Angela Purbaugh - Inspired by Video Games and Reluctant Readers
Apart from being able to look into the mirror and cut her own hair and managing her kids, Angela Purbagh has a knack for writing fun and fascinating stories. Readers have been raving about her novel, Combat Boy and Purbagh thanks its success to the magic of her imaginary-friend-turned-muse and the ability to use self hypnosis to get into the flow. Today we chat about how her son's obsession with video games and her desire to help reluctant readers sparked the creation of her book.
Please give us a short introduction to what Combat Boy and the Monster Token is about
While visiting San Diego’s Comic-Con, twelve-year-old Tom Hock, aka Combat Boy, is thrilled to get an invitation to play Monster Realm, a real, live role-playing competition, battling monsters on the other side of an interdimensional portal. Tom doesn’t take the contract’s blood-stained signatures and strange wording seriously. He should have. The game is a trap, cutting the players’ souls off from their bodies. Only those who win break free.
What inspired you to write Combat Boy and the Monster Token?
Many things inspired me. First, my sons’ obsession with video gaming and comic book characters sparked the seed for Combat Boy and the Monster Token. You see, one day while Thomas and Albert were playing a video game, I repeatedly told them that it was dinner time. Well, I got no response—not a glance, grunt, or nod. Their minds seemed gone, lost in the game. And, of course, I was not very pleased. Were their souls trapped in the game too? Were they turning into video game controlled zombies?” I wondered. Then it occurred to me that the idea of players’ souls trapped in a game might make a good story.
Second, I noticed that a lot of popular teen and young adult books were dystopian, apocalyptic literature. The Hunger Games, where kids kill kids for sport is one example. Also, the world was in a very dark place with two wars, a massive economic meltdown, and natural disasters, unlike anything we’d seen before. All that negativity inspired me to go in the opposite direction and write something a bit more lighthearted. For me, writing is like meditating, and I didn't want to meditate about dark, negative stuff. It would make me miserable. I wanted to escape into a fun, exciting and humorous world where I’d find some happiness. That’s why the tone of the series is playful, and funny with strong moral undertones. Think: Night at the Museum meets Comic-Con with monsters and a cosmic twist.
My inspiration also grew out of my desire to help reluctant readers. Computers and smartphones bring a broad range of high-energy entertainment to children and young adults at breakneck speed. They love it; can’t get enough of it. Videos, movies, and video games are here to stay. The problem is, it’s not always easy to find books for children and young adults that keep their focus or interest as a video game can. Young and reluctant readers will put aside a book if it's bogged down with long descriptive paragraphs. They will keep reading if the writing is fast-paced, tight, and visual. I am a very visual thinker, so I make it my mission to write for reluctant readers. If my writing pulls a reluctant reader in and holds their attention, it will do the same for all types of readers. A reluctant reader is only reluctant until he or she finds that fun, fast-paced story that changes them into an eager reader. That’s my goal. I want to create that kind of transformative magic with my writing.
Your main character is a twelve-year-old, why did you make him this young and how was Tom conceived in your mind?
My book series is geared toward middle grade and young adult. And because the core audience for middle grade is 8 to 12-years-old, and young adult is 12 to 18, a twelve-year-old seemed like a the perfect fit.
Tom was inspired by my boys and my grandfather, Herman Hock who was a World War 2 hero.
Do your characters ever take off on their own, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Yes. It happens all the time, but I don't mind. It keeps the story interesting and me on my toes as a writer. Writing is an adventure with tests to pass, trials to overcome, and beastly doubts of one’s skills to slay.
Did you know right from the start this was going to be a series? How does the next book tie in with this one?
Yes. I have five books lightly outlined in my mind. I outline my basic concept in my mind, (A kid goes into Monster Realm and has to come out with his soul) is the extent of my outline. What happens in-between is a mystery to me, until I write it. I love that method because I like to be surprised. I hate getting locked into one idea, plot, or formula. I love it when the story heads in a new direction because a character says or does something unexpected. At the end of Combat Boy and the Monster Token Tom’s brother, Joey reveals that he stole something from Monster Realm which ties into the next book, Combat Boy and the Lord of Monster Realm very well. Of course, sometimes I find it frustrating when a character becomes too unpredictable, but mostly, I just go with the writing flow and enjoy the ride.
Besides writing, what other cool skills do you have?
Well, I am a hairstylist, and I can look into a mirror and cut my hair with ease. As strange as it sounds, I think working in front of a “looking-glass” for as long as I have, has somehow rewired my brain not to notice that my forward and backward movements are reversed. I have no idea if other hairstylists have this cool skill, but I’m happy that I do.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I was a prolific daydreamer, which I believe is a form of writing. I was also one of those kids that had an imaginary friend. And even though I couldn’t see her, I knew she was there sprinkling creative thoughts and ideas into my mind.
The first time I had an idea of what my little imaginary friend might look like was when I first saw Disney’s Sunday night show. Tinker Bell suddenly flew over Disneyland with her magic wand and fairy dust, and I just knew my imaginary friend was a Pixie like Tinker Bell. Only my pixy had dark hair, wings, and a dark sparkly outfit, so I called her my Dark Pixy.
The older I got, I came to realize that my Dark Pixy was not my imaginary friend, but my creative muse. Her job is to dive deep into the subconscious mind, which I have always thought of like a cave. In that cave everything we experience, learn and see is stored, and over time, those things turn into colorful gemstones of creativity. No two are alike, but they all hold creative information. As luck would have it, my muse is great at digging them out of my subconscious mind, and that’s when the magic happens.
At eighteen-years-old, I began my adventure as a writer and Dark Pixy has been there every step of the way, and because she’s so awesome, I made her a character in Combat Boy and the Monster Token.
Do you have any interesting writing habits?
I put myself into a hypnotic trance. Self-hypnosis is something I’ve used ever since high school, hoping it would help me do better on tests. To my surprise and great relief, my test scores in Math, Science, and English drastically improved after I learned self-hypnosis from a book.
Self-hypnosis is like casting a magic spell on yourself. It’s better than that because you don’t need any strange potions or supernatural incantations. Anyone can do it. All you need is a brain, good intentions, and a fair amount of focus. It’s an excellent tool. And over the years, I have found it works especially well with writing. Once I’m in a hypnotic trance, I tell myself to listen to my muse and let go of all the other noise cluttering my mind. It can take me a few minutes to get centered, but once I’m grounded and in a deep, hypnotic state, I relax and let the images and words flow into me. Bam! That’s the sweet spot. That’s when I’m in the realm of creation where hours pass like minutes and ideas stem from a river of infinite goodness that’s beyond my comprehension. I feel like a kid in a candy store with a gift card that has no limit. It’s my happy place, a wonderful escape from the stress and the struggles of the real world.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I am working on Combat Boy and the Scuttlers’ Portal. I’m excited about it because it’s much different than the first two books in my Combat Boy series. How is it going to be different? Well, I can't tell you. It’s a secret, but it involves Scuttlers.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Both of my published novels are available on Amazon, Amazon Kindle.