Bio: Don Rintoul is a writer based in South Gloucestershire. Originally from South Lanarkshire, he then spent 15 years in Edinburgh before moving to Bath.
Sadie and the Lost Treasure, a children’s mystery inspired by the Orkney Mainland, is his first published story.
Don received his first positive feedback on his writing when he was aged 11, for a short story about an orphaned ape. Whilst his English teacher liked the emotional resonance he was bemused by the continued references to guerillas.
Don has since outsourced his proofreading.
Don lives with his wife and two children and a garden full of bats and frogs.
What all have you written? Include everything:
Sadie and the Lost Treasure is the first book I have self-published. It is a middle-grade mystery inspired by the Orkney Islands, Scotland.
I have written some other novels.
Treehomps is a young adult fantasy about, well, treehomps. I’ve spent several years writing this one.
The New Legends of Ninkinta is a young adult fantasy set in a world which is a cross between ancient Sumeria and modern Morocco, or something like that.
Spaghetti Goblinaise is a middle grade fantasy about some goblins who steal a secret, powerful recipe. This really happened.
Animal Stones is another middle grade fantasy.
I have also written adult short stories and flash fiction for adults and children, including some which I made into 1.5 inch high mini-books. One of my recent short stories is written from the perspective of the mouse who Robert Burns made homeless with his plough. The mouse travels through time and hangs out with a well known west coast hip hop producer, obviously. It does not end too well, for the mouse.
I also wrote poetry as a teenager but it is a blessing to all that I grew out of it.
Where can we buy or see them?:
Sadie and the Lost Treasure is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00FD6RW3E
I am planning to self-publish much more of my back catalogue over the next twelve months.
Tell us a little bit about your main character:
OK, so Sadie Beckstow is a sassy young girl, easy to befriend and hard to supress. She is perfectly charming but does not recognise the boundaries that the adults in her life would rather she heeded. Thankfully for Sadie, her grandmother tends to be too distracted to notice and her grandfather secretly (and, literally, silently) encourages her. I am not introducing Sadie’s poor, yet blessed, mother until the next book (which is called Sadie and the Legend of Wiseacre Manor).
Sadie likes bandanas, ginger nut biscuits and far fetched mysteries. Luckily for her, she gets all of these in the first book.
What are you working on at the minute?:
Well, I have made a good start on the second of the Sadie Beckstow Adventures, Sadie and the Legend Wiseacre Manor.
I am also about half way through a middle grade /children’s novel set in Saxon times. The main character, Drom, is a clumsy swineherd who inadvertently gets teamed up with one of Wessex’s finest warriors to go on a quest. Drom has just made a pig’s ear of stealing a horse, when I last left him. I hope he gets through this and grows as a person.
What is it about?:
It is about loyalty, personal growth and being tough enough to defy an immoral ruler. Themes aside, it is a romping little adventure set during a period of history when several anglo-saxon kingdoms were warring between themselves and with Danish invaders rather than focusing on social progress and agricultural innovation. I think the world has moved on since then, hasn’t it.
What genre are your books?:
I write a lot of fantasy. This is not fantasy with spells and dragons particularly. But it is unbelievable. For example, to enjoy reading Treehomps you would need to accept the notion of a human-like species with green skin pigment and leaves instead of head-hair (photosynthesising your own energy is very practical).
I also love writing history-inspired mysteries, like the Sadie Beckstow Adventures and Saxons (which brings to life an fascinating archeological site a few miles from where I live on the edge of the Cotswolds).
I also write some fairly surreal stuff that is harder to categorise. This is really fun to write because I disregard rules I would normally obey. The downside to this is that it is harder to market. New Legends is an example of this.
What draws you to this genre?:
I love the idea of history never really being history but having live links to the current day.
I also love new worlds that are compelling. Middle Earth is the most obvious and compelling example I know of.
Do you have to do research for your books?:
I do research on history and places. I also do research on etymology, especially for Saxons and Treehomps.
When did you decide to become a writer?:
Summer 2004. This was when I returned to writing having explored other avenues. I realised that writing was ‘my thing’ and I did not need to look for anything else. As a kid I wrote stories based on invented worlds and as a teenager I wrote poetry so there has not really been any time when I have not been a creative writer.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?:
No. Sometimes I like to aim to get a chapter or two out a night. I might take two days to write a short story.
I write blog posts on the bus and then edit them at night.
Do you work on an outline or plot before you start writing?:
I have tried several ways. Treehomps was tightly plotted over several months before I wrote it, section by section. This was exhausting but good learning. I then wrote New Legends as a complete rebellion to this approach. For New Legends I just started ‘sketching’ little dialogues and scenes and then joined them all up to make a book.
What is the hardest thing about writing?:
I think the hardest thing is that point when you become too attached to a story and this psychology gets in the way of the free-form, devil-may-care approach that I need to get the best from myself.
What is the easiest thing about writing?:
No preparation. You can do it anywhere; on the bus, running, dropping off to sleep, in your sleep…
Sometimes you think you are stuck and you just start writing any old trash and a bit of genius seeps out from nowhere. That is easy and very rewarding.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?:
Slowest: Treehomps (started summer 2004 and still editing, having poured several years of life into it).
Fastest: Sadie and the Lost Treasure. I aimed for complete honesty and zero pretention and it popped out in a few weeks. As a readable book, it is still better than Treehomps.
Do you edit your book right after you finish or let it sit for awhile?:
Sit for a while. Got to get some distance.
Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?:
Me. Obvious choice, due to unparalled accessibility and convenience. Being your own editor is necessary for everyone. But, you need another one too. My wife is a good editor because she does not think like me, can spot plot inconsistencies and missing information and can spot typos; I cat’n (by the way, I know that wasn’t funny).
How are you publishing this book and why?:
All of them will be self-published, perhaps with exception of Treehomps and New Legends; I do approach traditional publishers and agents for these two.
How do you market your books?:
Not terribly well. I use my blog and word of mouth, mainly. I know more about the life cycle of Mongolian diving beetles than marketing so this is an area I am currently learning about (as I do it).
What do you do to get book reviews?:
I have started engaging with Goodreads and I also directly ask people who are actively seeking to review books.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?:
Don’t stop. You will have easy days when you are in the flow and tough days when your writing sucks. Always write on both types of days because this is how you work openings and breakthroughs in your skills.
Oh, and untether yourself – rules have their place but you have got to be you.
I would like to thank Don for his time in completing the interview.