I’m joined by Martin Ferguson, author of the Relic Hunters series, for a chat about his writing and a tip-off about sour skittles.
Thanks for agreeing to be grilled, Martin. First up: Tell us a bit about Adam Hunter.
Adam Hunter is a 16 / 17 year old who, as the series begins, is trying to find his place in the world. College and education really doesn’t suit him as he yearns to travel and dreams of adventure. In Book One of the series, Eagle of the Empire, Adam’s older brother Matt disappears and Adam sets out to find him. Adam discovers that Matt secretly worked for a covert team of the British Museum, a group that investigates myths and legends, discovering ancient relics but also protecting the world from those artefacts too powerful to be let loose. In seeking out his brother and defeating an immortal tyrant, Adam proves himself to the Relic Hunters. Though he has his flaws and insecurities, and is seen by many as reckless and a risk, Adam joins the team and their adventures around the world.
Where do the ideas for your characters come from?
Adam and Matt are certainly based on my own older brother and me and our relationship, or perhaps our wish-fulfilment of going on epic adventures. Elements and characteristics of family members, friends and day job (NHS) colleagues put in appearances too, whether it be particular mannerisms or phrases…or episodes of tyranny!
Outside the core characters, much of the rest of the cast tends to pop up and write themselves. I generally plot out what will happen with the story, but less so with the characters. They tend to write themselves.
Which has been your favourite historical period has been your favourite to research and use in your novels?
There’s a fair few to choose from now. We have covered the Roman Legions, Egyptian Mythology, the horrors of World War 2, Vlad the Impaler and the Ottoman Empire. I think my favourite to research is probably the next book which (mentioning for the first time) is going to be based on Ancient Greece. There are so many myths and legends from those days, be it the Zeus and the numerous Gods, Achilles, Perseus, Achilles and the Trojan War, and many many more. The listing really could fill this page and it has been a joy to delve into those tales and choose which for the Relic Hunters to delve into.
Are there any that you’ve tried to use and then abandoned?
Not yet, but there are so many yet to be used. I have in mind the ages of piracy, Vikings and the samurai, the wild west…and eventually King Arthur and Camelot. The initial arc of stories will end with the sixth book (no spoilers), but this will open up the series to a whole new range of possibilities and adventures. Trust me, this series has a long way to go yet.
Excellent! Did you always intend to write a series?
Yes – although certainly not in the same way. The original idea for Relic Hunters was for it to be a children’s series, very short books aimed at a much younger audience, 5-10 maybe. Then as I started thinking it over and planning the books I realised that they were becoming something else entirely. Then I thought I would give a few chapters a go as a trial run. These became the initial chapters of Eagle of the Empire – when Adam discovers and explorers the Roman Tomb in the caves beneath Loch Lomond, Scotland. After this the rest just followed and soon I had in my mind the ideas and plots for the YA series that Relic Hunters became.
What are your key considerations when writing for the YA market?
Funnily enough I don’t treat writing for the YA market any differently. I have written a few other stories, horror and fantasy for the adult market, but my approach is no different. I treat the audience as adults and don’t shy away from important subjects and matters. I find story and character development is priority above all else.
Good advice! What other tips would you give to a writer just starting off?
Don’t be put off by knockbacks or writer’s block.
Knockbacks – if you have finished your manuscript, you’ve edited it and polished, you’ve devoted hours, days, weeks, months of your life to it – don’t be put down if you still end up being rejected by literary agents or publishers. Writing is a tough business, incredibly tough at the start, but perseverance is key. JK Rowling is always the prime example who received countless rejections before hitting it big. If you believe in something, don’t give up on it.
Writer’s block – all writers get it. I get it at least a few times a year. There have been times when I’ve had the laptop or pen and paper in front of me and just nothing happens. Best cure I’ve found is to try writing something else, something completely different than what you were aiming to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good – all that matters is that you’re writing. Then, when the words are flowing, return to the original project.
What’s the best bit about being a writer? And the worst?
The best – absolutely has to be meeting and talking with the readers of my books. It is so great to hear their thoughts, opinions and feedback, excitement at new releases and most of all their theories on what’s coming next or what’s going to happen to the characters. I even received word from my old English teacher from school – how she had stumbled upon my books and was pleased to see I had pursued writing. It is reactions like that which motivate me to keep pushing the series on.
The worst – feeling like you never have enough time to devote. It’s particularly difficult at the moment during lockdown with my wife, two year old wild-child of a daughter and a three week old son. It is actually 1.30am as I write this, with my sleeping son in one arm and the laptop in the other. I work a day-job too with the NHS, which as you can imagine has its own range of challenges. Writing unfortunately comes after family and day-job, but I grab whatever time I have and try to put it to use!
Gosh – that is quite a lot to juggle! So what sugar-based option would you choose to power you through – wine gums or chocolate?
Wine gums – although I’d actually say skittles (particularly the sour ones) are even better!
*making a note – didn’t even know that was a Thing*. Thanks for the tip-off! And finally, what’s in the pipeline?
I am currently working on Book 6 in the series. Yes I know Book 4 (Blood of the Dragon) has only just come out, but I may have already finished the next entry in the series. Book 5, Betrayal of the Gods, is done and will be going to the editors soon so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long until this sees the light of day.
Thanks for taking the time for a chat, Martin. Good luck with the forthcoming releases!
Find out more about Martin and his books at https://www.martinfergusonauthor.com/