Theo Caldwell’s new kids’ book: Open Book has Ten Questions for Theo Caldwell

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The Article

Finn the half-Great was just that. Greater than some and less than others, he made his way in the world as best he could….” Open Book talks to Theo Caldwell about his book, Finn the half-Great (Tundra Books), his next project and more.

Open Book: Toronto:
Tell us about your book, Finn the half-Great.

Theo Caldwell:
Our hero, Finn McCool, is half a giant and the most famous hero in Ireland. At fourteen feet tall (give or take), you’d think Finn is the biggest thing on the Emerald Isle. Not so, not by a long chalk. When he ventures from his childhood home, Finn discovers that ancient Britain is a land of giants, dragons, wizards and men, in which he is only one little fellow. Just like in real life – there’s always someone bigger and there’s always someone smaller. To wit, we’re all half-great.

You work as an investment manager and a financial writer. What inspired you to write a young adult novel?

Investment managers are the folks most in need of inspiration these days.

Which books made a great impression on you when you were a child?

The Hobbit, Wind in the Willows, Watership Down and Animal Farm.

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

Kids are smarter than big people recognize. I wasn’t a particularly precocious child myself, but neither was I as gaping and gobsmacked as my superiors supposed. More than anything, I want children to read and be challenged by Finn’s adventures. If grown-ups want to have a look too, they’re certainly welcome (not that I could stop them, anyway), but little people are very important.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

Be there when it happens.

Describe your ideal writing environment.

Dogs are present and there is something else that I should be attending to. I read once that there is no amount of work a man cannot do, so long as it is not the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment. I thrive on distraction. F. Scott Fitzgerald described writing as holding your breath under water. For me, that means I can bang out a few words, then I need something to go busy myself with before I sit back down and write a few more.

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

Xenophobe’s Guide to the Canadians, Atlas Shrugged and I Want To Go Home.

What are you reading right now?

The Bible, cover to cover, including all the “Him-Ham begat Zim-Zam” stuff in the early books. I’m up to First Kings. We’re winning, so far.

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

Finish your project first. Once you have a complete piece, the world is your oyster. Selling your work is a separate skill set, so keep it out of your head while you’re writing and create the best book you can. To do that, write a couple hundred good words every day. No need to overdo it if the muse isn’t with you. Better a couple hundred well-chosen words than pages of balderdash. At that moderate pace, in the space of a year, you’ll have a novel. When it comes to getting published, there is no substitute for enthusiasm. I’ve heard that anyone can be enthusiastic for 30 minutes, but a successful person stays enthusiastic for 30 years. Go through your network of friends and colleagues to find publishing contacts. Publishers have Byzantine rules for submissions, but jumping the queue has a rich and noble tradition and I recommend it highly.

What is your next project?

The second book in Finn’s five-part journey, Finn the half-Great and the Death of Gogmagog.


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