Obert Skye was born with a pen in his hand and mystery in his veins. He is taller than two of his brothers and shorter than the other two. He has written down words and stories his whole life. Because of that he is the author of many best-selling books. Books like the Leven Thumps series, the Pillage trilogy, Creature From my Closet series, Witherwood Reform School, and the soon to be released Mutant Bunny Island.
TBL Author Q&A Series: Obert Skye
This is one in a series of brief interviews with a diverse array of writers, editors, and other industry professionals. Check back over the coming months for more!
How would you say your writing career began? Was there a certain event, person, intuitive impulse that guided you to forge your own literary path?
My writing began the moment I knew what words were. As a kid, I loved arranging ideas on paper in a way that would make people laugh or take notice. I had a number of people who supported the madness, but I think the most important person to push me up the path was a librarian I had in grade school. She knew I loved to write but hated to read. By keeping at it, she finally opened my eyes to the joy of reading. It was then that I began to see what it would take to craft stories and books of my own.
You’ve published several books, from the Leven Thumps series to Witherwood Reform School—what can you tell us about the publication process? How would you evaluate your own experience with getting your work printed? How has that shifted over time?
I’m about to welcome my 30th book into the world and a lot has changed over the relatively short time I’ve been writing. I wrote my first novel by hand on yellow legal paper. Computers have made it much better. Now it’s not unusual to never see a printed copy of the manuscript until it comes out in book form. The market has also gotten a lot busier. It is essential that authors find a way to stand out in a crowd. There are so many other creative people screaming about their creations. Authors are required to step out and be an active part of their books becoming something bigger than just words on paper.
Your work often explores invoking the power of imagination. Can you discuss where you gain inspiration for such fantastical tales, as well as topics that entice and inspire you most? In what ways has your writing evolved throughout your career?
I have always wanted reality to be more interesting and textured. To me, any book that doesn’t take me to a space my brain has not wandered before is deficient. I am inspired by words and messages that put me in a mood where I want to turn pages and change my mind. There is nothing more important than change. And life is a flat line without continual shifting and glimpses of what our eyes didn’t once see. A fantastical existence is not always apparent, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always seek after it.
What do you look for in good writing? What qualities or characteristics must it have?
Good writing is like good food. It’s tasty and you want more. The books that hook me are ones that are original in idea. They have clever characters, exhilarating consequences, and satisfying resolves. It doesn’t hurt if there’s some humor attached. Well-written books are most often the result of the author having a clear understanding of how to write and what their story is. I also like to be surprised. If the words I’m taking in sneak up on me and toss me into an area I didn’t think I’d be exploring, that’s just fine by me.
What was the hardest part of breaking into the publishing industry and why?
I think the hardest part of breaking into the publishing world is pushing your book out of the nest for the first time. You always hope it will fly, but the possibility of hitting the ground is always there. You hand over a piece of you and have to pray it connects to a part of someone else. It’s like sending out invitations for a party and having to hope the world RSVPs.
What is your particular writing process? Do you start with characters, plot, or the world? And how do you tackle the revision process that eventually creates the final book?
My writing process shifts a little from book to book. I always start with brainstorming. I will think about characters and stories for years before those ideas make it to the top of my list and are worked on. I love then bringing to life a book that has been knocking around in my notes and thoughts for years.
I believe in the magic of revision. It is the point in the process that turns your pens and pencils into wands. I love taking what I thought was good enough and making it better than ever. Sure, I would love to pump out perfect first, and only drafts, but to me revision is a chance to reflect and repent.
Why did you choose a pen name for your writing career?
Are you saying that Obert Skye isn’t my real name? How dare you. But, say there was a person who had a name that bordered on boring. What harm is there in them fixing what their parents originally labeled them?
Is there a particular achievement or experience that has opened up the most opportunity for your writing?
In sixth grade I wrote a story about the flag and won five dollars and two tickets to the state fair.
What would you say the difference is between writing young adult and adult novels, if there is one?
The difference is knowing your audience and understanding that there are things, words, and feelings that fit us all. But sometimes the intensity and descriptions of such things become less impactful if you are serving them up to the wrong age.
What guidance might you give to fledgling writers?
After having successfully accomplished so much, what are your goals? What direction do you see your writing taking now, in terms of both craft and publication?
I spend my days buried in words and digging out. I love writing because it connects me to people I would never have been connected to. I travel all over the world and meet readers who know my characters better than me. I like that. I hope the future is filled with more of that. I hope I continually grow in the craft and that when I die, all the ideas in my head will have all found a way out. I also hope that one of my books washes up on an island, or is dropped from a plane onto an island, or is catapulted there. It doesn’t matter. Just as long that it makes it to the island. There someone discovers it and constructs a civilization based on some words I wrote in the middle of the night.
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