Neglected, Ethan boards The Study Train to escape his miserable existence. The Study Train is a magical train that teaches him how to harness his magical powers. But does the force make him believe he in invincible?
What is The Study Train, Reunion of the Untouchables all about? Can you tell us a little more about its genre?
The Study Train, Reunion of the Untouchables is a YA fiction novel, for 13 to 15 year olds. It is an exciting story about a boy that goes through a lot of motions: from being brought on board of this magical train, to meeting new friends, travelling the world, and… being exposed to great powers. This is the first book in a series. Reunion of The Untouchables introduces the main character, Ethan, and his main counterpart (his enemy and hero), Krixit. It explains the magic of the Study Train, its history, and round-the-world journey. As the story unfolds, we discover that Ethan, a simple and unhappy boy at first, is actually a long awaited leader for a hidden society called The Untouchables. Ethan gets sucked into their circles, drawn in by the magic and sorcery that he gets to learn. Soon he understands that as their leader, he needs to commit mean and terrible acts. The question throughout the book is: will he go for power and recognition, or turn to the good side?
Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family or by real-life experiences?Absolutely yes, and absolutely no. Whenever you write, you have to tap into your view on life, your experiences, the people that you know and their behaviours. So in that sense, there are a lot of real-life inspirations woven into the story. BUT – it is not an absolute … as you throw some fantasy into the mix, every character and every situation becomes rather unique.
What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
I can’t give too much away. My favourite scene is linked to the climax of the book – an ultimate fight between Ethan, the main character and Althulos (his headmaster, teacher, and the founder of the train). There is a surprising element in that scene that I like a lot, and that will be the foundation for the next volumes in the series (aha – now, here’s a piece of new information!). So, read the book to find out exactly what happens!
Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone?
I have gone on my own. I have contacted many publishers in the UK and the US. With a lot of rejection as a result. I know that that comes with the territory (i.e. there are a lot of talented authors and a lot of manuscripts for a relatively limited amount of publishers). Eloquent Books saw something in my story, and so far I’m happy working together with them. My next book (due at the end of the year; and not related to The Study Train) will also be with them.
Eloquent Books website sounds enticing, how have they helped you? Ie what sort of marketing have they done for you? Have they set up the radio shows and book signings for instance?
They are very much focused on marketing, and that’s exactly what I like about them. They have a lot of modules to help authors sell their books. It is up to the author to go as far as he wants to go. I haven’t engaged actively (yet) on book signings and radio shows; but they do provide the service of getting those done.
What gave you the incentive to write this book?
I have been writing for a long time, but always wanted to find a way to tell youngsters about a fundamental truth in life: once one opens up to other people/cultures in the world; once one has interacted with people in various places in the world, something happens … you discover that we are all very much alike, and you appreciate each other better. Now, don’t get me wrong: the Study train is a light-hearted, magical, adventurous story. But I hope that in a gentle way, this message trickles through.
Don’t you think that youngsters already feel this, and it’s us oldies that instill this prejudice?
Maybe you are right. My experience however, is that many teenagers (remember my target audience is 13-15) haven’t seen much of the world, and get exposed only what they see on the news, hear from their friends, see from their parents. In that sense, I do think it is a message worth bringing; even worth repeating if it is not new.
How many will be in the series?
Well, I still have to decide. Probably six. There’s eight year of study on the Study Train, but I don’t want the book to be covering one year at a time. And…some interesting things might develop that make me change the number of episodes; who knows (I’m obviously keeping some suspense here).
Will Ethan be in all the books?
Definitely. His character will evolve. But he is the main protagonist
Can you sum the book up in one sentence?
Ethan has the adventure of a lifetime. After getting on the magical train he proves to be the ultimate “Untouchable” – will he go for good or bad?
What marketing have you been doing to help sales?
So far, my main push has been through the Internet. I am a big believer in the power of social networks. (And my work as a marketer obviously contributed to that point of view). When it comes to books, there are a lot of social platforms where you can interact on almost a 1:1 basis with your targetgroup and with colleagues. Spaces like Shelfari, Goodreads, and the many many book blogs are just amazing opportunities to market your book. I keep going with this until I have a bit more time for other things, like participating in radio shows, releasing a video trailer, doing book signings and so on.
How long does it take you to write a book? Have your written other books?
I have about twelve books ready. Two were published in The Netherlands, in Dutch. The Study Train is my first English title. It generally takes me a few months of intense writing to nail down the story. Then another two months to go through some good editing, letting it sink in and rewriting a bit. I have a short span of attention and too many ideas; so I try not to take too long to finish up a book.
What comes first – the plot or characters?
How did you get into writing? Did you always want to become a writer?
I started writing a long time ago, when I was a teenager. I physically started “writing down” my stories and ideas around the age of 13/14 … first in songs, then in philosophical essays (I was desperately searching “myself”), poems (yep – teenage love and all that), short novels (lots of movies in my head), bits&pieces of texts and stories / children’s books (I actually completed two complete children’s books by 17). For many years I wrote only occasionally and then stopped, busy focusing on my career. It was my first daughter that reignited my urge to pick up my writing again, beginning of 2006, when my wife was pregnant. As of then, I took away the barriers that I built into my head to take this forward, and just wrote away. It seemed I had and still have a lively imagination! I haven’t stopped ever since. Writing is my hobby of choice. And maybe, one day, I’ll be able to make a living out of it !
How supportive is your wife/family. Hasn’t there ever been a time where she’s moaned at you for tapping away on the keyboard when the dinner is burning, kids are an hour late for bed and the phone’s ringing?
Are you from Belgium originally? If English is not your first language, how difficult was it to write in a different language?
I am Belgian and have lived there for the better part of my life. Although English is not my first language privately, it has been my first language for more than 15 years business wise. I guess that helps … All in all, I find it easy to write in English.
Are you working on another book? Possible to have a preview snippet or blurb of that?
My next book is called NIRVANA, and will be released end of this year (2010). Here’s an ultra short synopsis:
Nick enters a modern youth gang, called NIRVANA. He is inspired by Dario, the charismatic gang leader. Soon, he becomes Dario’s protégé and the hero of the gang. Money hunger and the quest for power over the group become his best friends. Even at the cost of his romance with Amber, his ‘secret’ girlfriend. Corruption and theft are his daily activities. He has everything a 17-year old boy want. But love and crime don’t go well together…
Is Nirvana part of The Study Train series?
No it is not. Nirvana is a totally different book, with a lot more reality than The Study Train.
Are all your books YA? Have you tried to write in another genre? Would you?
So far, all my books have been Children’s and YA fiction books. But I have a lot of ideas to write adult (drama and romance) novels. One day…
What mistakes do you see new writers make?
Well, I think you get very excited about your own work. There are a lot more talented writers around, competition is heavy, and not everyone likes what you write about and how. And, take off for a new book is extremely slow. Plus, you need a bit of luck to get noticed, to get positive reviews by the right people, to be picked up and promoted by others. So, it is important to stay with both feet on the ground. Not (always) easy 😉
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Keep dreaming, keep writing, keep trying, keep going! One day, you will get there. AND: follow my blog: http://kurtfrenier.webs.com/apps/blog/