Maxwell Grantly

Magical stories from an independent author

Archive for the month “April, 2015” Interview

Last weekend, I was invited to take part in an author interview at – If you are interested to read more, the interview has been reproduced below.


Good day, my cats and kittens! Today’s interview with Maxwell Grantly is going to be a bit different than those that have come before, for reasons that will become quickly apparent. You see, Max writes illustrated steampunk stories for children. He uses a cute icon instead of a portrait photo so I don’t have a picture of him, which is his right. He teaches school in a coastal hamlet of Great Britain (Doc Martin, anyone?), which would seem to give him a good insight into the minds of children, so let’s dig in and see what he has to offer.

What is the title of your latest work? What is its release date, or is it out already?

My latest ebook is called “Fingers and the Dream Thief.” It was released just a few days ago, on the 5th of April and it formed the last part of a trilogy involving a character called Fingers: a young shoe-shiner who picked the pockets of his wealthy clients. I know that authors are not meant to have favourites from their own work. When I speak with other authors about which of their books they prefer, they often reply that they like them all. (I guess this may be due to a reluctance to admit that, if one book is stronger, then there must be others that are not so strong.) However, if you ask me, “Fingers and the Dream Thief” is a firm favourite of mine and so, sadly yes, consequently it can be deduced that some of my other books must therefore be weaker.

In 25 words or less, what is this book about? [Note: this isn’t really 25 words, but if you had to pitch your book in a couple of sentences, what would you choose to say about it?]

A wealthy steampunk photographer, Mr. Snude, finances the local orphanage but abuses his generosity, by stealing the children’s dreams. It is left to a street urchin, called Fingers, to turn the tables on Mr. Snude and teach him a lesson he will never forget.

01 - Mr Snuce and Fingers

What inspired this? What decisions brought these characters to this place and time in this genre?

Initially, I was planning to just write a single graphic novel, based on the character of Fingers the pickpocket. He was created to steal a pocket watch from a steampunk inventor, only to discover that the device was actually a portable time machine. It was my intention to allow Fingers the opportunity to go back in time and confront his parents, in an attempt to make sense as to why he had been abandoned on the streets.

02 - Fingers and the Pocket Watch

As I worked on the development of his character, I saw a great deal of potential for further stories. I found that I had really enjoyed working with a devious young pickpocket as a main character. A second story followed immediately called “The Incredible Adventure of Fingers and Boston,” where Fingers used his pick pocketing skills to distract a villain at a critical point in the plot. This time, I used a picture book format for the story and I really enjoyed working on it. I simply didn’t want to stop developing this interesting character. Additionally, I had deliberately left the first book with a loose end and so I thought that a third and final instalment would be ideal to give perfect closure to this character. Quite simply, I felt that Fingers had earned himself a happy ending.

Without giving anything away, did you intend to teach a morality fable or a life lesson, or were you simply telling a rollicking good tale, entertainment for its own sake?

When I write, I just want to tell a good story. I feel that it is a basic feature of every human being to be creative. Some people find their creativity in their hobbies, art, dance, music; other people find a release for their creative spirit by consuming the creativity of others. I find that the production of stories is a great release that allows me to be creative, simply for the joy of doing so. Sometimes a fable or lesson might arise naturally from the plot but, when it does, it is often unintentional. I would like to think that, when a reader browses through my work, they are able to enter a magical world of suspended belief and join me in my bizarre world of fantasy, if only for a brief moment.

Setting may be real or imagined, but it is a vital component of any narrative. How did your story come to be told in this setting as opposed to any other?

My last three stories have all been steampunk but I don’t always choose this particular genre. Many of my earlier stories are fantasy but, again, I am not one to stick rigidly to any particular style. I love to experiment, to dabble with styles and themes. I have written short novels, longer novels, graphic novels, picture storybooks and I have worked in the first person tense as well as third person tense. My heroes have been elves, robots and people. As for my interest in steampunk: I have always had an interest in the Victorian era. I love the dress, the innovations and the architecture of this period. When I stumbled across an online steampunk simulation (New Babbage), my interest was galvanised.

03 - Fingers on the Street

I have heard it said and firmly believe that the characters are the crux of any story, and that if your characters fall flat, no amount of quality in the descriptions or action sequences can save the narrative. Again, without giving anything away, who are your heroes and villains, what went into their makeup, and what nuances should we watch for to maximize our enjoyment of the book?

My books are strongly graphical in nature. I love to create my stories around beautiful imagery.

