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Can you talk a little about what the book is about? On the Move is set in Southern California, and is about a 14-year-old skater named Callum Vicente. He and his middle school skateboard buddies are spending the best summer together ever, grinding and doing tricks all day at a mountain-top skate camp called PEAK. But when a major war breaks out, they’re stranded—separated from their parents, cut off from communications, and almost alone in an evacuated state. They use their wits and resources, along with a secret network of skate parks and message boards, to travel miles to the north and reach their families in the Safe Camps—skating all the way!
What makes your book unique? I’m not the only writer with an action adventure series with boys as the main story focus, for sure, but I do think that there are never enough books for and about boys age 10-15. On the Move really lives inside the world of skateboarding and boys’ friendships. Also, this is about a totally multi-cultural group of buddies: Obbie is Native American, Mateo’s Mexican, their camp friend Martin is African-American, and narrator Callum is half Spanish. In addition, because these guys experience a huge War, they also pick up on a cool underground network of retro tech, green living, secret clues, and skater support like no other you’ve read about before. You’re a sci-fi guy: you’re going to love that part, because it’s very future science but it’s also totally real!
Where did you get the idea for the book? I’ve lived in Southern California beach towns for a lot of years, and I definitely know these kids: skaters, friends, musicians, all who grow up in a small town knowing one another since pre-school, doing sports and carnivals and pie contests and trick-or-treating and, of course, skating together for years and years.
Is there any message you want readers to get from reading the book? It’s a pretty cautionary tale about war. And how easy it can be to let aggression and tempers get out of hand, leading to the devastation and destruction that we see in On the Move. Also, though, it has a hopeful message: kids are great, smart, resourceful, thoughtful, funny, loyal, compassionate, energetic. They know how to do the right thing, and will stand by their friends no matter what.
How long did it take to write the book? I wrote all the beginning stuff about 3-4 years ago, then I got busy with work. So I finally went back a year or so ago to finish it, then start the process of finding the best agent and publisher.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write? Callum the narrator is super close to me, and the book is in his voice. A lot of people love little Kaspar because he’s so odd and quiet, but when he says or does something, it’s right on. And Justice, even though he’s raging and harsh, has a big heart so, when he appears, it’s always special.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions? I take notes in life—things I hear, what I see, people I meet, tricks or images I like. I knew the basic big ideas for the story in On the Move, but I had to go step by step, and as I did, I’d weave in the latest stuff I had rolling around in my mind. There were definitely things towards the end of the story that came up as surprise twists, just as the book needed some new scares or drama! But I knew early on where I hoped everyone would end up… just not how they’d get there, exactly.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be? The only thing I wanted to change was that the book ended, and I wasn’t hanging out with these guys any more. So I changed that! I’m writing the prequel, On the Rim, and the sequel, On the Lipslide. Good news for me and my readers—more adventures of Callum, Levi, Mateo, Obbie and the gang!
How did you come up with the cover? I shared some ideas with my publisher’s designer, Book Beautiful. They actually came up with a different cool idea, but the skater photo was a little off (to skaters!) and there wasn’t yet any suggestion of danger. I asked the actual kid who inspired the character of Callum to look through some stock skating photos and he actually picked the image. The Book Beautiful wizards made it all come together as perfect!
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? I’ve been writing stuff since I was three, I think. I’ve always heard the words in my head and enjoyed both handwriting and typing them, as a way to express who and how I am.
What was the first story that you ever wrote? When I was little, I wrote all the time. Then I started doing analysis and non-fiction, scholarly writing, that sort of stuff. I wish I had some of those kid stories, though. I know they were pretty wild and creative!~
What is your favorite genre, and why? I’m in to contemporary fiction, mainly literary but some popular. Real stuff, true people, honest emotions and big adventures. I dig YA, too, obviously, and I’ve always had a morbid fascination with dystopic fiction ever since I was young, books about when things have gone all wrong heading into the future!
Are there any books you are absolutely inspired by? I like all the great teen adventures—think Maximum Ride, Pendragon, Ender’s Game, Demonata and Cirque du Freak—where the boys are strong, smart, funny, resourceful, and tight. Loved Hunger Games a lot—from the first pages through every volume of it.
What are you working on next? I did the research this summer for my prequel, On The Rim, and I’m deep into that first draft. It follows my characters through their eighth grade year at Surfside High, then takes them on a spring break trip to Europe. And yes, those kids get separated from their group again, and have some scary but fun adventures to find their way back home.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors? Writers write. That’s it. Some, every day. I think it’s great to have a project—a story, a book, a memoir you want to tell. But honestly, you have to keep putting it down, moving forward, then checking back and seeing how it flows. Writers groups are fantastic because they can give you deadlines and honest feedback. And reading the best stuff keeps refilling your brain with ideas, strategies, vocabulary, and skills.
I love this line from a very cool skater and deep thinker Rodney Mullen, in a TEDx talk he did on the Orange Coast: “ ...the biggest obstacle to creativity is breaking through the barrier of disbelief." Whether you’re writing books or inventing skate tricks, you lay down a lot of lines before you push through to the other side and succeed.
How do you juggle writing with family time? Life’s a juggle, man. Family, work, art, exercise, and gotta find time to skate, have fun, get outside, check the sunset. I try to fit it all in, but also be easy on myself some days when it’s just not all going to happen!