Born and raised in Canada, Greg began writing shortly after graduating from Lakehead University and teaching a class of exceptional children at Maplecrest School in Kingston, Ontario. The first time the writing bug caught was when he composed a complete play for his grade six class in 2 hours to the amazement of his students. It was an original script, custom written for each students characteristics and laced with humour, that was funny to both students and adults.
A few years later, Greg began the manuscript that became Otto and the Hunt for Mal Goue. It was put on the back burner for five years as Greg pursued his career and had three fantastic children with his wonderful wife.
A chance meeting with a friend pushed Greg to re-read Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. He realized the first time he read the book, he didn’t understand the messaging and immediately picked back up the manuscript and began to re-write. A more mature and more focused manuscript appeared, like magic.
With the support and love of his wife, Greg took the leap and decided to publish his book on Smashbooks and Amazon after reading a twitter article on Amanda Hocking. The story Otto and the Hunt for Mal Goue is the culmination of dreams and hard work. I hope you enjoy it! To post a review or check out Greg’s upcoming events, please check out his blog http://gregblok.blogspot.ca/
Thank you for joining us today, Greg. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
I am a father of three children under four and run a company for a living, but my real aspiration is to become a full time writer. I didn’t take the traditional route to writing a book and probably was one of the least likely people to publish a novel, but I always remember my high school English teacher saying something to the effect of ‘How can I tell you your writing isn’t good, because someday you might grow up to be the next Shakespeare’. I think I am a quite a distance from that, but I believe it is just another way of saying never stop believing in your dreams.
I was a college baseball player and one day got hit in the shoulder and suffered nerve damage. That effectively ended my baseball career and changed the course of my life drastically. Sometimes the unexpected twists and turns lead you somewhere special. If that baseball hadn’t hit me, I wouldn’t have likely written a book, so it seems now quite fortuitous, whereas at the time, it seemed dreadful.
After finishing school, I was a teacher for two years and have always worked in the service and sales industries, so I pride myself on being a good observer of people. This translated into being able to produce more life-like characters and reactions to situations.
When did you first get bit by the writing bug?
I was a late bloomer in the writing category, I suffered from a lack of confidence in my writing and never really pursued it. I was looking for a play for my class to perform at the annual Christmas concert and couldn’t find anything I like and that suited my students. I had a student teacher with me, so I had her teach spelling that morning and in under two hours I wrote a complete half hour play, customized with roles for each student. It was loosely based on Scooby Doo and incorporated spin offs of many different characters.
At the end of the school year, we did a large scale class project and I conceived of doing a ‘choose your own adventure novel’. Together, the grade six students and I developed a complete story, created a storyboard and wrote the whole novel. We had it professionally bound and all the kids gave it to their parents as a gift at the end of the school year. It was a very cool experience. After that, I was hooked!
Why did you decide to write stories for children?
I think my decision was made for a few reasons, the first being my familiarity with the age group. My parents decided to have additional children when I was eleven years old, so I watched my younger brother and two younger sisters grow up while I was in my teenage years. I then went on to be a teacher and was surrounded daily by young people. My dad always said follow your dreams and that was another inspiration that kept me young and open minded.
As a reader, I prefer that age group. Stories like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, et al are some of my favourite books. I do like adult fiction as well with Dan Brown and Michael Lewis as two of my favourite writers in that genre.
Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?
It is very different. I feel that adult fiction is vertical in nature, whereas young adult fiction is horizontal. What I mean by those terms is that an adult novel usually probes deeper into a subject, hence more research and becoming a greater expert in one topic, whereas a younger audience book tends to move faster and cover more ground. I have an active imagination, so writing a fast paced novel is much more appealing to me.
What is your favorite part of writing for young people?
The fantasy of creation is my favourite part. Children have great imaginations and are unspoiled by the constraints of adulthood. It allows for the whimsical and the extreme to be common place. I think getting a child hooked onto reading can really have a positive effect on their future. Reading is a great way to increase vocabulary, develop creative problem solving and the ability to communicate effectively.
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?
You’re commanding a tall ship on the ocean, with the greatest naval captain in the fleet hot on your tail. He has a bigger ship, which is faster, with more guns and a seasoned pirate crew. They’re closing fast! He has been sailing the high seas for over thirty years, more than twice your age, your men are staring at you, waiting for you to tell them what to do next. What do you do?
This is but one of the dilemmas facing young Otto DeGraff in Otto and the Hunt for Mal Goue, the story of a young boy from humble beginnings, who escapes an arranged marriage, becomes a stowaway on a battleship and unknowingly stumbles into the biggest act of treason in the history of the Dutch East India Company. The novel is set during the grand era of the high seas, at the height of the Dutch East India Company, when tall ships sailed the ocean, men made their living on the high seas and pirates terrified even the bravest of souls.
Otto faces insurmountable obstacles in his quest to find Mal Goue, the mythical artifact that turns dirt into gold and will ultimately save his family. Along the way Otto has to use his cunning, strength and nerve to overcome the cast of scoundrels including Mr. Landseer, the corrupt magistrate, the Pirate King and the treasonous Captain Vanderzee. In the exciting climax, Otto has to face his fears and his toughest adversary in a stunning sword dual to save his life and the lives of his crew.
What inspired you to write it?
This is a tough question. It was a variety of factors, I have always enjoyed writing and had put writing a novel on my “bucket list”. I also am really drawn to the idea of living the life less ordinary. In marketing, to be successful, you often have to do what others are not doing. This was an outlet of doing something less ordinary that could develop into something extraordinary.
I also enjoy things like adventure and travel. I remember teaching for a summer in London, England and going to a pub in Bristol, that’s claim to fame was Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island in that same pub. My friend and I sat in front of a fire place and I thought to myself, this is likely where one of the greatest adventure stories in history was written. During that trip, we visited Kings Cross station and saw the café where J K Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter novel. That whole trip was incredibly inspiring.
Where can readers purchase a copy?
Otto and the Hunt for Mal Goue is available on Smashwords and Amazon online. Recently, Borders and Apple have both accepted my novel into their catalogues.
What is up next for you?
Deciding between a sequel to Otto and the Hunt for Mal Goue or doing a teenage coming of age story. My wife and I have some awesome ideas for a picture book series that I want to work on before my children are too old to enjoy it.
Thank you for spending time with us today, Greg. We wish you much success.