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The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes: An Interview with Wade Albert White

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Today we have an interview with Wade Albert White about his upcoming debut middle-grade novel, The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes.

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WWAT: Tell us about your book in a few sentences.

Wade: Anne has spent most of her thirteen years dreaming of the day she and her best friend Penelope will finally leave Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children orphanage. When the big day arrives, a series of very curious happenings lead to Anne being charged with an epic quest. Anne, Penelope, and new questing partner Hiro have only days to travel to strange new locales, solve myriad riddles, and triumph over monstrous foes—or face the horrible consequences.

WWAT: Many of our readers are aspiring authors, so we’re curious to know how you became interested in writing.

Wade: I’ve always been interested in storytelling to some degree or other. I attempted writing my first novel when I was in middle school on an old typewriter we had at home. I don’t recall getting very far, maybe five or six pages, but the spark for spinning a good yarn was definitely there. Over the years I’ve tried my hand at poetry, short stories, screenplays, and the like, but I’ve always been drawn back to writing books and finally realized that if I was ever going to write one I would actually have to make the time and do it  (because, oddly enough, books don’t write themselves—yet).

WWAT: One of the hardest parts of editing is getting that first chapter just right. What was this process like for you in The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes?

Wade: The first chapter is important, no question. That first sentence has to grab the reader’s attention right out of the gate. Then the first paragraph, the first page, the first scene, etc. It somehow has to find the balance between making things interesting while not overwhelming the reader with information they don’t need quite yet.

Although there are obviously many, many ways to begin a story, I find that especially for middle grade there is a good argument to be made for beginning with a character—typically the main character. And this is what I did. I began with her just prior to a major transition that’s about to happen in her life (leaving the orphanage, the only home she’s ever known). I felt it was important to establish what her life has been like up to this point, but not to spend too long there, lest reader begin to wonder when something was going to happen. To get things moving even a bit faster, in The Adventurer’s Guide I also “cheated” slightly in that I introduced the overall framework of the story by using a very short, quirky Prologue, which in this case allowed me to provide the reader with some necessary backstory without bogging down the main narrative.

Having said that, I also made sure that the rest of the book was in good shape as well. There’s no point having a strong opening if the story falls flat after Chapter 1.

WWAT: Your main character is a 13-year-old institutionalized girl. What helped you to understand her as you were writing?

Wade: I think the first thing to acknowledge anytime we’re writing outside our personal experience is that we know very little, and are likely to get at least some things wrong. This doesn’t necessarily mean don’t do it, but it does mean proceed with caution and a heavy dose of humility and sensitivity. A lot of thought and research and listening are required, and even then expect criticism.

Having said that, the story is in many ways equal parts parody and satire, and so while it’s true Anne is institutionalized, the story is in many ways less about that as a reality and more about exploring how that particular trope has been portrayed in popular fantasy stories over the years. So in that regard the book is somewhat of a “story within a story” and the characters primarily interact with their quest and their life circumstances on that level.

WWAT: What were your favorite books to read when you were in your early teens? Did any of these books influence your writing?

Wade: I’m usually terrible at remembering the exact age I was when I read certain books, so take the following with a proverbial grain of salt.

I think it’s safe to say that The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary captured my imagination like no other book when I first started reading in earnest. This idea that you could have an otherwise perfectly normal world and then drop in a mouse riding a toy motorcycle into the middle of it absolutely fascinated me.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery was perhaps the first book I read where I was struck by how powerfully I could be affected by the loss of a fictional character (*spoiler alert* when Matthew dies). It’s not by accident that my main character’s name is Anne spelled with an ‘e.’

In addition to those, I read Douglas Adams in my later teens, and there’s no question his work and general style have heavily influenced my writing over the years.

WWAT: Do you have any quirky writing habits, or what helps you in your writing process?

Wade: I don’t think I have too many quirky habits. For the most part I tend to treat the actual writing process like any other job I’ve had (that is, show up and do the work), and I think that approach has helped greatly.

I do tend to be more productive in the mornings, and also when our kids are at school and the house is quiet (so Saturday afternoon is admittedly not my best writing time). For the most part, though, I’m able to put myself in a chair and write. I don’t wait for the muse to strike. I just type. If inspiration shows up, great. If not, then at least I get words on the page, and if they’re sometimes not that great (and believe me, some days they aren’t) they can always be edited later. It helps that I tend to work from a basic outline, so I always have at least some idea of where the story should be going in terms of the big picture (in theory; stories and characters don’t always cooperate).

Perhaps my only real quirk is that, if I ever find myself stuck (and it does happen on occasion), I have a scribbler that I get out. I don’t write any actual stories in it. Instead, I use it more just for thinking out loud on the page. I talk/write myself through various possible scenarios until I hit on something that works. Sometimes it only takes a page or two to find a solution. Other times I can go on for ten or twenty pages before I untangle a particularly troublesome plot point.

WWAT: How many books did you write before this one? What are you currently working on?

Wade: I made what I would call my first real attempt at writing a book back in 2004, and in many ways that material actually formed the seeds of this series. But I never finished it (finish your stories!). I started at least two or three others, but for one reason or another they never quite made it to the finish line either (once again, finish your stories!). So when I sat down to write a book this time around, I was determined not only to finish, but to see it through the several drafts of editing most books need to get them into shape and then send it out into the world.

When my publisher bought the book, the contract was for a two-book deal. So I’m currently working on the second book in the Adventurer’s Guide series. I’ve completed the first draft and will be busy editing it over the summer/fall once I receive notes back from my editor. I also have an adult science fiction book I’m working on, which is super top secret at the moment, and there are always ideas pinging around in my head at any given moment.

WWAT: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes?

Wade: I think it’s a book that works on many levels, and has appeal for both younger and older readers. On the surface it’s a fun, fast-paced, silly adventure, and can be enjoyed solely in that regard. But I also wanted to play around with storytelling structures, literary tropes, and character archetypes and how we perceive them, so amongst all the silliness there’s some exploration of those sorts of things as well.

Also, it has a platypus in it, so really, what more can a reader ask for?

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Thank you for sharing with us, Wade Albert White, and best of sales to you with your debut novel!

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You can pre-order The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes wherever books are sold and at Amazon.com.

Website: wadealbertwhite.com

Twitter: @wadealbertwhite

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4 Responses to “The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes: An Interview with Wade Albert White”

  1. Laurel says:

    This looks like a fun story with lots of humor. Just what I’d expect from a great #pitchwars mentor with a sense of humor.

  2. Nichole says:

    Thanks for joining the #16DABash!

    -N

  3. Gabriella M says:

    Thank you for sharing!

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