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Interview with author Duncan Saunders

Today our guest is Duncan Saunders. He was born in Stockport and grew in leafy, rural Oxfordshire, in a Cotswold stone cottage on a quiet, village street; a beautiful backwater which became for him all of the places where his imagination could go. The village streets and fields were hidden kingdoms, troll caves, spacecraft and his love of reading came first from the Mr. Men books and then, soon after, from discovering Roald Dahl. His style of writing is to look out of the window, daydream and think “what if…?” He loves looking for the entrance to the goblin kingdom, the places where dragons might live or where the vampires might be lurking. These days, after doing a string of jobs such as church youth work and pro wrestling, Duncan teaches in a primary school. We have conducted an interview with him.

Where inspires you the most? How do you make use of these inspirations?

That's really tough to answer, as my inspirations are so varied, and I try to take little bits from each. For example, I love Tolkien's world building, the idea that there is a solid history behind absolutely everything that he wrote; while I've gone nowhere near his level of depth, I have quite a few notebooks about the different places and people I write about. Likewise, I love J K Rowling's ability to hide worlds within our own world, hidden and secret societies that most people pass by without ever knowing that they exist. That, again, is something I tried to do in a different way with Dinosaurs, Aliens and The Shop That Sells Everything.

Who is your greatest inspiration for your books? When did you realize his influence on you?

I think my greatest influence, above all others, would be Roald Dahl. It was Roald Dahl who first made me fall in love with reading, and made me enjoy reading about outlandish characters, fantastic places and amazing adventures. While my style of writing is very different, I think his influence is the most significant because it was his books that first made me want to write my own. Having said that, I think the influence is also fairly clear in terms of the subject matter; I hadn't read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for several decades but when I finished writing Dinosaurs, Aliens and The Shop That Sells Everything, I couldn't help but acknowledge the subconscious tip of the hat to Willy Wonka's Factory.

In your opinion, what is so special about 'Dungeons and Dragons'?

I think it's the imaginative aspect of it all; in a world where sensory stimulation comes thundering in through films and console games, the ability to imagine and to use that imagination in a creative and interactive way is vitally important. In the same way as reading, a true roleplaying game relies entirely on the reader (or player) to interpret events in their own imagination and respond accordingly; while the author or Dungeon Master can guide and provide a framework, without the imagination of the players, there is nothing. Having played many roleplaying games during my schooldays, I think that they are a great way to help build settings, characters and adventures; It's where I really started to explore such things in detail.

How do you craft the characters of your book?

The characters tend to come about in several ways. Partly, I observe people and combine aspects of them together to make a character; while it's true that none of my characters are based on an individual, several are based on three or four people! I might also add in little quirks, mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, sometimes just for my own amusement! Beyond that, I try to keep notes on them as I write; what are their core beliefs and values, how do they relate to others, what is important to them, etc. It's similar, in a way, to preparing a roleplaying character which is unsurprising given my background!

If you can only choose two, which two are your favorite characters?

That's a really tough one! Choosing from the characters in Dinosaurs, Aliens and The Shop That Sells Everything, I think I'll go for Angel Hunter and Sir Roland.

Angel Hunter was a lot of fun to write, and she almost took on a life of her own; I ended up having to edit her parts as I was having far too much fun writing them and writing far too much. I think she's the sort of character who could easily take over a book and I know that several people who read the early manuscripts thought that she was the best character. Sir Roland is almost the opposite; he's the least of the Knights, a man of honour who is somewhat swept along by tradition until events turn his world upside down. How he tries to cope with this in his own way, as a very small aside to the main plot of the book, is something that I had to make sure I got right. I felt as if I owed him that.

I think an honourable mention must go to characters like Melony and Robbie, the "normal" people who cope with the unbelievable things that they see on a daily basis in the same way that most people respond in their jobs. It's that hint of normality within a fantastic world which, I hope, helps to bring it to life.

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Interview with author Duncan Saunders Reviewed by JaamZIN on 8:55:00 AM Rating: 5
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