Luke Minaker is the author of the award-winning, interactive book series WEIRDWOOD MANOR. We recently sat down with Luke to talk inspiration, influences and fantasy literature. Read Part 1 of our interview here.
Q: Weirdwood Manor is a fantasy tale for middle-school readers. Why this age group?
A: That’s easy. I write what I like to read, and I read a ton of childrens’ fantasy!
But on a deeper level, I think there’s something really special about tracking with heroes this age. For one thing, they are the perfect candidates to explore one of my favourite literary questions — the “Who am I?” conundrum. They’re in that very scary, unknown space where they’re just starting to step out from under the authority of adults to make their own way in the world. They’re not only discovering, but also deciding what sort of person they are, or will be. And as an author, writing that sort of hero allows for a great deal of flexibility and creativity in character development. There’s just so much room for growth and change and self-discovery!
Secondly, I really love the honesty with which characters this age approach the world. There is very little room for cynicism, or self-delusion. The world is still new and interesting, and anything is possible!
Q: Have you always been a fan of fantasy literature? What drew you to this genre?
A: Always. I think it’s hard not to fall in love with the fantasy literature when you are prone to having an overactive imagination. It speaks to that deep suspicion that so many of us have; that there’s more to life than what we live in the every day. It can be encouraging and even inspiring to people who feel alone, misunderstood, or like the odd-one-out. It can inspire creativity! For me, a good fantasy novel always gets me in the mood to write or create art! But most importantly, it’s just crazy fun to read!
Q: What were your three favourite fantasy books growing up? Why?
A: There were, of course, adventures in Narnia, adventures with hobbits, and later on, adventures at Hogwarts. These all had a profound impact on not only my writing, but my life as well. But there is one series that really stands out for me above many others and that was Diana Wynne Jones‘ “Chrestomanci Series.” I loved the wildness and originality of that universe, and the way the magic was threaded throughout every aspect of everyone’s life. But I think what I like most is the honesty with which she approached good and evil. There wasn’t always an obvious right or wrong. The heroes had to do their best to figure it out, just like in real life. The world was so beyond our own, but the characters always felt so real!
Q: What book(s) are you currently reading? Why?
A: I just started reading “Alistair Grim’s Odditorium” by Gregory Funaro. So far, I’m loving it! It’s like “Harry Potter” had “A Series of Unfortunate Events” in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Exactly the kind of stuff I like to read… and write as well! If you like WEIRDWOOD MANOR, and are needing something to tie you over until the next book release, I would highly recommend picking up “Alistair Grim’s Odditorium!”
Q: Are there any new fantasy authors that have grabbed your interest?
A: I’ve been really enjoying Daniel José Older‘s Bone Street Rumba series. It’s definitely for an older audience than the typical reader of Weirdwood Manor, but he’s also got a fantastic YA novel called “Shadowshaper,” and a couple middle-grade novels in the works that I’m looking forward to as well!
Q: What does your family think of your writing?
A: My whole family has been extremely supportive of my writing, but I think we all – myself included – have been pleasantly surprised at the incredible reception Weirdwood has been getting. My nieces and little cousins are the best though! Any time I see them they just plague me with questions about what is going to happen next. “Is Arthur actually good or bad?” or “Where’s Ms. Brimley?” and most importantly, “Are Oliver and Celia going to end up together?” It’s amazing (and a little surreal) to see first hand just how excited children get about this story!
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: There are a lot of things, but the absolute most important thing to me – in whatever I write – is what Brian McDonald calls “The Golden Theme”. That is the fact that “we are all the same.” Stories, by necessity, contain a lot of conflict between characters, which makes them a great place to explore the idea that – even though we have different ideas, passions, and values – ultimately, deep down, we are all the same.
We all want to be loved, we all want security and safety, we want our lives to be meaningful, etc. I think about this a lot, not only my storytelling, but in everyday life as well. When someone has differing political views or has done something awful, or if someone simply rubs me the wrong way… there’s always a story behind that, something that I know I would ultimately be able to identify with.
We humans like to categorize people into good or evil, angel or devil, but the truth is we’re all just a jumbled up mix of both. Showing that through writing is not only a fantastic way to tell a story, but a way to hopefully make the world a brighter, more tolerant, more forgiving place.
WEIRDWOOD MANOR is available from the App Store for $3.99 US / $5.49 CDN (includes Books 1 and 2). Books 3 to 6 can be purchased separately for $4.99 US / $5.49 CDN or as part of a bundle for $9.99 USD / $13.99 CDN (35% discount off the regular price). Visit the App Store for country pricing and to download.