Can you describe your book in the length of a tweet?
Just kidding! “Elliot has to care for his mum, protect his home, stay in school – and save the world. He’s going to need some help. Shame he got the Gods.”
Where did the idea for this book come from?
It was quite literally one of those thunderbolt moments. I was watching TV and a strange thought popped into my head – they often do. I conjectured that, if the ancient Greek Gods were immortal, presumably they’d still be alive today? What would they be doing? And the seed was sown…
You previously wrote and self published this book. Now you’re published by Chicken House on the 2nd February. What’s that process been like?
It’s been amazing – Chicken House are the most incredible publishers and have been right behind the book and I from the get-go. It has been insanely hard work – rather like childbirth, I’m glad I didn’t know what was coming – but they have made my self-published effort a million times better. I’ve learned so much over the past 18 months and I’m very lucky to be part of such a brilliant team. They didn’t pay me to say that. Honest.
Your story features Virgo who crashes to Earth as a shooting star. Does mythology interest you and why did you choose to include it in this book?
I have loved mythology since childhood, so it was an easy pick for me. These stories have been reinvented so many times over the millennia and they are endlessly adaptable. The Gods are so human and flawed that it’s very easy to make them relevant in 2017. Elliot’s story, that of a young carer terrified of losing his mother, developed very organically around that. His journey for the four-book series has been crystal clear in my mind since I started writing Gods.
You founded Story Stew, a creative writing programme. Why did you set this up and how has that been for you?
Like much my career, it sort of happened by accident! I’d had a job that I loved as a university lecturer, but was struggling to fit it around life with four kids. My son’s primary school teacher asked me to come and talk to the kids about writing stories and was born. For the past two years, I’ve travelled around schools and festivals, teaching kids and their adults how to write stories with my anarchic workshops. It’s a very awesome job.
You’ve got a background as a TV critic amongst other jobs. Do you plan to continue writing books?
If anybody wants them! I have so many ideas, I’d need an immortal life to fit them all in! I must say that I find novel writing much harder than journalism or scriptwriting, which were my two previous writing jobs. But it is also the nicest – people are so lovely to you!
What’s your big goal with writing, if you have one?
Again, how long have you got?! Writing a children’s book, let alone four, is a big one off the bucket list, but there are many others. I would love to write a really funny British kids’ film – I sit through so much dross with my children, I’d love to write something families could enjoy together. I also write book and lyrics for musical theatre, so I’d love to sink my teeth into a big show – if anyone ever adapts The Twits for the West End, I’d pay them to write it!
What tips do you have for any aspiring writers?
Learn to balance self-belief with listening. You have to have the courage of your convictions – I had such a strong sense that children would enjoy Who Let the Gods Out and that kept me working on it even when no-one wanted to publish it. But I’ve also listened to good advice down the years to write the very best book I can. The industry is thirsty for new writers, but listen to what it’s telling you about your own work. When I looked objectively at my feedback, I realised that people loved my characters and dialogue, but didn’t find my stories compelling. So I went and studied everything I could about plot – and now I’m talking to you about my debut novel!
Maz’s novel Who Let The Gods Out? is available now. You can follow Maz on Twitter @MaryAliceEvans