Interview with Paul Cude, Author of Bentwhistle the Dragon in a Threat from the Past

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat from the Past is a Young Adult/Adult Fantasy available for purchase from Amazon (as both paperback and kindle). Currently available to download in all formats free from Smashwords. Signed copies available to buy through Paul Cude’s website.

Amazon Description:

“Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat from the Past is an adventure story children and adults alike will love, about the present day world in which dragons disguised as humans have infiltrated the human race at almost every level, to guide and protect them.

Three young dragons in their human guises become caught up in an evil plot to steal a precious commodity, vital to the dragon community. How will the reluctant hero and his friends fare against an enemy of his race from far in the past?

Fascinating insights into the dragon world are interspersed throughout the book. Ever wondered how dragons travel below ground at almost the speed of sound? Or how they use magical mantras to transform their giant bodies into convincing human shapes?

In an action packed adventure that features both human and dragon sports, you’ll get a dragon-like perspective on human social issues and insight into what to do if you meet a giant spider grinning at you when you’re wearing nothing but your smile!

You’d be flamin’ mad to miss it.”

Bentwhistle the Dragon Book Cover Photo







The eBook Review Gal Interview:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’m not really sure. I suppose it all started about eight or nine years ago. One Friday night I had the most incredible dream about a story. It was like watching a high definition movie in my head. I didn’t remember it for almost 24 hours, but when I did, I was blown away. I told my wife, and she said, “You have to write it all.” I just laughed at her, as I could only type with two fingers. But strangely, I kept getting amendments to the story, in the shape of dreams. Not all the time, but often enough. Sometimes it would be some small detail, sometimes it would be an addition to the storyline, but it kept happening. Eventually, not being able to get it all out of my head, I taught myself to type properly (that took two months of spare time) and then I started. I had it all planned out – it would be ten chapters long, and each would be ten thousand words long. It didn’t take me long to realize how naive I’d been. The first chapter turned out to be about thirteen thousand words long, and the second to last was nearly twenty-two thousand words long. I suppose you only learn by doing these things, but looking back it seemed such a stupid thing to do.

The dreams still keep coming, so much so that recently I’ve written over forty thousand words for the third book, despite having not quite finished the second in the series. I’ve written over one hundred and seventy thousand words for that, and figure it’s going to be a touch over two hundred thousand words……nearly finished. If ever I get stumped about something related to my book, I make sure it’s the last thing I think of before I drop off to sleep, and nearly always I wake up with the answer. Sometimes I’m not sure whether it’s a blessing or a curse.

How long did it take you to write Bentwhistle the Dragon?

It took over three years from when I first started. At first I could only type and work in complete silence, something very rare in a small house with two kids, so things progressed slowly. But I suppose after many, many months I got to the point where I could block most of it out and write whenever. Also, because I was looking after my kids full time, actually finding the time to sit down and write proved very difficult.  

How did you choose the title?

In the story that I’d dreamt, the main character -when in his dragon form – had a marking on his scales that looked just like a bent whistle. This is where he derived his name from, and I think I was desperate to include this somewhere in the title. As for the ‘threat from the past’…it just seemed so obvious, given how it starts and ends. Those were two parts of the story I knew in my head in graphic detail, long before I’d completed the book.

Which part of Bentwhistle was your personal favorite to write? Why?

My favorite part to write was easily the second to last chapter…‘Fawking Hell!!!!!’ As you may have gathered from the chapter title, it has something to do with bonfire night. This whole chapter had been in my head for years before I started writing it, and given that it’s around twenty-two thousand words long, I absolutely whizzed through it. It was a pleasure to write, and the words just zipped out of my head and on to the screen. I could genuinely see every little detail of what happens. Twists and turns abound in that chapter, and it includes a graphic fight scene, which ends in a most unexpected way. It’s easily my favorite part of the book, and just thinking about it sends goose bumps down both of my arms.

Have you always had an active imagination? Has it helped you write your book?

I’ve had an active imagination for as long as I can remember. I recall playing with Legos, Star Wars figures, model planes and cars when I was a kid and inventing all sorts of scenarios around the toys. Action man was another favorite. Those were some of the happiest times of my childhood, engrossed in imaginary worlds. When I got a little older I remember starting to read comics. I think my imagination really kicked off then. I can remember writing stories and copying some of the pictures from the comics to go with it. I think for a time I really had a passion for the drawing, the scripts and the stories. But alas, just at that time, I found the thing that would change my life forever…hockey! So all of that faded into the distance, for the love of my sport. But I don’t think I’ve ever really lost my imagination. Writing my book has brought it to the fore, and that wouldn’t have been possible without an active imagination. Sometimes I sit and watch my kids from a distance, and see the wonderful worlds they invent, with their Legos, action figures, soft toys, etc., and it makes me so proud when they do all that.

