Brian Wilkinson is a first-time author who was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto with his family. He has a background in journalism and a couple of degrees in the arts that have led him to his current career as a high school teacher and librarian.
Prior to all of this, Brian was a journalist who worked in various capacities for publications like the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, and Kidscreen Magazine. He even landed an issue of X-Men working for Marvel comics.
Combining his love of teaching and writing, Brian is releasing his first two young adult books, Battledoors: The Golden Slate, and Paramnesia, through Blue Moon Publishers in the fall of 2018.
You can find out more at his website, bewilkinson.wordpress.com.
Thank you for joining us today, Brian. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I have a great job working in education, a wonderful and supportive wife, two kids, a dog, the whole nine yards. It’s been a long road to get here with lots of hard work, setbacks of various kinds, and all the rest, but ultimately I have done my best and now here I am.
Now that I’m lucky enough to be writing books (and getting them published!) things are even better. I had some experience as a journalist and as a freelance writer for Marvel Comics, but all of that took a backseat to my main career as a teacher. Luckily, my career dovetails with my love of writing and has given me the opportunity to tell my stories!
When did you first get bit by the writing bug?
I remember quite clearly being in the 11th or 12th grade, in a creative writing class, and getting an assignment that was to put together a collection of poems or short stories, or to write a novel. I’m sure the last one was a bit of a lark on the part of a teacher who didn’t expect it, but I went home and wrote a 120 page novel over the course of a day or two. It wasn’t brilliant, but it also wasn’t too hard to put together.
I say that and people roll their eyes. But honestly, it wasn’t hard for me. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t so much an easy thing to do as it was something that I had a knack for. Kids who excelled in other subjects like science baffled me… how can you just take to that stuff? That’s how it was for me and writing. Yet, I didn’t push it any further. I was content knowing that it was something I could do. I was a writer who didn’t write. Until recently, that is.
Why did you decide to write stories for the YA market?
I write for young adults for a couple of reasons. One, they are my main audience as a professional and I interact with hundreds of them on a daily basis. They are amazing, intelligent people who are bursting with imagination and potential. Plus, they’re just fun.
As a teacher and librarian, I take in a lot of teenage culture both passively and actively. When I buy books for the school, I want to make sure that they are reading quality things. Part of that involves reading the books and YA in particular. Thanks to all of those influences and my personal enjoyment of the genre, it all naturally tends to bend in that direction.
What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?
For me, it’s the instant feedback. I have groups at the school who share writing amongst each other and they just get really into things. Adults will read things, take it in and let it go, but kids breathe it. They become much more invested. Seeing kids argue about my characters and my work was just kind of surreal. They believed in my stories to a level that most others wouldn’t. It was humbling, to be honest.
Which is also where the challenge comes. You want to make sure that it rings true, especially the characters, that the book is accessible, it’s enjoyable, and that is has some staying power to hold their interest. You also want to make sure that it speaks to them about ideas and themes in a mature way that isn’t condescending.
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?
My books are meant to be fun. The tone is lighthearted, but there are serious moments and beats that hopefully make them a compelling read.
My first book, Battledoors: The Golden Slate, is about a teenager named Owen dealing with the loss of his mother and a move to Toronto for a fresh start. Though he tries to be invisible, he catches the attention both of a pair of bullies and a pair of girls, one of whom he has a crush on. All five of them then stumble across a magical object, called a Battledoor, which opens a doorway to a parallel version of our world. These kids need to make either/or choices that the Battledoor presents in order to get the story they are living to come to an end and get back home. It’s sort of a modern take on the old choose-your-own-adventure stories. They go to strange places, meet interesting people, and of course, take on the villain.
My other novel is Paramnesia. This is a supernatural story about a girl named Nora who finds she has the ability to see the dead after she and her boyfriend are attacked by a creature known as the Revenant. Her boyfriend dies and she tries to get on with her life, but it’s hard when he still comes to see her. Nora meets other people, living and dead alike, who try to help her deal with her new reality. There’s a mixture of humour and horror here that I think works really well.
What inspired you to write it?
I wrote my books shortly before the birth of my children. I was a writer who didn’t write because I didn’t have a particular need. When my children were coming, I looked around my house to see what there was that I might leave them one day. What was here that would remind them of who their dad was and how much he loved them? When I realized I was just looking at a bunch of ‘things’ I decided to write them stories. What you have now are edited and evolved from those stories; the originals of which I’ll find some way in the future to put in their hands. Really, though, these books are for them.
Where can readers purchase a copy?
The books aren’t out yet, but when they are, they’ll be available through most major book stores including Chapters/Indigo, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Order away!
What is up next for you?
I have a sequel already written for Battledoors called The Black Spyre. Beyond that, I have several other books planned to follow up both Battledoors and Paramnesia. Hopefully people will want to read them!
Do you have anything else to add?
I’ve never written books before, certainly not on a scale like this. My hope is that people enjoy them and find something in them to connect with!
Thank you for spending time with us today, Brian. We wish you much success.