a dreadful sugar monster that reigns in the village.
Runs Like Clockwork
Price: Free! Words: 24,300. Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Children’s books » Robots
An elderly clockmaker constructs an automation, using the remains of a stuffed toy and some miscellaneous clock components. However, it becomes stolen and must learn to make sense of its new clockwork life.
The Stolen Egg
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 29, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Fantasy » General
A spiv is deceived into stealing an egg from the ruins of a nearby castle. Before he is able to pass on the egg, it hatches into a tiny dragon that escapes to cause mayhem.
The Early Days
Price: Free! Words: 2,320. Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Family / Alternative Family, Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
A pair of hedgehogs are rescued from death on a busy road but tragedy results, leaving the hedgehogs to care for a pair of baby elves. The elves find themselves in the care of a local church and seek to find a loving family.
The Ghostman
Price: Free! Words: 9,110. Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost
(5.00 from 1 review)
A local magician becomes known as the Ghostman as he explores the town’s history and he discovers a ghoulish past. Each of his adventures results in the discovery of a tragic tale and a petrifying ghost story.
The Incredible Adventure of Fingers and Boston
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other, Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
A steampunk street urchin discovers a stray dog with a weirdly shaped tag hanging from its collar. As he tries to discover the meaning of the dog tag, a thrilling adventure results.
Timothy's Big Adventure
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Animals, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Timothy was George’s pet tortoise and playmate. Discover Timothy’s big adventure when he fell into a black hole behind a bag of potatoes.
Teddy's Many Hats
Price: Free! Words: 10. Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Friendship
Teddy had a huge collection of hats. However, Teddy had a dilemma: which hat should he wear when he told his boy how much he is loved.
Sprocket and the Sparrow
Price: Free! Words: 20. Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Nature & the Natural World / Environment, Fiction » Children’s books » Robots
A robot spies a sparrow at the window of a busy factory. He seeks to learn more about this beautiful bird and discovers an awful secret about the woodland next door.
Leif's Quest
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Children’s books » Legends, Myths, Fables / Other
A young elf must complete a gallant and noble quest in order to partner his childhood sweetheart. Adventures ensue when he decides that he should cross the Great Rift, from Fantasia, and enter the world of people.
Jack and the Space Pirates
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Action & Adventure / Pirates, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
(2.00 from 1 review)
Jack (and his pet cat, Jet) become accidentally hijacked by space pirates. Jack has to devise a plan that will lead to his freedom and the release of a gold-carrying galleon.
Gobbler and the Mirror
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other
Gobbler lived on the streets of New Babbage, stealing food to survive. His life changed dramatically when he accidentally discovered the secret of a new glass invention.
Fingers and the Pocket Watch
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other
A street urchin steals a pocket watch from a steampunk inventor. On discovering that it is a portable time machine, he tries to use it to make sense of his tragic past.
Fingers and the Dream Thief
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
A wealthy photographer finances the local orphanage but abuses his generosity, by stealing the children’s dreams. It is left to a street urchin to turn the tables and teach him a lesson that he will never forget.
Count on Teddy
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
Sadly, Teddy cannot count and so Edward tries to teach him the first five numbers. However, Edward finds himself learning an important lesson instead.
Albert's Wiggly Tooth
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Graphic novels & comics » Historical fiction, Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other
Albert never believed in the tooth fairy so he wondered what happened to his teeth, after being placed under his pillow. Chaos reigned the following Sunday in church!
A Clean Sweep
Price: Free! Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other, Fiction » Historical » General
Isaac (a sweep) lived an awful life but he found comfort in a secret letter, telling him that all would end well. His life changed dramatically after stealing a cigar box.
The Christmas Penny
Price: Free! Words: 2,450. Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Other, Fiction » Historical » Victorian
(4.00 from 1 review)
Two hungry street urchins discover a shining penny, laying in the snow one Christmas. How do they spend this resulting treasure?
The Boy With the Clockwork Heart
Price: Free! Words: 4,900. Language: British English. Published: July 28, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Steampunk & retropunk, Fiction » Historical » Victorian
Edward once worked in a cotton mill, until he slipped and fell into the machinery. This story tells the tale of how he received a clockwork heart and how he met the Shadow three times.