Quite often, people think writing for children is easier than writing for adults. Although your book appeals to both children and adults, what do you think about this belief?

I’m not really sure it’s easier. I suppose it depends on the skill set that you have. I love the Eragon books by Christopher Paolini. The detail in them is stunning in every way. I’d truly love to be able to write like that. But I think even if I continued to write for the next hundred years, I still wouldn’t be able to match the intricacies and the descriptiveness in those books. For me, I work as hard as I can to put what I see in my head, down on to the page. I know that my writing has improved immensely since I started, because I can see that in all of the second book that I’ve written. But I think I have my own style, a style that suits the genre that I’m writing for. It might not be as intricate as the more adult fantasy writers, but I know that kids and grownups alike can enjoy a great plot, some twisted humor and likeable characters, in a world where dragons live all around us.

I see from your Amazon author’s page (and you’ve mentioned above) that you have children. How old are they? Did you tell them any original stories while they were growing up? Do you think having children helped you hone your story-telling skills? 

My children are ten and seven years old respectively. They both love reading, and both have a reading age a couple of years ahead of where they’re expected to be. As a family we all love to read, and I take great pleasure from seeing them both engrossed in the book of their choice. Only last week I took my youngest daughter into a bookshop where she chose a book called Monsters and Chips. When we got home, she promptly sat down and read it all in one go. It took about an hour and a half, but she was so caught up in it, it was brilliant to see and made me so proud.

I’ve been the person that looks after them most of the time since they were born, and feel very lucky to have been at home with them to see them progress. It’s so rewarding to see them at first recognize letters, and then blend the sounds and the phonics together into words. I’ve spent lots of time reading them stories, and of course making them up. When they were little there was nothing they loved more. When they both started school, I was a volunteer reader in my eldest daughter’s class. I would go in twice a week and listen to her whole class read individually. I found it very rewarding. This in turn eventually led to me getting a job at another school as a teaching assistant, something I love doing dearly, and again is incredibly rewarding. It’s amazing how it complements my writing in so many ways. I get to help children with reading, sometimes I read stories to whole classes full of children, sometimes one to one. Sometimes I just stand and watch the children use their imagination, and that can bring forth ideas for me in my head, about something I’m writing about. So having children and working with them every day has most certainly honed my story-telling skills, and continues to do so.

Originally the story in my head that has manifested itself into my book was only going to be written for my children. But it kind of took on a life of its own and the rest is history.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Currently I have three jobs. The first is I look after my children. I’ve done this since they were both born, because I was made redundant from my job as a service engineer at exactly the same time. Both are now at school, but I drop them off, pick them up and look after them in the holidays. While they’re at school, I work as a teaching assistant at another school. So I drop my kids off and then shoot off to work. As well as that, I try to do most of the housework, cooking, etc. My wife likes her job, works incredibly hard at it, and I think together we make a pretty good team.

So the writing unfortunately always seems to take a back seat to everything else. I sometimes get the chance to do an hour or so in the afternoon, but mostly the writing takes place in the evening. I always aim to do a thousand words a day. Sometimes it’s possible, sometimes not, but that’s my aim. You’d be surprised how quickly that adds up in to quite a substantial amount. In the holidays it might be that I do more than that, but a lot of my free time, like most other authors, seems to be spent trying to market my book in one form or another.

Do you have any interesting writing quirks?

I suppose the fact that the story, and lots of the intricate details within it, all seem to come to me while I’m asleep. Sounds a bit odd I know, but that’s the way it happens. Whether it’s the title of a chapter that I’ve struggled to come up with, part of the plot development, or just being able to describe something that happens properly, I find eventually it will show itself to me while I’m asleep. As I read this now, it does look a bit odd, but honestly, that’s what happens. I’m not a NUTTER…………………….HONEST!

How did you choose this particular writing genre?

As I’ve previously mentioned, the whole story and the follow-ups all show themselves to me while I’m asleep. But I’m guessing the whole story is part of everything that makes me who I am. Hockey plays a big part in the story, and the plot. It has probably been the biggest influence on my life. I started playing when I was eleven years old (old by today’s standards, but young back then). I’m hesitant to tell you how long ago that actually was. But through that sport I have met some of the most amazing people, most of whom I can count as friends, and had the best time on and off the field. I still play when I can, despite being more than a little long in the tooth, and I’m proud to say both of my children play. I help coach them every Sunday during the hockey season.