04 - Leif the Elf in a Bluebell Field

The production of each story starts with the selection of characters, both good and bad. The characters are then tweaked and modified until I am happy with their construction. Next, I place these characters into an environment and add some dilemma that needs to be resolved. Since I aim my stories for young children, my characters are instantly recognisable as being either good or bad. The hero is often a child who is disadvantaged in some way. His or her psychological make-up is usually based upon someone I know: a friend or relation. I have heard that friends of famous authors sometimes explain that they recognise themselves in the stories of these authors. I wonder if my friends or family may ever recognise themselves in mine! Using known people, on which to base characters, is a great way of ensuring effective continuity in a story. Each time a character is faced with a dilemma, I just wonder how my friend or family member would react in this scenario.

Have you ever had a character that was intended to be part of the background stand up and take over the narrative, or a substantial part of it? Anyone you can talk about without giving out spoilers? How did you handle that situation?

I can’t recall a time when a minor character stepped forward and became a substantial part of the storyline. However, this nearly happened in the story called “Runs Like Clockwork” when a small clockwork toy found himself employed in a wealthy home, as a reader for a sick child. In this story, it was my intention to add a twist to the plot and use the butler as a villain. The butler would rob the family of their silverware and then frame the clockwork toy. This was the longest story that I have ever written, at nearly 25 000 words. The theft and resolution was planned to happen in the latter part of the book. As I was working through the story, I found that the development of other parts of the plot required more input than I had anticipated. I realised that, if I complicated the matter by adding a burglary, it would require a substantial amount of work to bring this sub-plot to closure. I felt that this might become a major distraction to the main storyline and so I revisited earlier chapters and deleted a lot of the groundwork that I had already written, regarding the butler’s deviant character. Finally, in the story, he just ended up as being a basic servant who occurs randomly throughout the plot as a subsidiary character and simply “fills a space” in the story.

Here is your opportunity to show off your skills. Choose a scene, from a hundred words to a thousand or so, from the book, that highlights your major skill, be it dialogue, description, suspense, or whatever, and paste it right here. Dazzle us. Seduce us. Hook us!

I feel that the strength of my stories lays in their enchanting illustrations. I hope that you may excuse me for adding a couple of pages of graphics instead.

05 - First Book Picture

06 - Second Book Picture

No excuse needed for providing such fine examples as that! Where do you see yourself as an author in five years?

As I said earlier, I write stories simply as a release for my creativity. I love to see my work being appreciated and valued by others but I don’t view writing as a means for me to earn a living. I am happy to keep the cost of my ebooks as low as possible and I thrive on receiving positive feedback from satisfied readers. (I guess all authors do too!)

What advice do you have for young people just starting out on the grand adventure that is writing? Not the usual “Keep trying, don’t give up.” You’re a writer. You’ve met some of the monsters that lurk along the path. What kept you at it when your own mind was protesting that you couldn’t possibly do this?

I once heard that writing a book is like making love to an elephant. You have to be crazy to start! It’s an incredibly difficult task. You have to wait twenty-two months (usually longer) before you see the results of your labours. Finally, you may get killed in the process.

My advice for any young person starting out is that they should bear this in mind and simply be true to themselves. If they are happy with what they doing, then that is good. If they are not, then it is time to change direction and find other outlets.

This question is optional because it solicits information about yourself rather than your book: Briefly describe your favorite movie. What feature about it makes it your favorite? What character in the movie is most like you, and why?

The film that inspired me the most was the movie called “Billy Elliot.” It tells the story of a young teenager growing up with his father and elder brother in a mining community (in North Yorkshire, UK) during the turmoil and hardship of miner’s strikes. Both Billy’s father and his elder brother were miners; it was expected that he would become one too. However, Billy had a passion for ballet dancing and, in the end, he was able to realise his dream. I loved the film because of its powerful storyline: be true to yourself. If you get an opportunity to see this film (or “Billy Elliot – the Musical”) it is well worth watching, if only for the beautiful dance sequences.

Are you a seat of your pants writer or a structured writer?

I’d like to think that I am neither one nor the other. I would consider myself a recreational writer. When I am feeling creative and I want to relax, I write. When I am uninspired and tense, I don’t. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t do it.

Most important, where can we get your book?

Currently I have written sixteen stories. They can all be found for sale at Amazon, iTunes and Kobo. I am pleased to say, I have set the price of each one to the lowest that the Amazon software will allow and then I have priced those on iTunes and Kobo to be the same. I hope that readers will appreciate that all my ebooks are very reasonably priced.

