Tick is the story of Tom Verbrisser, a young man who has everything and more; a great apartment in London, top of the range designer sunglasses and a luxury car. And he’s about to inherit his fathers fortune too. There’s just one hitch; Tom Verbrisser is a cat.
Peter Leonard, the author, and I have played Magic the Gathering together and he tells me he’s a big fan of Mine Craft and Mine Craft mods, including Mine Craft RPGs. I had the chance to chat with Peter about Tick and his current Kickstarter. He shares some great tips about story telling too, read on and enjoy.
Rodney Sloan: “Hi Peter. To start off, tell us a little about yourself and what you do?”
Peter Leonard: “Hello Rodney. Well, I’m Peter Leonard, I’m from the UK, and a small town called Worcester. If people don’t know where that is I tell them it’s where the sauce comes from. I’ve worked in Japan for four years, which includes the earthquake. I’m a trainer, not a shoe, but I teach teachers. Before that I work as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), teaching English. I’m very busy, I ride a train to work and wear a suit. I’m much like the character Tom in the novel, except that I don’t have a car or a cat.
RS: “Nice. So when did you start telling stories?”
PL: “I guess it started in elementary school, during creative writing projects. I would go wild and drive the teachers mad. Once we were given an extended project, in teams or individually. We were expected to write a two page story, but I wrote 20 pages, signed and complete with a decorated cover. The teacher couldn’t mark it. I suppose I just love creating things from scratch.”
“I was 16 when I wrote my first book draft. It was soon after watching the second Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. Especially the Helms Deep scene. I just felt that I need to create something. So I decided to write without limits. Vaygan was the name of that story, a space epic without limits. When I finished I put it away thinking this was it, I never have to work again. Six months later I read it and though ‘…this is terrible’.”
“I went on to earn my English literature degree, and then re-edited Vaygan. It’s like the quote from that guy, he was sort of famous, Orson Welles. He said ‘The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.’ I added some limitations and boundaries and it became a much better story.”
“Here’s a tip for anyone looking to create stories: look up the 7 point story arc or 8 point story arc models. They detail every story cycle and you can apply them to any and every story. It’s a good structure.”
RS: “Tell us about Tick, the novel your promoting on Kickstarter.”
PL: “Well, the book is light fantasy, urban fantasy really. It’s aimed predominately at young adults but has something for older readers too.”
“Tick was the second writing project I did, and I’ll give you a very brief history. I used to work in a book store in Worcester and I was looking for a new series to read. I wanted a huge series, something to really sink my teeth into. I was working in the Children’s section, and wanted something light. I came across Erin Hunter’s Warrior Cat’s series. I was blown away, it was simple and straightforward, with at least 50 books in the series at the time. I researched her and discovered that she’s from Britain, but that she’s more famous in the US. She spent 1 year on the best seller list there. So I got in touch with her agent, who put me in touch with her. I told here that ‘I work in a largish book shop in a largish UK city, can we set up a book signing?’ She didn’t expect anything big, and neither did I, but we ended up having a queue right out the door the whole day. I was really inspired by her. I was immersed in Warriors then. Which is when I wrote about a city boy yuppie, a bit of a git really, who knocks down an old woman’s house to build a tennis court. This is Tom. Three days before a big presentation where he’ll receive his fathers inheritance he wakes up as a cat. He has no idea why or who did it. And so he has to turn back into a human. This sets him off on a quest with his pet cat, Puzzle. He soon finds out that there’s more going on than he thought. Really the book is about his return to humanity in a physical and literal sense.”
“I’m still friends with Erin Hunter. She read the book and has been a real inspiration to me.”
“Tick is my most polished work, which is why it’s on Kickstarter.”
RS: “When can we expect to see the book on Amazon?”
PL: “That’s an easy one: July 2014. Whatever happens, Tick will be on Amazon this year, successful Kickstarter or not. If the Kickstarter is successful then the book will be available in more places. And I’ll be able to better promote it too.”
RS: “Will you be publishing on DriveThruFiction? ”
PL: “Yeah, the more the merrier. I would be happy to put it in many places, if anyone can suggest other ePublishing sites, let me know.”
RS: “You said you live in Japan, has it inspired your writing? And could you tell us a little about Kami, the novel available for free on your blog?”
PL: “Yes, it has, it has changed the way I write. Because of the lifestyle and because of the job and not having much free time. I write when I can. You can find me on a packed train with a salary man’s elbow in my back, typing a book on my smart-phone. The train commute is crazy busy, but I can see Mount Fuji, which is great.”
“Japan has influenced my writing, because when you get here you have to start from scratch. In the books I write now, the protagonist is more out of his depth and more alien or unusual. I’m also writing more stories set in Japan, such as Samurai which is set in a modern Japan overtaken by evil samurai. The main character is the leader of a rebellion but has no idea why or how he got to be there. I like deliberate confusion. Starting out with the reader asking ‘What on earth is happening here.'”
“Kami was NaNoWriMo three Novembers ago, 2011, after the earthquake. It was my first NaNoWriMo ever. It’s a story about a young 12 year old who lives in a back water village. He’s sick of it and wants out. During the village festival he tries to liven things up but destroys everything, and so sets off on an adventure across the wilds of Japan to right his wrongs. Meanwhile, back in town, his friend notices signs of a conspiracy and that someone wanted the boy out of town for a reason. Kami is timeless. I think I mention cars once. It’s not meant to seem modern. I made it deliberately difficult to pin down a time frame. Like in the Harry Potter books, they don’t often mention things like phones, so the books age well.”
RS: “I found your writing style in Tick to be very descriptive, something I feel is very important in story telling, yet can be difficult to achieve. Do you have any tips for Game Masters and writers in this regard?”
PL: “Well, I’m not a big author yet, but tips wise, less equals more. Descriptive does not equal evocative. If you look back at your favourite books you’ll find that the description are short. You have to trust your reader or player to imagine the scene. Trust readers to imagine things so you don’t get bogged down by how things look. Does the reader really need to know the character has blond hair? In Tick, Tom has black hair and is 18 years old. I don’t say more than that really and the black hair is important because it links to his cat fur later on. So yeah, less is more and trust the reader to fill in blanks.”
“On descriptions, Vaygan initially had very long winded ones. I talked about how, for instance, one character had fingernails of many different lengths, hair parted many ways, and so on. All you need is a light sketch so you can carry on with writing. Short snappy descriptions. Show, don’t tell. Compare saying “you feel scared” versus “a bead of sweat trickles down your back.”
RS: “Nice tips. Thanks Peter, it was a pleasure talking to you. Good luck with your Kickstarter and the digital release of Tick.”
PL: “Thank Rodney. And thanks anyone and everyone for your support.”
You can find out more about Tick via the Kickstarter, or about Peter Leonard’s other works on his blog or on his YouTube channel. He’s got a super secret Kickstarter in the works too, so keep your eye open.