As well as the hockey, I suppose the other influences come in the form of the books that I read, and the computer games that I play. I love the Harry Potter books, I’m a great fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe series and love the books of Terry Goodkind. But my favorite author in the whole world has to be Terry Pratchett. His books are fantastic and I’ve been an avid reader of them for as long as I can remember. The worlds and the characters he creates are amazing and can easily be pictured in your mind. The twists and turns are something akin to a whirlwind, but most of all it’s the humor that I find most compelling. I can name three or four books that have made me cry with laughter at what’s been written, and just thinking about one book, The Fifth Elephant, is making me laugh as I write this. All of these things zip through my tiny little mind, and in so doing are responsible for everything that fills the pages of my book. If you want to know all about me as a person…read my book.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Not very often. When I wrote my first book, I found that even though I knew the ending in great detail, I had to write the book in the order that it read. I did get writer’s block a couple of times I think, but only for a day or two. Now if that happens, I just move on and write another part of the story. It might be something further ahead in the second book, or even as I’ve explained previously, something from another book, much further ahead in the story.

What does your family think of your writing?

My family thinks it’s cool. As well, if not for their support, I’d never have completed it. My wife is the best proofreader and editor in the world. I can’t tell you the number of times she read the book when it was supposedly complete. Without her, it would have been a mess, and not worthy of putting out into the public domain. As it is though, I think the whole Cude family is proud of what has been achieved. My eldest daughter has read it and really likes it, and although she’s a great reader, she is only ten and I think it’s right at the threshold of what she can understand. My youngest daughter, again a great reader, is really proud of her signed copy, but at seven years old, she’s a couple of years away from being able to read it.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Bentwhistle?

I think: how much I actually enjoy writing. When I started, I’d have never thought I would enjoy getting the words out of my head and on to the page so much. At times, and it’s not often, the words just seem to flow. I’ve sat down and started writing, looked up and thought I’d written a few hundred words in perhaps twenty or so minutes, only to find that a couple of hours have passed and I’ve written many thousands of words. You just get so caught up and engrossed in what you’re writing about. It’s quite surprising, in a good way of course. I just wish I could write like that all the time.

Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?

Oh yes! The main character, Peter Bentwhistle, is loosely based around me. The lacrosse-playing dragon called Richie Rump is based on one of my best friends who was captain of the England lacrosse team and is also a fantastic hockey player. A dragon shopkeeper who sells the best mantras in the world shares the same name with one of my best friends. An important human businessman, who is duped, is also named for one of my best friends. Other more minor references feature other friends and acquaintances.

Have you written any other books?

Currently I’m writing the follow up to this one. It’s called Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Chilling Revelation. It features the same character as in the first one, as well as some new ones that I have to say are quite compelling to read and write about. As it stands, it’s considerably longer than this book, which in itself is just over 155,000 words. I would estimate that this one will be a touch over 200,000 words. I’ve enjoyed writing it, and think that I’ve improved as a writer in the way I transfer what I see in my head, down on to the page. As well, I have recently written part of what will be the third book in the series. That I have to say was a blast, as the part I was writing is a massive battle featuring an all-star cast of characters.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me a story has to have great characters, twists and turns galore that are hard to predict, and something that evokes emotional responses, whether sadness or laughter. I must say I do like a lot of great humor, as in Terry Pratchett’s books, but one of the things I like best about them is the word play. I’d love to meet him and get a little insight into how his mind works.

Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?

To be honest, I’m not sure they do. I know that I didn’t when I started. I remember finishing the last few sentences and sitting back thinking, “Yippee…I’m all done. Can’t wait for the phone calls from around the world to coming in with offers of fame and riches.” Again…how naive. You have to have a strategy, and you have to work hard at it, pretty much like anything. As well, I think it’s possible to change strategies and take a different tack with things. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else. With all the authors out there, I think you have to try to think a little differently, in the way you try to appeal to your reading audience.

What are some of your methods for self-promotion? What has worked, what hasn’t?

I think in my own experience it’s the local side of things that hasn’t really worked. I’ve travelled around the area asking bookshops to stock the book, at no cost to them, but they all seemed to be reluctant. Some have said that only celebrities sell books, not local authors, which I know is not true. But what can you do? If people don’t want to stock it, they don’t want to. A couple of the larger chains of bookstores have mucked me about something rotten with a view to stocking it and doing book signings. At first I thought it was just me, but I have a friend who lives close by, who’s an author as well, albeit in a different genre, and the same stores did exactly the same to him. I was both shocked and disappointed.

