Interview with PT McHugh, Author of Keeper of the Black Stones
PT McHugh didn’t start out as a storyteller. He was, however, born into a family of that encouraged imagination. He became a fan of history in school and then went to college to become a construction engineer, to build a world of straight lines, angles, and equations. He was just as surprised as everyone else when he realized that he believed in magic, and might just know the secret of how to jump through time. Since then, he’s been researching the possibility and learning everything he can about history. Just in case the opportunity arises. PT was born and raised in New Hampshire and currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife, two daughters, and a dog named Bob, daring to dream of alternate worlds and cheering for his beloved New England Patriots. Visit the author online at www.ptmchugh.com
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a project manager for a large construction firm in the Southeast (not the most creative vocation in the world). I have two beautiful daughters, who are nine and twelve, though the twelve-year-old believes she’s eighteen. And I have a wife who is about to turn twenty-eight again for the tenth time.
Where did you grow up?
Lebanon, New Hampshire (where some of the book takes place).
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Hitting the drive-in with my best friends on a Saturday night in the heart of summer. It didn’t matter what the movie was, we wanted to watch it! We usually took my mom’s Oldsmobile (more room in the trunk to hide people), and spent our entire night watching movies and dreaming about those other realities. I loved it, and looking back now it didn’t get any better than that! Too bad there are no more drive-ins left – they were awesome!!!!
When did you begin writing?
In college, only because I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up, and decided that being a writer looked easy enough. Good hours, great pay … and then reality hit. Even when I started a career (outside of writing), I continued to write here and there, more as a creative outlet than anything else. I never dreamed it would go anywhere or to anyone outside my own family, but one day I started writing something for my kids, and Keeper was born. I thought I had something, and started sending it out to publishers and agents. The rest, as they say in the movies, is history.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I’m a husband and father of two girls, so the only time I can write is at night. Fortunately for me, I’m a chronic insomniac!
What is this book about?
Our main character is a boy, just like any other boy. He doesn’t like school much, he’s kind of a nerd, and his life is pretty dang boring. Until he finds out that his grandfather has a set of stones that allow time travel. And his grandfather’s not the only one using them. Another man – our villain – is jumping through time, trying to change history for his own foul purposes. In doing so, he’s going to destroy time itself, and the world with it. Now our hero, Jason, must gather his friends, learn everything he can about Medieval England, and go jumping back in time, to save his grandfather, help Henry VII win the War of the Roses, and keep the villain from altering the thread of time. Will he get there in time? Will he save his grandfather? Or will he fail, and take the world itself with him?
What inspired you to write it?
Fear and the inability to paint. Everyone needs a hobby, and I’m no different. I love my wife and kids, but there was something inside of me that wanted more out of life (perhaps everyone has that feeling?). So, since I seemed to always be up late and my brain never really shut down, I decided to make the best of it. I started writing and never looked back.
Who is your biggest supporter?
My oldest daughter, Cristina. She was the first one to say, “Hey Dad, this is really good.” Now I know what you’re thinking – all kids say that to their parents. But my oldest girl is different. She speaks her mind just like her mother, and if she didn’t like it she wouldn’t be reading it. I even caught her reading the original manuscript when she didn’t know I was around. Well, that was enough for me to continue.
Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?
My wife and two girls. They’re extremely honest … perhaps too honest. And, of course, my editor, who never fails to give me her honest and extremely brutal opinion.
Who is your favorite author?
Bernard Cornwell. The guy is amazing, I’ve read everything he’s published.
Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?
To this point I’ve done it on my own and I don’t feel there is a need for an agent. I’ve already lined up my contracts and I already split my fee with my family. I don’t need someone outside my wife and kids taking a share.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
Hard to say, because I have nothing to compare it to. I’d have to say I was lucky enough to find a publisher who believed in me relatively quickly, so to that extent I can’t complain. Now on the other hand, it took three years to actually get the book in bookstores after I was signed on. That was bumpy, because it included an extremely long editing process.
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have outlined my manuscript first before writing the book. So much easier the second time around, now that I know how to use an outline for brainstorming.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Anywhere … B&N is carrying it in most of their stores, Amazon of course, a lot of independent bookstores, and you can get it in any ebook format.
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
We’re currently waiting for the final revision on the book trailer. I believe it’ll be out this summer sometime.
What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?
Actually reaching the schools. We’ve been able to get into a lot of schools to promote the book, either in person or on Skype, and it’s been great!
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
Keep at it. I never had the guts to try to get published until I hit a birthday and I thought … man life goes by fast, what am I waiting for? Remember to have a thick skin, too. Your writing will be criticized and scrutinized, and you have to take the good with the bad, and grow with it. Don’t let it get you down and don’t give up.
What is up next for you?
Stones End II is well underway, and we’re hoping to have it out in the spring quarter of 2014. We’re also working on a short story, which might come out this fall.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes, and it’s going to sound like a cliché, and I know most people have heard it a thousand times, but I can honestly say it’s true. Whatever your passion is, don’t let life get in the way. I’m not saying abandon your family and run to Broadway – you need to be realistic, and supporting your family comes first. But there’s always time in the day (or in my case at night) to do what you truly want to do. Life is ridiculously short, don’t waste it complaining about what could have been!