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Every month, TAB editor Kristin will be sharing her thoughts on five titles from our… Read More

June 1, 2016

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Get Lost with Author Matthew J. Kirby!

Today’s post comes to us from Matthew J. Kirby, author of The Lost Kingdom. Read on to discover how he came to write this awesome book, from the first bit of inspiration to the finished product!

Ideas are tricky things. For me, they usually come in a flash, when different subjects clash together in my mind, suggesting something entirely new. That’s what happened with my newest novel, Spell Robbers, the first book in The Quantum League series, which combines magic and an old-fashioned heist, with quantum mechanics thrown into the mix. But the tricky nature of an idea is such that even though I’ve had the idea, I may not yet be ready to write it. That’s what happened with The Lost Kingdom.

When I came across the legend of Madoc, a Welsh prince said to have sailed to the New World hundreds of years before Columbus, I knew I wanted to write a story that included him. I wanted to send the historical father-and-son team of botanists, John and William Bartram, on an expedition in search of Madoc’s people. So I did. I wrote an entire novel, the first piece of that length I’d ever attempted, having previously worked only on short stories. The result was something my agent, Stephen Fraser, described as “good but not great.” In retrospect, he was absolutely right about that. In fact, he was probably being kind, because now I don’t think that first draft was even very good. But Steve, ever encouraging, told me not to give up and then suggested I put Madoc aside and write something new.

Put it aside? Write something new?

That is not what I wanted to hear. Because fine, okay, maybe the book wasn’t great. But I wanted Steve to help me revise it and make it great. But he didn’t think I was ready to do that. So as difficult as it was, I set aside my frustration and impatience and followed his advice. That’s when I wrote The Clockwork Three, which became my first published novel. Then I wrote my second novel, Icefall. By that point, a few years had gone by, and I’d kind of forgotten about Madoc.

Then one day, I was talking with Steve about what I wanted to write next, and he said, “Do you remember that first book you sent me? The Billy Bartram book? What if you go back and take another look at that idea?”

When I did, I discovered the idea had shifted in my mind while my back was turned. It had become something quite different. It still had the same basic inspiration behind it, but the story I now wanted to tell had become something new. There were other characters now fighting for a chance to appear in the story, like the members of the Philosophical Society, and a young George Washington. There were terrifying, prehistoric creatures stalking the expedition. They now traveled in an airship based on the designs of a 17th-century Jesuit priest. None of that had been there before.

That’s what I mean when I say that ideas are tricky things. They come along with their excitement and flashiness, and they make you think you want to write them. But sometimes the best thing to do is to simply nod their way and say, “I see you. You look promising. But I don’t quite trust you yet. Let’s give each other a bit of space, and I’ll know when the time is right.”

For The Lost Kingdom, the right time came about four years after I’d had the initial idea. I hope it was worth the wait.

 

The Lost Kingdom is available now in Scholastic Reading Club flyers and online.

 

About the Author: Matthew J. Kirby is the author of The Lost Kingdom, The Clockwork Three, The Quantum League series, Infinity Ring Book 5: Cave of Wonders, and Icefall. For more info, visit: matthewjkirby.com

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April 16, 2014