Q&A: Max Elliot Anderson (River Rampage)
Children's author Max Elliot Anderson answers a few questions about River Rampage (Port Yonder Press): A once-in-a-lifetime, rafting trip down the Colorado river disintegrates into disaster, chaos, and danger.
Q: WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WRITING RIVER RAMPAGE?
Since this is book #3 in the Sam Cooper adventure series, I wanted to advance the characters' development in the book. In addition, it's the first time one of their stories takes place away from where the first two books are set in Florida. River Rampage happens on a river rafting trip on the mighty Colorado River. The boys get separated from their main group, meet a crusty old prospector working his gold mine, and have to face a band of outlaw bikers who are trying to jump the claim. It takes every bit of ingenuity and drive for the boys to go up against this gang as they try to help the defenseless old man, and the story teaches trust and courage.
That's a hard question to answer but maybe I can do it this way. I grew up hating to read. After 9/11, most of my client video production opportunities dwindled for a variety of reasons. It was at that time that I sensed a calling to write adventures & mysteries for kids. This was very direct and it wouldn't let up. I struggled with the first manuscript, but when I finished, new stories literally tumbled out in front of me. I wrote and wrote and wrote until 35 manuscripts were completed. Even now there are plenty more I could write, but I stopped in order to find an agent, publishers, and then to promote what was being published. There are 10 books out now.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES FROM THE STORY WHERE YOU DREW ELEMENTS FROM REAL LIFE?
A few years ago, my dad and I were lost in the wilderness of New Mexico while on a film project. At the time, he was 72. I had to use a lot of the survival training I'd learned in the army to get us out. In addition, we'd produced a teenage film previously, and that one took place on the Colorado River. So it was a combination of several different personal experiences that brought this story about.
Q: IN YOUR NEW NOVEL, WHO IS THE CHARACTER IN THIS STORY WHO SURPRISED YOU MOST?
I don't write to an outline. When my kids were small, I told them original bedtime stories frequently. I never knew all the details, but always had a beginning, middle, and end in my head. Today I write pretty much the same way. First, I tell myself the story, into a recorder, and then transcribe those notes. This gives me a framework for each story. From there, the characters and story unfold in front of me like watching a feature motion picture. I can't say there were any character surprises in River Rampage, but a lot of specific story elements were unknown to me when I began writing it.
Q: WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
I have 10 new books under contract in 2013 with three publishers. I've been spending my time lately in writing short stories for kids. A collection of those was just finished and submitted to a publisher recently. The stories can be used at bedtime, plus there are comprehension questions at the end of each one so they could also be used in school classrooms and in homeschool situations. I'm not writing much in the way of longer form manuscripts just now as I continue to concentrate on promotion and marketing. In addition to the 10 books under contract, I have another 15 manuscripts that are unpublished at the moment.
Also, there are three books in production now. These require a lot of reading when the galleys come back from each publisher. This Property is Condemned is book #4 in the Sam Cooper adventure series. Then there are two stand-alone books titled The Great Cave Caper and The Secret Tunnel.
The Secret Tunnel is a new opportunity for me in that it's the first of six books being published by an educational publisher in Toronto. These books will be sold directly to schools and libraries.