I’ve tended to find using the internet and social media sites a more effective way of promoting my book. You can target specific audiences and I think that is more of an advantage with a book like mine. Looking at people who like a good read, fantasy, dragons, etc. is fantastic. But with the added combination in the plot of some terrific team sports, I think my book should appeal to a slightly wider audience. Anyone that plays hockey, lacrosse, rugby or any other team sport I think would get a kick out of reading my book. I’m also sure that by reading my book, readers, in particular younger readers, will want to take up some of the sports mentioned.

Has it been necessary to travel while promoting Bentwhistle?

I’ve travelled locally to try and promote my book with bookstores and newspapers, but not much more than 30 miles.

What are some of your hobbies and interests besides writing?

When I’m not writing I like to either spend time with my wife and children, or play hockey. A day at the beach down in Swanage followed by a meal out on the way back sounds perfect. Or a game of hockey with my friends at Salisbury hockey club would be great. Currently I’m lucky enough to play every other Saturday in some friendly mixed games…absolutely fantastic!

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life? (Writing or otherwise)

Roy Polkinghorne: a teacher at my middle school who taught me to play hockey and introduced me to hockey at club level. It changed my life for the better and I’ve never looked back since.

My wife and children need a mention here. My wife is the kindest, loveliest and most caring person I’ve ever met. Without her my life would have no meaning. And my children are just the best. They’re good mannered, kind, caring and considerate. I know that they spur me on to do things that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. Together they make me happier than I ever dreamed I could be.

Are you working on anything new now?

The second and third book in the series. I have other ideas for books, but it’s going to be a few years yet before I get ‘round to working on those.

How do you deal with criticism?

Ultimately there are only three people’s opinion that matter to me…that of my wife and two children. That said, I always try and listen to constructive criticism and take something positive from it to try and move forward. But criticism, just for the sake of it, doesn’t bother me at all.

How much time did you spend researching information for your book?

Ahhh…tricky. Most of it I have to say comes from my somewhat twisted imagination. But where possible I have tried to be factually accurate. For instance, in the opening chapter I had to work out the route dragons would fly from England to Antarctica underground. Not only did I have to work out which way they’d go, but at what speed they would fly, and how long it would take them. I never thought I’d be calculating how fast a dragon could fly. Then there’s the dragon transworld monorail network. How far it stretches, which cities it reaches out to, the routes, the stations. A combination of fact and fiction.

Do you have a blog? If yes, do you think it’s been a helpful marketing tool?

Yes I have a blog. I was a little skeptical at first as to exactly what I would write, and as to whether I could find the time to add things on a regular basis. But it didn’t take long for it to become very enjoyable. I love writing about the different hockey experiences I’ve had, the players I’ve met, tours I’ve been on, etc. Adding the author interviews has been fascinating. It’s great to see what other authors are up to, as well as gaining the satisfaction from helping others in a similar position to me, promote their hard work. It also acts as a great way to get something off your chest. It can feel very liberating to write something and then just send it off into the ether. So all in all it’s been very useful and I can definitely see a correlation between the visits to the site and those that have either bought or downloaded my book.

Are you active on social media sites? If yes, which sites? Have they been effective marketing tools?

Yes I am. I have my own website, a Facebook page and a Twitter account, @paul_cude, as well as my blog. They all have their place as effective marketing tools. The website allows me to impart specific information about my book and target individuals who visit. There’s lots of hockey, lacrosse and rugby information there, which I feel might help attract visitors to the site. But probably the most useful in my eyes would be Twitter. Before I started using it, I’d have thought I would be the last person on the planet to make use of Twitter, and I have to say, I had a tough time getting my head around how it works at first. But I persevered and at some point everything just seemed to click into place. I love the way you can dip in and out, picking up snippets of information at will. Then there are the people you meet. I’ve met some great authors and picked up some fantastic tips from them. I was surprised how friendly most people are. In the real world I always try and treat people how I would hope to be treated myself, which interestingly fails much more often than it really should. But on Twitter, if you socialize and treat people how you wish to be treated, it seems to work. More often than not, others respond favorably to good manners and politeness, and for me Twitter seems to be the one tool above all others that works.

Has any book (or movie) influenced your life?

