His love for nature and animals, coupled with a wild imagination, inspired Geoffrey Saign to create the WhipEye Chronicles. This fast-paced fantasy thriller series for everybody young at heart has since become immensely popular and has won Saign 10 awards. As our author of the day, Saign chats about his love for the genre, the underlying message to his books, and reveals his other interesting skills, which include kung fu, diving and sailing.
Please give us a short introduction to what WhipEye is about.
Charlie, a thousand-year-old parrot, tells animal nerd Samantha and spunky Jake they have twenty-four hours to figure out how to use the supernatural staff, WhipEye to stop a traitorous guardian and his enslaved monstrous animals from destroying two worlds. This is a thriller, with elements of love, divided families, nature, wildlife, animals, magic, intuition, and trusting yourself.
Why did you decide to write a children's book about magic and animals?
I wanted readers of all ages to be immersed into the ‘vision’ of the main character, Samantha, who is in love with wildlife and nature—to feel her sense of awe and beauty. All my series have elements of nature and wildlife in them. I’m a big fan of both, and so Samantha has that aspect of me in her character. The magic in the story often revolves around the giant animals called Great Ones, and Lessers—creatures that have the ability to take on human and animal shapes. All of it provided a mythology explaining all world mythologies that was very fun to develop.
Why this genre? What is it about the audience that appeals to you?
I grew up reading thrillers and fantasy, so it’s what I enjoy writing. A writer has to love what he writes, and hope the ‘audience’ for the books loves how he does it.
Your first two books in the WhipEye Chronicles ended up winning 10 awards. What was the experience like? Was it anything you expected?
Until I won a number of awards I was always a little unsure of my writing—is it good enough, is it competitive? The awards were a big YES, and gave me confidence in my storytelling ability. Plus it’s validation from the writing community that you have arrived, in a sense. It was a thrill each time WhipEye won an award, and after a while I kind of expected it. lol
What inspired Charlie's character?
My first image of the book was a boy walking into a pet store. To do what? I answered with, To talk to a parrot. Why? That sounded boring, so I made the parrot 1,000 years old, wise, and wise-cracking. Now I had an interesting story and character.
Does your book have an underlying message? What do you hope your young readers will take from this?
Nature and wildlife matter and are beautiful and we should take care of both as wise stewards and care about our beautiful planet. The other message is to get out and have adventures in life. Video games, TV, smart phones, and the internet will never have the beauty offered free by nature and wildlife. Also, kids often feel powerless with the adults in their lives, and I wanted to show them that they do have the ability to change their lives. Lastly, keep a sense of humor about everything. Be able to laugh at yourself.
Many readers report that they were spellbound throughout the book. How do you manage to capture and keep their attention?
The keys to writing are suspense, danger, surprise, humor, and attachment to the characters. I try to do all of it, within a magical world with magical characters and themes that matter.
Your scenes are very detailed and descriptive. How did you pull this off?
I have a long background of time spent in nature; running free in forests when I was a child, scouting ponds for crayfish, turtles, tadpoles, and birds, and later diving, hiking, sailing across the Pacific, and studying ecology and biology. Details matter, otherwise everything is the same.
Besides writing, what other cool skills do you have?
I love to bake/cook healthy food, hike, swim out to the center of lakes, snorkel, am a black belt in kung fu, and sail big boats, around 42’, to islands and beaches to swim. I don’t watch TV, but I love movies—stories.
Tell us a bit about your writing habits - what is an average writing day for you?
I write almost every day. Three hours or more in the evening after my education job, weekends 8 hour/day. There are breaks, friends, socializing, family and play time. But I’m pushing 3 series now, plus 2 thrillers that I will come out with this winter, so 2017 will be a big year for me.
If you could have a drink with any author (living or dead) who would it be and what would you drink?
A cup of tea with J.R.R. Tolkien would be fun. I’d ask if he would rewrite the Hobbit—characters and plot -- to set up the Lord of the Rings better…
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
There are many, but the first spoken line in the book, “Stay away from the parrot, girl,” kind of sums up Sam’s life. She’s a nobody, in pain, and an adult is telling her NOT to do the one thing that is keeping her together, which is talking to the parrot. Sam’s response decides everything, and shows her strength.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished 4 new books less than 2 months ago; Bubblegum Mike, Book 1, the YA epic fantasy, Wyshea Shadows, Divided Draghons, Book 1, the 3rd WhipEye book, and a stress reduction book (I teach that in my school)—so I’m taking a little break with marketing and rewriting an adult thriller. In the next 3-4 months I plan on finishing the 2nd Bubblegum Mike Book and 2nd Divided Draghons book. It’s a lot in one year. I also have some school visits in MN and Chicago.