Interview with Paul Cude

What got you started in wanting to be a writer?
Oddly it just happened. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my eldest daughter was just a baby (she's not far off 11 now) I had the single most realistic dream I've ever had. I didn't remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my graphic, so intense, so.....mesmerising. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, "You have to write it, you just have to." At the time I just laughed her idea off, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story.......sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose looking back it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly.....3 months, and then, well...........I began. At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn't a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I've learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. It has taken a long time, and I was surprised how hard and crucial the editing process was. But in the end it was most definitely worth it.
Who are your favorite authors today and who were your favorite authors when you were younger?
When in my late teens, I mistakenly ordered a Tom Clancy book.....Debt of Honour. I was too lazy to return it, so it sat on my bedside table for weeks. Until one evening, when I picked it up and started to read it. Many hours later I put it down, only because I needed a few hours sleep before I went to work. I was hooked. After finishing that, I went out and bought all the other Tom Clancy books I could find. It was also about that time that the Star Wars expanded universe books started to appear. I caught sight of the first one while working in a book shop in my role of service engineer. I can remember it clearly: Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. It had a striking blue cover with some of the Star Wars characters on it, and I had to buy it there and then, in the middle of doing my job, much to the amusement of the owner of the bookshop. My love of the expanded universe has continued ever since, and as soon as the next book comes out..............I have to have it.
It seems my love of books goes in phases. If I have nothing to read, I wander around a bookshop until I find something I like the look of and then read it. If I get hooked, I go back and find other books by that author. Examples of this for me are Terry Goodkind and Christopher Paolini............I love all of their books. The detail, the plot......the characters....are just all amazing. I can only dream of writing as well as they do. Other authors I've found and loved this way include Robin Hobb, J.V. Jones, David Gemmell and Trudi Canavan, to name but a few. I love the way they use their imaginations and the worlds that they create on the pages of the book. They're all very easy to visualize.
My favorite author of all though, is the wonderful Terry Pratchett. If you haven't read one of his books you really should. While I love pretty much all the books he's written, the ones about the guards of Ankh-Morpork, Captain Carrot, Sam Vimes, Corporal Nobbs, Angua and of course the Lord Vetinari, are easily my favourites. The characters themselves are described in magnificent detail, all with their own funny little ways. The plots twist and turn like a raging river, and the humour..........well, let's just say that is exactly on my wavelength. I've cried with laughter on many occasions reading some of Terry Pratchett's books, and I can't recall doing that for any other author I've read. If you're a reading fan, you really must try one of his books.
You put quite a lot of contact sports in your work. Were you or are you a hockey/lacrosse/rugby player?
Hockey plays a big part in the story, and the plot, and has probably been the biggest influence on my life. I started playing when I was eleven years old (old by today's standards, but young back then). I'm hesitant to tell you how long ago that actually was. But through that sport I have met some of the most amazing people, most of whom I can count as friends, and had the best time on and off the field.
I feel that playing hockey has also taught me valuable life lessons. Playing a team sport shows you how to work as part of a team. How you can accomplish more together than on your own, how to pick people up around you, how to inspire and be inspired. These are valuable lessons that can be picked up from any team sport.
As for the lacrosse and rugby, one of my best friends was England ladies lacrosse captain for some time. I once had the honour to go and watch her play for England at the lacrosse world cup when it was based here. The pace and skill needed to play the game in general and particularly at that level astounded me at the time, and still amazes me to this very day when I think back. I should also mention that the person in question is an amazing hockey player, and I have played alongside her in a touring team many times. And she was always one of the best players. Choosing rugby wasn't hard. I only ever played at school, but when I watch it on the television, I admire the strength, power, commitment and passion with which it is played. The players are all so professional, not least towards the referee, which is much the same in hockey and is as it should be. It wasn't difficult to want to add it as a sport to my book. As for the hockey, I still play when I can, despite being more than a little long in the tooth, and I'm proud to say both of my children play. I help coach them every Sunday during the hockey season.
In many novels, dragons are portrayed as killers who are either indifferent or hate humankind, but you make them into creatures who took a vow to protect them. Why did you stray from the norm in that aspect?
I'm not really sure it is the norm. In a lot of the books I've read, and I suppose my imagination, I always think of dragons as a friendly race. When you think of the Eragon series of books by Christopher Paolini, the dragons are a fabulous race, revered by all, and the most powerful of species. Terry Goodkind paints this kind of picture, albeit a little darker than the Eragon series. Other little pointers in this direction include the Harry Potter books and the television series Merlin. As for why it was this way with me, I think again I wanted a little twist on a you've mentioned mostly they are portrayed as killers, but twisting things round and making them protectors of human kind appeals to my sense of humour, as well I think for making a great and unusual story. As for how, and why, they are the protecting the'll have to wait for all to be revealed in the later books.
