D.J. MacHale The Man with the Thoughts and Ideas!

Infamously popular, D.J. MacHale is a writer, director, executive producer and creator of several popular television series and movies.  As an author, his various series; Pendragon, SYLO, Morpheus Road, and The Monster Princess, have kept him occupied and busy and he doesn't plan on stopping! DJ MacHale himself took the time to discuss his infamous book series and plans for this year!

1. Introduce yourself, tell me how long have you been a writer?

DJ: My name is D.J. MacHale and I've been writing stories for young people and the young at heart for decades...both on TV and with novels.

2. Where are you based out of and what is the author/book scene like there? Are there any local authors or books you could recommend?

DJ: I live in Los Angeles, which has a vibrant author community. Listing the recommended authors and books would take up this entire interview!

3. How did you get started writing?

DJ: I started writing in order to dodge having to write. When I was in junior high, to duck having to write reports and papers, I would make films or videos about the topics instead...thinking I was getting out of writing.  What I didn't realize was that there was just as much, if not more, writing involved in creating these films than if I had just written the dumb paper.  I did this all the way through high school, thinking I was working a brilliant scam.  But writing a story is writing a story, no matter what form it takes.  So I wasn't as brilliant as I thought.

4. Where do you get your ideas from? Are your characters or books based on real life?

DJ: Always.  Though I write bigger-than-life adventures, the core of my stories and the heart of my characters are always based on something very real that I have experienced or have some direct knowledge of.  It's the classic advice:  "Write what you know". When you write from experience, you're writing with authority and readers will respond.  Hopefully.

5. What do you have to say to someone that tells you "I want to be a writer. Can I send you samples of my writing or tell you about my ideas?"

DJ: Unless they are a close friend, I don't read samples of people's work. The reason is simple.  If I read everything that was sent to me, I wouldn't have time for my own writing.  Or eating.  Or sleeping.  A lesser reason is that I don't want to be accused of stealing anything from anybody.  Often readers will post ideas on my forums about what they think might happen in one of my future stories.  Usually they're wrong but every so often somebody hits upon where I'm going.  Inevitabley, once the book comes out they'll post:  "Hey!  He got that idea from me!"  Of course, it isn't true, but in their minds they think I've ripped them off.  So unless it's a close friend, I make the blanket policy of never reading anything.

6. Or someone tells you "I want to be a writer. Can you give me writing advice or tell me how to get published?"

DJ: There's lots of advice I can give.

1)  Have a dual career track.  Make sure you can pay the bills because relying on income from writing, especially at first, is iffy.

2)  Write a great book.  (Or whatever it is that you're writing)  That sounds obvious, but it isn't easy writing a book that is so good that a publisher will take notice.  You can't sell ideas or partial manuscripts or outlines.  You must complete your work.

3)  Get an agent.  Agents know which editor might be looking for the kind of story that you wrote.

4) Self-publishing might be a way to go, though I don't have any experience there. With the possibility of publishing an e-book, authors can get their work in front of people without much expense.  Ideally, if it's a great book, it might catch on and sell a bunch of copies...which would bring it to the attention of a publisher.

5)  Get used to hearing "no".  Develop a thick skin.  Don't give up.

7. How about fans who want to be pen pals or just write to you in general how can this be done?

DJ: Lots of ways.  I answer all of my e-mail.  The link to my email address is on the djmachalebooks.com website.  I also have a FB fan page.  Twitter too. My djmachalebooks.com website has a very active forum where I talk to readers and readers interact with each other.  So it isn't hard to contact me and I try my best to respond.

8. If you did make a movie out of one of your books, who would your dream cast be?

DJ: That's impossible to answer because it changes every week. More people come on my radar...others fall off.  The people I would have cast in a Pendragon movie when the books first came out are much different than they would be today.

9. Is Pendragon going to be a movie or would you like to see it head into that direction or any other media outlet?

DJ: It's been optioned a few time but the project never took off.  I think there are a lot of reasons for that but the #1 reason is that I haven't gotten the right people behind it.  To get a project as big as Pendragon off of the ground, you need some heavy-hitters in the directing/writing/producing camp in order to get a studio interested.  Right now Pendragon is on the back burner because I'm way more interested in setting up my new book: SYLO.

10. The cover artwork for the Pendragon series has changed since it was first released, the first series saw the infamous young male on the cover and now the covers take a whole another approach can you tell me about this update and change-up?

DJ: The change happened between the publication of the hardcover of the final book, The Soldiers of Halla, and the paperback of the same book.  The first book was originally published in 2002 so the publisher thought it was time to give the series a newer look in order to appeal to the next generation of readers.  I'm happy with the result, though the original covers are still my favorite.  I actually took some heat because of the timing.  The paperback of the final book was never published with the original cover.  It is only available in the new design...which has ticked off many collectors who have the full set...with one rogue book that looks out of place.  I should have realized that this was going to happen and asked the publisher not to do it.  But I wasn't paying close enough attention.

11. Not only are you known for the Pendragon series but you have other releases as well, Morpheus Road, The Monster Princess, and Sylo, can you give me a brief summary about these stories and how do they differ and compare to the Pendragon series?

DJ: Morpheus Road took me back to my roots of writing ghost stories. For years I made a TV series called "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" where I got to make a boat load of spooky stories...my favorite.  Morpheus Road starts out as a ghost story but ultimately becomes, like Pendragon, a massive adventure.  There's also a strong Pendragon connection that dovetails with the Pendragon mythology.  SYLO is a thriller.  The first book takes place on an idyllic island community off the coast of Maine that is suddenly invaded by the U.S. Navy and cut off from the rest of the world because of a deadly virus that they're trying to keep from spreading to the mainland.  The story follows a group of young people who discover that there's much more to the invasion than they are led to believe, and that too leads to a massive adventure.  I guess the common denominator to all of my writing is the "massive adventure"  thing.  I like writing about very real people caught in impossible situations.  The Monster Princess, on the other hand, goes toally against the character of my other books.  It's a sweet picture book about a little girl monster who aspires to be a princess.  Bad idea.  She's cool the way she is. So it's kind of an anti-princess story. The adventure is only semi-massive.

12. How many books will be in each series?

DJ: Pendragon is told in ten books. Morpheus Road is a trilogy and all the books have been published.  SYLO will also be a trilogy. The first book will publishe in July 2013.

13. Are there Kindle, ebook, or audio versions of your books?

DJ: Yup. All three.

14. When can the fans read an excerpt of the next book in any of your releases?

DJ: With Pendragon and Morpheus Road, I believe that simonandschuster.com have posted excerpts.  I believe they can also be found on Amazon and B&N.com. SYLO isn't out yet, but I believe excerpts will eventually be on Amazon & B&N.  Also, the publisher, Penguin, has a SYLOBOOKS.COM website. With SYLO, I believe that they are planning to put an extended excerpt on-line before publication, but I'm not sure where that will be yet.

15. If someone asked you if they could do an interview or answer questions for a school project, would they be able to do so?

DJ: Sure. I do that all the time. They should e-mail me through the djmachalebooks.com website.

16. What plans do you have for the near future?

DJ: Right now I'm writing SYLO III.

17. What are your upcoming touring and signing plans?

DJ: SYLO publishes on July 2nd but I'll only be doing a few events around that date. My tour won't be until the end of September...when schools are back in session.  Right now I'm looking at three weeks of travel, bookstores, festivals and schools. As details are finalized, I will put them on my djmachalebooks.com website in the "appearance" section. Touring is fun, though it's a challenge to figure out how to do laundry.

18. Any final words of wisdom?

DJ: Eat your greens...and read my books.

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