Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher. He lives in Toronto, Canada. He is the author of the award-winning and bestselling Blackthorn Key series.

Q&A with Author: Kevin Sands

Where do you find the inspiration for your books?

Here, there, and everywhere. There’s no way to know from where inspiration will come. I’ve got ideas from reading other books, playing video games, going to museums…but also just standing in the shower. It comes when it comes, and you’re just grateful it happens at all!

I will say that once I have an idea for a book, doing research always stimulates more ideas for scenes or events in that story. So the library is always a reliable resource for me.

What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?

I loved adventures most of all. When I was very young, Tintin books were my favourites. As I got older, I liked historical proto-fantasy like Robin Hood and King Arthur, and then moved on to actual fantasy books like David Eddings’ Belgariad, Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga, and Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series.

I never saw myself in the books I read—but why would I want to? I read books to experience stories of different people, different places, different ideas, different attitudes, different worlds. As Groucho Marx once put it, I’ve heard everything I’ve had to say before and I’m in no mood to listen to me again.

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned when creating your books?

That I can write books at all? Seriously, I had no interest in writing whatsoever when I was young. If you told me as a kid that I’d grow up to be a writer, I’d have thought you’d lost your mind. It only goes to show you never really know where your life will take you. So always keep your options open, and be willing to try new things, even if it’s something you never thought you would do.

What is a challenge you have faced as a writer?

When you first start writing, certain elements come naturally, while others are alien and harder to grasp. For me, how to develop characters and how to write description were the two hardest parts of learning to write. It took a long, long time to finally learn the techniques required to create fully-formed characters, and to learn how to create effective descriptions necessary to bring a story to life.

What advice do you have for kids who are interested in writing?

First, always be reading. Reading is one of the best ways to learn what makes for effective stories, and how the various elements of writing come together.

Second, always be writing. It’s like riding a bike; you can read about it all you want, but you won’t actually be able to do it until you try. The more you write, the faster your skills will develop.

And third, accept that you will fail. No one’s successful the first time they try anything. So embrace your mistakes: they’re the best tool you have to learn from, because as you learn what doesn’t work, it will teach you what does. In this game, persistence is the key. You never truly fail until you quit.