Interview with Dan Metcalf
Today I am lucky enough to have an interview with the author Dan Metcalf, writer of Codebusters, The Lottie Lipton Adventures, Jamie Jones and Dino Wars – coming on April 28th!
See my review and enter to win a copy of the book here
Don’t miss out – the giveaway closes on publication day!
Hi Dan. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions!
First, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer?
I just never stopped daydreaming! I was always the kid in the class that had his head in the clouds and made up games and stories. At some point, I started to write those stories down, and slowly I became a writer. For jobs, I started to surround myself with books as a bookseller and then a librarian. I read and read and read and then I decided that I wanted to write children’s books. Then, after years and years of trying, I got my first book out (The Lottie Lipton Adventures). Things just snowballed from there.
What was your initial inspiration for Dino Wars?
It’s rather dull and stupid; I was clearing up my sons’ toy dinosaurs and mispronounced the word. Instead of dinosaurs, I said ‘dino wars’. Then my daydreaming head kicked in and I wondered what the dino wars were? I often start stories with a ‘what if’: What if there were a war between humans and dinosaurs? Well, how would that happen? Dinosaurs are dead, everyone knows that! So it had to be that the story took place in the future, where humans have recreated dinosaurs with science. But why? Well, it would have to be something to do with war, wouldn’t it? Humans wanted to use them as weapons, but the dinosaurs rebelled and defeated the humans. Then I found it was much more appealing to place my story after these wars, when just a few humans are left. So Adam and Chloe came to life!
I love the idea of starting a story from a ‘What if?’ question.
What kind of research did you do about dinosaurs while writing?
I stole borrowed my son’s children’s encyclopedia of dinosaurs! If I had a character in mind for a dinosaur, then I would look through the book to find the right species of dinosaur and develop it from there. Adam’s friend Dag, for example: I knew he would be a peaceful herbivore, and one that was good at inventing stuff. I eventually found that Iguanadons had a hard claw that they used like a thumb, so Dag would be able to use that to grip and cut things. He’s also very strong and able to bend metal to make his contraptions.
Dag is my favourite character. I also liked how the main dinosaur in the first book isn’t one of the most popular and well-known dinosaurs.
How do you plan out your stories before writing?
First I write a long, rambling version of the story that makes little sense to anyone but me; ‘this happens then this happens then that happens.’. Then I tidy it up a bit, then split it into chapters, and then into scenes. Once I start the writing, it’s all planned and I can just write it in a few weeks but the preparation takes a long time. It’s an approach that doesn’t work for everyone, but it seems to work for me.
How does your story change from the first draft to the final published version?
LOTS! I will do two or three drafts and then send it to the publisher. There the editors will go through it and point out any errors or clumsy writing (there are lots, believe me!). They will also edit things that don’t make sense (in the world of the story – of course talking dinosaurs don’t make much sense!). So I will change lots and then it will change a few times before we lock down a final, final, FINAL version. This is often just before we have to send it to the printers.
This is something I will DEFINITELY be passing on to my pupils – many seem to think that the story is finished once the first draft has been written, when editing is such an important part of the process.
What would your advice be for a child who would like to be a writer?
Read, read, read! Then write, write, write! Not only that, show it to people. Ask them for comments and ways to make it better (no good asking family by the way – they will love whatever you do, and you need someone to be horribly and cruelly honest). Finally, take the criticism! If several people say something in your story doesn’t work, then change it. It’ll be better for it.
This is great advice – and something I feel like I say to my pupils a lot too. Reading as much as possible is so important. Showing the writing to others can be scary, but it is also an essential part of honing your craft as a writer.
What are you working on at the moment and/or planning for the future?
More Dino Wars! This is a four-part series so I’m hard at work on the rest of the books now. I would also dearly love to bring the story to TV, so I’m thinking about that too.
That sounds exciting – we will be looking out for it!
Colour: Green. No, wait. Blue! No, hang on… What was the question?
Food: Bacon sandwich. Mmm…
Book: Eek! Um, I think Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve?
Film: Anything with zombies.
Anything else you would like to add?
If you like my stuff, head over to danmetcalf.co.uk/freebies where I have lots of things to download and play with.
I can recommend these – you can listen to the first chapter of Dino Wars, read by Dan himself! Or download some bad dinosaur jokes, Dino Wars Top Trumps or posters form the world of the books.
Once again, thank you so much Dan! I am sure that your answers will be inspiring for my pupils! I am now going to have a look at some of your other books…
Hope you enjoyed the interview and thank you for reading!
What did you think about Dan’s writing process? Is it similar or different to yours?
How do you get inspiration to write?
Have you enjoyed any other Dinosaur books? Could you recommend some?
Are you planning to read Dino Wars?
Let me know in the comments!