#TuesdayTalk with Liam O’Donnell. Liam’s most recent graphic novel, Tank & Fizz: The Case of the Slime Stampede, launched this March.
Liam, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. My first ones were knock-offs of my favourite TV show at the time, Dr. Who. Today we call it fan fiction. It wasn’t until I was studying media at Ryerson University that I got serious about writing. I took a TV writing course and had all these ideas for crazy kids TV shows. I ended up working in TV, but had more success turning my ideas into books. Once you get started with writing, it’s hard to stop. Now it’s just something I do and who I am. I can’t imagine not writing. That would be weird. And boring.
Where do you get your story ideas from?
Ideas pour in from everywhere and then stew in my brain for a long time. Something I see on the subway might spark an idea for a character. An event in the news might give me an idea for a plot. Places I visit or intrigue become templates for settings in my stories. For example, Tank & Fizz is about a goblin living in an urban underground city. I had the idea to write a fantasy novel from a goblin’s perspective for a long time. It stewed in my mind for many years and I started and abandoned several books with Fizz as the main character. I live in Toronto, which is a very busy place with lots of machines and noise. So, I thought wouldn’t it be neat to have a fantasy type story set in a busy modern city. When I combined those two ideas that don’t normally go together, the story really took off.
What do you look for in a good story?
For me a good story needs a character I can root for and plot that moves like a freight train. The writing has to be sharp and free of cliches and plot holes. I can’t always say that about my own books, but I try. 🙂
Have you had an interesting job in the past? What was it?
The best job I had was as a juggler in a theme park when I was a teen. While my friends slaved over hot grills flipping burgers, I got to be outside in the sun, wandering around the theme park juggling for the visitors.
Do you have a favourite board game?
Board games? No. Role Playing Games. Yes. 🙂 The favourite has to be a good game of Dungeons & Dragons. Where do you think the idea for a goblin and troll detective came from?
What’s your writing ritual?
I work as a teacher all day, so I have to squeeze my writing time in before work. I’m way too tired at the end of the day. So, I try to get up early and be at my computer by 6 am to get an hour of writing before I’m heading out the door at 7 am to teach. Then, I spend most weekends getting a lot of writing done during the day. The summer break is when I get to be a full time writer for two months and I try to get as much written as possible.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
1. Write every day (or close to it.) 2. Finish what you write no matter what (even if it’s terrible) 3. Write what you want, not what you think will sell 4. Read, read, read, read. 5. Have fun.
Liam O’Donnell was born in Northern Ireland and came to Canada when he was five years old. He studied media at Ryerson University and has worked on film sets in Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. He is the author of the popular Max Finder Mysteries. Liam now teaches elementary school in Toronto. Visit www.liamodonnell.com for more information.