And that concludes our visit with Maxwell Grantly, quite a talented graphic artist as well the wielder of a nifty storyline! To give you an idea how prolific he is, in the week since I conducted this interview, his newest offering, Jack and the Space Pirates has hit the shelves. Look for it, along with his other brilliant children’s works, at Amazon, iTunes, Kobo or at the steampunk bookstore, found at The Empire Booksellers.

The ol’ schedule on the wall says that I’ll be back next Sunday with another offering. Until then, play nice, look out for one another, and read like your life depends on it!

Promotional Video

If you are interested, this is the short promotional video that has been produced to accompany the ebook called “Jack and the Space Pirates.”

Jack and the Space Pirates

Jack and the Space Pirates

Jack lives and works on EM-05, a steampunk space station found on a major trade route between Earth and Mars. He spends his days tarring the insides of frigates and galleons, as they stop for repairs and supplies, on their way to the distant planets of the Solar System. There are very few other children that work on EM-05 and so it can get very lonely for Jack. However, he does have one close friend, an abandoned cat named Jet, and the two of them are inseparable.

Jack and Jet find that their lives are thrown into turmoil when a gang of space pirates steals a valuable galleon. The two friends are flung into an incredible adventure and Jack is forced to devise a cunning plan to return them both to their intergalactic home.

Jack and the Space Pirates is a beautifully produced children’s storybook, with lovely enchanting illustrations on every page.

Have you ever met a dream thief?

Fingers and the Dream Thief

Edward Croydon (also known as “Fingers”) was abandoned by his uncaring parents and left on the streets of New Babbage. Fate forced him to work in order to survive, shining shoes and picking the pockets of rich passers-by. Finally, the kindness of one sympathetic gentleman encouraged Fingers to consider moving into the local orphanage, financed by the town’s wealthy photographer: Mr. Snude. Fingers found that the children of the home were very well-cared for and that they were allowed to play with as many toys as they could wish for. The orphanage looked like a paradise for homeless street children! However, despite all of this, Finger discovered that the children lacked imagination and he soon discovered that this children’s home had a dark and dreadful secret: Mr. Snude was a dream thief!

Discover how Fingers saved the children from a life devoid of dreams and how he was able to teach Mr. Snude a lesson that he would never forget.

Featured Ebook

Runs Like Clockwork

This month’s featured story is called “Runs Like Clockwork.”

This heart-wrenching tale is set in the fictional steampunk town of New Babbage, in a world without electricity.

An elderly clockmaker and seller, Mr. McKenzie, constructs a mechanical shop assistant to help in his store, using the remains of a child’s stuffed toy bear and some miscellaneous clock components. He gives his creation the name of “River Falcon” after randomly scanning the pages of a yellowed dusty atlas and he takes the clockwork bear to work in his store. One noticeable feature of this amazing invention is the addition of a mechanical reading eye, which allows River Falcon to read the labels of the clocks and timepieces for potential customers.

The invention proves its worth in the store, by attracting a great deal of attention from customers and passers-by alike. However, a thief also spies River Falcon and decides to steal him as an attraction for a travelling circus.

It is then that his reading ability allows him to achieve his true potential and to discover how the power of the written word can change his life for the better: how he can discover the true meaning of both friendship and love.

Is This Kitten Homogeneous?

Jet and Sniffles

When you see a KittyCatS cat with the trait that you want and then you view its family tree; it’s very easy to assume that it may be pure in the trait that you want, if you see ONLY this trait being held by all its parents and grandparents.

Suppose you see a cat with azure eyes and you look at the family tree and notice that both the parents and all four of the grandparents have azure eyes, what do you think the chances are that the cat in front of you has azure as both the dominant and recessive traits? (What are the chances that the cat is homogeneous with this particular trait?)

It would be very easy to assume that the chances were particularly high. In fact, I confess, before I did the mathematics, I thought that the mathematical chance that the cat was homogeneous laid at roughly 90 or 95%. However, I was shocked when I took a scrap of paper and calculated it in full.

Assuming the worst case scenario that all four of the grandparents are heterogeneous (they have a recessive hidden gene that is not azure but some other more recessive colour), the chance that the final offspring is homogeneous is actually just 50%. Yes, that is right, there is only just a 50/50 chance that both the dominant and recessive genes are the same. Unbelievable, isn’t it! If you still need some verification, here are my rough scribbles:

Family Tree

Explanation for above scribbles:

Each of the four grandparents are heterogeneous (Aa) and so there is a one in three chance that their offspring are homogeneous. (We can discount the “aa” offspring from the maths for we know that the recessive fur is not showing.) When combining these three different combinations for the two parents, 16 homogeneous offspring are produced. Again, we can again discount the four “aa” results because we can see from the pedigree page that no cat has a recessive fur type. This means that there are (9×4)-4 different combinations.

