Special! An Interview with Richard Newsome

If you read our review of the book The Billionaire’s Curse, you know how much we like Richard Newsome’s writing. I’m sure you’ll be just as excited as we are to be able to read an interview with him!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I was lucky to grow up in a reading house. There were heaps of books and magazines and a good local library in town. English was always my favourite subject at school and I was lucky to have a string of excellent teachers who kept me interested and challenged.

When did you start writing?

I wrote my first ‘book’ as an English assignment in grade 8. My teacher, Mr Morse, gave everyone an exercise book and a deadline. We were to fill that book with a story and hand it in at the end of the year. I loved that challenge and found myself picking up the book and adding bits to the story during any spare moment I had. I think it got a pretty good grade — I’d love to re-read it now, just to see what my 12-year-old self was like as a writer!

If you weren’t a writer, what would your job be?

My first job was as a journalist on my local newspaper. And there can be no better grounding for a want-to-be novelist than working as a cadet reporter. You get to see and experience so much real world activity that the average Joe on the street doesn’t get to see. So I guess if the whole novel writing thing falls in a hole, I can go back to writing real stuff. Or open a pizza kitchen. I make a very good pizza.

How long did it take from finishing your first book to when it was actually published? Did you get many rejections?

From the first day I started writing my book, to seeing it on a bookstore shelf took … ten years! Eight of those years were spent doing the actual writing, mostly in my spare time. But I stuck at it and finally got it done. The book was rejected by about 13 literary agents, until I saw an article about a publisher running a competition to find new children’s and Young Adult writers. I entered, won the prize and The Billionaire’s Curse has now been sold into nine countries, including the US, Canada, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Do you find it hard to stop revising? Or do you have a definite ending point?

I used to work with a guy who was a basketball fanatic. His favourite saying was: ‘At some point, you’re going to have to pull up and shoot.’ I must have written and re-writen the first chapter 20 times. When you’re starting out, the temptation is to finesse everything to the nth degree. I’m now a bit easier on myself, and leave the finessing to the editing stage. And now I’m working to a deadline, as my publisher wants the next book in the series by Christmas.

For you, what is the hardest part of writing a book?

The opening line is a killer. It can stop you stone dead. I now start at the second paragraph and write the opener a bit later on, otherwise I’d never get underway.

What inspired The Billionaire’s Curse and other books in the series? Was it classic mystery stories (for the locked room mystery of the diamond theft at the museum) and/or adventures like the Indiana Jones movies (for the booby-trapped crypt).

It started out as a bedtime story I was making up for my kids, then it got a bit out of control. I’ve always loved the murder mystery genre. My grandmother was a big Agatha Christie fan and the only reading at Christmas holidays at her house was old yellowed paperbacks of Agatha Christie. Finding the killer was always a big thrill. Even in algebra lessons at school, I’d make x the murderer and set about identifying him. As for the adventure stuff, I put that in there to keep me amused. I really wrote the book as a gift to my 11-year-old self.

Do you have any subjects that you’re dying to write about, but haven’t yet?

I have a folder full of ideas for future books. I just need the discipline to do it all a bit faster.

What advice would you give young writers?

Go for it. Never think you’re too young or haven’t got enough experience. The best advice is to read widely and critically. Get a library card. Make the librarian your best friend. Take their suggestions and try new books that you might not naturally pick up from the shelf. Don’t just read for the story — think why the writer has structured the story the way they have; why they’ve taken a particular character’s point of view. Not much appears in a book by accident. Try to get behind the writer’s thinking.

What is your favorite word?

Hmm. This week it’s ‘funicular’. Last week it was ‘extrapolate’.

Can you tell us anything about the sequel to Billionaire’s Curse?

Here’s what the blurb says: Gerald, Sam and Ruby fly to India in Gerald’s private jet for a holiday at the home of Alisha Gupta, looking forward to getting away from the exhausting business of stolen gems, bejewelled caskets, thieves and bumbling police officers. But their holiday soon turns to a desperate quest to outwit a deadly cult, and to beat Mason Green to the Emerald Casket in a fast-paced race against time and tide. You can find a sneak peek chapter here

Who is your favorite author or book (children’s or adult)

Hard to pick one out, but I am a big fan of Evelyn Waugh for his satire of England ‘between the wars’. With kids books, it is impossible to go past Roald Dahl. No one has come within the same zip code as him when it comes to writing for kids.

What authors influenced you when you were first starting out?

I guess Agatha Christie was there in the back of my head, but I didn’t consciously lean on any one author. I occasionally pulled a book from the shelves just to see how a proper writer might structure a dialogue or a scene, but otherwise I was making it up as I went along.

What are your hobbies when you’re not writing?

I used to do a bit of running until my right knee exploded one day. But as a stay at home dad with three kids, there’s not a lot of spare time for hobbies, sadly. Writing used to be my hobby. Now it’s my job. Which is pretty cool. Now I need to find another hobby.

Thank you so much to Richard Newsome! And now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go read that sneak peak chapter . . . .

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