The dragon friends become "addicted" to their human lives and human sports. What is it, do you think, that draws us humans so much towards sports?
I think it's probably the friendship. When you think of all the solo, tennis, squash, etc, playing in a team is very different. In some way it makes the achievements of all the golfers, tennis players all the more impressive. It's their mental strength alone that sees them through. For me, playing in a team means friendship, camaraderie and all the banter that goes along with it. First and foremost it has to be fun, and if it's fun, you'll try harder, and therefore be better at it. But as well, when things aren't going your way, you can turn around on a windswept rainy day, look at all of your soaking team mates and give that little bit extra, not for you, but for them. And how good is it to be able to give encouragement, put an arm around a shoulder and support one of your friends if they've made a mistake, and for them to do it to you if you've lost the ball. Aside from all of that, there's the excitement of balls and sticks flying in everywhere during a hockey match, the physical contact and danger sending your adrenaline sky high. What's not to like? Playing in a team is the best thing, and if you haven't tried it, you really should. It could change your life just like it's changed mine.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
I love the freedom that it gives you to use your imagination how you see fit. Just the thought of a blank page makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end. I see additions and amendments to my books in my dreams, and the words just have to come out. When they do, it feels so good. Sometimes it's possible to lose yourself for hours, when you think only minutes have passed. Just the thought of someone reading your work and liking it makes it all feel very rewarding.
How did you come up with the story? All the detail of the laminium ball games, mantra's, grotto's, dragon cities, etc.
Most of it comes to me while I'm asleep. I think a lot of the influences are just based around my life.......all the crazy things that zip in and out of my head. Hockey obviously plays a big part in the book.......who'd have thought, dragons playing hockey.....unreal. But the rest...I like to read a lot, so influences there are Terry Pratchett, the Harry Potter books, the Star Wars universe - I'm sure a great deal of what's in my book can be traced back to all of these and more in some way, shape or form. I have a love of gaming, when I have time. I've played some online games in the past........again, most have dragons and those kind of figures in them. Haven't played for many, many, many months due to time constraints, family life and trying to get my next book finished. As well, on occasion, the writing, or the words, who knows which one, just suddenly takes over. It's happened on a few occasions, I've sat down to start to write, and the words just flow out. You think half an hour's passed, and you look up to see that it's been nearly three, you've written three or four times what you'd hoped, and the story has either gone off at a tangent, or gone briefly in a different direction all together. Not once have I disliked any of the work that's come out when this has happened.
Your books are labeled as "Young Adult" but I find that a lot of your readers are over the age of 18. What do you think it is that gives it such crossover appeal?
I think it's probably the humour. While I'm not sure you'll need a surgeon to stitch up your sides, I do hope there's enough of my warped sense of humour in there to make you smile occasionally as well as keep you entertained. I'd like to think that the twists and turns of the plot keep readers of all ages on the edge of their seats, not knowing which way things are going. Also, the dragons are leading young adult human lives, albeit in a very naive sort of way. I think pretty much most of us can relate to that at some time during our lives - perhaps that has something to do with it.
Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I have a rough outline of the whole story...... the bigger picture, broken down into the key events of the different books. So I'll know the key events and the order in which they'll come in each book. But I do tend to start off a chapter, knowing that I have to either get to that key event from some particular point, or knowing that I have to include that key event in there, and then I just see what happens. Sometimes........the writing just seems to take over. I remember I had the house to myself, and it was actually quiet....something of a rarity. I sat down to try and write my 1000 words a day (something I aim for...but don't always achieve). Anyhow, I started writing and before I knew it (if you'd have asked me at the time, I'd have said I'd been writing for less than an hour), I'd written over 5000 words, and nearly three hours had elapsed. did that happen? While that's the most I've written like that, those little moments keep happening every now and then, and it's always fascinating to see what it is that appears when you get swept along on the tide of words. Most of the time it goes off at a tangent, combining things from my real life, with things in the fiction of my story. At first I thought this a little odd, and would not fit in with the story at all, but as the main character, Peter Bentwhistle, although a dragon, when in his human form is based loosely around me, I figure if it's something on my mind, it isn't too far-fetched to think that it would be something on his mind. So to answer the question.......BOTH! Planned out, and whisked along, although not all at once.
What kind of dragon would you be?
The lead character, Peter, is roughly based around me, and of course he's a dragon. He's kind, caring considerate and good mannered. He loves playing hockey, and has a very special bond with his friends. I've certainly had that in the past, but at the moment, not so much. But a lot like me...........he's reluctant. I'm very quiet and shy, I suppose a big part of that comes from not drinking alcohol for me; it's the same for him. Also, he manages to spur himself on to greater things, whether in a hockey match, or a deadly fight, mainly at the thought of his friends or team mates. I know this is possible, well, in a hockey match at least. So I would choose to be like him, and be kind, caring friendly and good mannered, always on the lookout for new friends.
Published 2014-09-09.
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