I was surprised to see that, despite having a whole page of identical traits, the final cat only has mathematically a 50-50 chance of being pure in the given trait.

What this means, when we view a page full of identical cats, the chances of the final cat being homogeneous in one specified trait is simply 50% (if the grandparents were heterogeneous.) So, don’t let a family tree, full of identical kittens, deceive you into thinking that the final cat is pure.

Fingers and the Dream Thief

Opening the Dream Bottle

Mr. Snude was a wealthy steampunk photographer and a benefactor of the local orphanage in New Babbage. However, his generous intentions hid a darker side to his personality: he would use the modified posing stands in his photographic studio to steal dreams from his young victims. He relished the consumption of dreams from the local orphans: children’s imaginations are always such fertile and magical places.

It wasn’t until a new orphan was introduced that Mr. Snude’s plans started to go awry. Fingers, a shoeshine boy rescued from the streets, began to investigate the strange bland behaviour of his new friends and soon discovered the sinister secret behind the photographic studio.

How can Fingers save his friends from a life devoid of dreams and teach Mr. Snude a lesson that he will never forget?

This delightful ebook is packed with an illustration on every page and is perfect for sharing your love of literature with the younger members of your family.

Fingers and the Dream Thief (Promotional)

Have you ever met a dream thief?

Edward Croydon (also known as “Fingers”) was abandoned by his uncaring parents and left on the streets of New Babbage. Fate forced him to work in order to survive, shining shoes and picking the pockets of rich passers-by. Finally, the kindness of one sympathetic gentleman encouraged Fingers to consider moving into the local orphanage, financed by the town’s wealthy photographer: Mr. Snude. Fingers found that the children of the home were very well-cared for and that they were allowed to play with as many toys as they could wish for. The orphanage looked like a paradise for homeless street children! However, despite all of this, Finger discovered that the children lacked imagination and he soon discovered that this children’s home had a dark and dreadful secret: Mr. Snude was a dream thief!

Discover how Fingers saved the children from a life devoid of dreams and how he was able to teach Mr. Snude a lesson that he would never forget.

Smile, you’re on camera!

Recently I have been researching Victorian photography, in preparation for my latest ebook: Fingers and the Dream Thief.

Posing Stand

This is the object that I was searching for. It is called a posing stand and it was used in Victorian photography. Early in the history of photographic development, chemicals were not sufficiently sensitive to capture an image without using a prolonged exposure of several minutes. Therefore, this device was required.

Imagine how difficult it must have been for a subject to maintain a rigid pose for several minutes, without the slightest movement or tremor. The posing stand was set up behind each subject. Then they were clamped into position, so that they could stand and maintain a given pose for a sufficient time.

Although they look like gruesome items of torture, these innocent posing stands were commonly found in photographic studios across the world and would have been in fairly standard use. Sometimes these were not hidden carefully: when you look at many Victorian portraits you might just notice the remains of the stand behind the feet of a subject.

Victorian Photograph

Incidentally, the long shutter speed also explains why Victorian subjects look so stern or depressed in family portraits: it is simply impossible to maintain a smile for longer than a few seconds without severe facial discomfort. How long can you maintain a full beaming smile? (I managed 35 seconds.)

However, I do find these stern-looking Victorian photos incredibly elegant and attractive to view. If the subjects were smiling broadly and dressed more casually, I am sure that they would lose their professional pleasing appeal.

Photographs of the Deceased

Recently I have been researching Victorian photography, in preparation for my latest ebook: Fingers and the Dream Thief.

Inadvertently, I discovered something quite macabre. In Victorian times, it was common for families to take photographs of  family groups, standing with the open coffin of a deceased relative or holding the body of a dead baby. It was seen as a fitting keepsake: something for members of the family to remember their loved ones by. For reasons of sensitivity, I have decided not to include an accompanying photograph with this article but, if you are interested, there are many original Victorian photographs online if you should wish to research this topic further.

It may seem quite ghoulish today, to picture the face of a deceased person. However, at that time, it was seen as a respectful and fitting way of recording a dearly loved one and including him/her in a close family portrait.

Most remarkably, I find it incredible to consider how attitudes of people to bereavement can alter, in just a relatively short period of time.

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