So a lot of my characters are really looking, and what that does is open up the door for my readers to look and for me to explore ideas as well.
DN: How did you come up with the idea for The Walk series?
RPE: I’d just come through a horrible time in my life. I had a business that was a huge disaster and almost bankrupted me, and my health broke. There were dark days; I woke up every night with panic attacks. I thought, “What am I doing?” After much prayer, it came to me: “You should just be writing. You should forget the rest of the stuff — just write.” And so I decided to write more than one book a year.
I wanted to write a series — I had never done that, but I thought a lot of good could come from a series because I could let people follow the story (from one book to the next) rather than having to introduce a new book every time. I was looking at how to do a series while still changing the scenery in every book. And then it hit me: What if a guy’s just walking? Because if he were walking, then his surroundings would keep changing. So then I backed into it: Why’s he walking? Well, he wouldn’t walk if he had a home, if he had a wife, if he had a job.
What happened is that it then became a much more important story about loss. And it hit at the right time, because in America four years ago people were losing their homes and their jobs and their lives and their self-esteem. So some of the people really gravitated to (“The Walk”) and really grabbed on to it. I had just come through this horrible loss, so it was really powerful to write this.
DN: As a writer, how do you step between the two different genres of The Walk and Michael Vey?
RPE: Oh, they’re so different! In fact, it would be more difficult if they were similar (genres) because then I would start confusing the stories. It’s really not that difficult. What’s hard is the time — it’s just that I’m writing so much right now that I don’t have much of a life.
DN: So when you’re in writing mode, how much time do you spend writing on a daily basis?
RPE: Probably like six intense hours of writing — which doesn’t sound that bad until you realize I do eight hours a day of business and promotion. It’s especially hard writing on the road and in hotel rooms. Like when you go to a book signing and you come back to the hotel room exhausted, it’s not easy to get into that place — and you have to get into that place. Like this last Michael Vey book takes place in Peru, so mentally I have to be in Peru. Moving in and out is a little bit difficult, because it takes a while to get kind of caught up in the mood and feel like you want to write.
DN: You’ve alluded to your insistence on never letting failure weigh you down. What’s the source of your ability to bounce back from disappointment with a fresh and pure enthusiasm for whatever is next?
RPE: Maybe it’s part of growing up and getting hit by a lot of losses. Every time we started to get on our feet again, we would lose the home. Like one time we built a nice home and it felt like we were getting ahead, but then my dad fell and breaks both his legs. I think it was kind of survival; I think it was probably good for me to learn to say, “Just keep going.”
I have to admit, I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life. But the difference is, things are going really well right now. I am pulling in so many new readers. My weekly sales, every single week, are huge. And that’s not with a new book out — that’s just on a regular basis. So the fact that things are going well keeps you going, and frankly I really needed that after some really bad years of business choices.
The other thing is, with Michael Vey it’s fun because I’m dealing with kids. Kids have this incredible energy. They buy into it; they’re wonderful. It’s fun to see that and to connect to that and to see their eyes light up.
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