I suppose I have to say the Star Wars movies. At the time when the first one came out I was eight, and I can remember my grandfather taking me to the cinema to watch it. I’m pretty sure we both sat there in awe at what we were seeing. I’d never seen anything like it, and I’m pretty sure he hadn’t either. It was a fantastic experience and something that I became hooked on…I was just about to say for a very long time, but I’m still hooked on it today, with the books, and my children buy the toys, so I get to help them and see them play with the Star Wars Legos and action figures. At the school where I used to work, the very end of the week the kids would be able to choose what they could do for an hour. I’d have at least half a dozen of them pestering me to build Lego space ships, in the Star Wars style, for them to play with. I loved every minute of it. I’m just a big kid at heart.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Why?

When in my late teens, I mistakenly ordered a Tom Clancy book, Debt of Honour. I was too lazy to return it, so it sat on my bedside table for weeks. Until one evening I picked it up and started to read it. Many hours later I put it down, only because I needed a few hours sleep before I went to work. I was hooked. After finishing that, I went out and bought all the other Tom Clancy books I could find. It was also about that time that the Star Wars Expanded Universe books started to appear. I caught sight of the first one while working in a bookshop in my role of service engineer. I can remember it clearly. Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. It had a striking blue cover with some of the Star Wars characters on it, and I had to buy it there and then, in the middle of doing my job, much to the amusement of the owner of the bookshop. My love of the expanded universe has continued ever since, and as soon as the next book comes out…I have to have it.

It seems my love of books goes in phases. If I have nothing to read, I wander around a bookshop until I find something I like the look of and then read it. If I get hooked, I go back and find other books by that author. Examples of this for me are Terry Goodkind and Christopher Paolini. I love all of those books. The detail, the plot and the characters, are just all amazing. I can only dream of writing as well as they do. Other authors I’ve found and loved this way include Robin Hobb, J.V. Jones, David Gemmell and Trudi Canavan to name but a few. I love the way they use their imaginations and the worlds that they create on the pages of the book. They’re all very easy to visualize.

As well as those already mentioned, I enjoy reading the Harry Potter books. I like the films, but getting lost in any one of those books is a fantastic experience. And I enjoy the books of Dan Brown, and only this morning when I took my children on the weekly shop, I bought his latest book Inferno. I’m already thinking about when I can find the time to read it.

As mentioned previously though, my favorite author of all is the wonderful Terry Pratchett. If you haven’t read one of his books you really should. While I love pretty much all the books he’s written, the ones about the guards of Ankh-Morpork, Captain Carrot, Sam Vimes, Corporal Nobbs, Angua and of course the Lord Vetinari are easily my favorites. The characters themselves are described in magnificent detail, all with their own funny little ways. The plots twist and turn like a raging river, and the humor…well, let’s just say that is exactly on my wavelength. I’ve cried with laughter on many occasions reading some of Terry Pratchett’s books, and I can’t recall doing that for any other author I’ve read. If you’re a reading fan, you really must try one of his books.

What would be your best word of advice to aspiring writers/book authors?

To write about something you feel passionate about. All the things in my book are the things that swim around my head, day in, day out. Hockey, friends, dragons, and some of my views on life in general. They’re all there, and rolled up into one, hopefully great, story in my book. Write about something you love; you’ll find it easier and more rewarding.

One last thing on this question. I do seem to be waffling on a bit…sorry! I once read a writing magazine, and in it was a piece of advice that has proved for me to be quite useful. In it, a writer – sorry can’t remember who – said that the best advice he could give to anyone starting to write a book was to start your book on chapter two. Sounds a little bizarre, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. And that’s exactly what I did. I swapped what was originally going to be chapter one, for chapter two, and I think my book is so much better for it.

Author Biography:

Author Paul Cude was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England in 1968. As a small child he moved to Salisbury, and as a much older child (12) developed a fanatical interest in playing field hockey – something he is still obsessed about to this very day. A photocopier, fax and printer engineer for many years, redundancy allowed him the privilege of becoming a full time house husband, watching and shaping his two fantastic children as they progress in life. Married to a beautiful wife, he likes nothing more than days out with her and the children. On the odd occasion that free time presents itself, he likes playing field hockey, taking computers apart (sometimes putting them back together again, occasionally successfully) and of course writing. Paul has spent over a year working as a teaching assistant in a wonderful school, a job he enjoys more than any he has ever had.

*Stay tuned…Paul Cude has graciously given eBook Review Gal three signed copies of Bentwhistle the Dragon to be given away to three lucky winners. More information to follow!

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