Oliver Neubert: The series is about two tribes that hate each other. One tribe lives in the mountains - The Flyers and the other tribe lives in the flatlands - The Wanderers. In book 1 - The Flyers, Timo, a fourteen-year-old flyer, has wings and can fly. He is determined to be as good as his killed father was when it comes to flying. In book 2 - The Wanderers, Rider, a fourteen years old Wanderer, can run as fast as the antelope and can communicate with the animals.
The underlying story is about an old law that states: Those who are born without wings have to die. Timo and Rider have to overcome their unexplained hatred for each other and they have to find a way to unite so that they can stop the brutal rulers who want to take control of their worlds. Timo and Rider have a special gift that will help them in their fight and adventure.
I am addressing the issues of hatred and differences, of outdated misguided laws, of overcoming fear and self-doubt, of first love and of finding oneself and ones path in life.
KBL: Where do you find your inspiration and ideas?
ON: I find inspiration everywhere. I live in a great city by the pacific ocean that is also close to the coastal rain forest and mountains. I love skiing, hiking, riding my motorcycle, playing all kind of sports and walking on the beach. Sometimes I pick up a smell and it gives me an idea, or I see a cloud formation and a thought crosses my mind, or I hear the wind and it reminds me of something. I see the stories I want to write in my mind and then I come up with a title to remind me of what I have "seen.” For example, I went skiing one day and the valley below the ski area was covered in fog; it looked like a lake. So in the first book of the Chantel's Quest series I used this image as the Lake of Clouds below which the City of Ice lies hidden. During a winter storm I observed the clouds as they rushed across the sky and that became the idea of how Timo would have to align himself with the elements to survive his flight among the Thunderclouds in the first book of the "The Wind of Life" trilogy. For The Flyers I also did a fair amount of research about flying, weather conditions, names of cloud formations to make the flying sequences as real as possible.
KBL: Why do you choose to write?
ON: Writing is an outlet for me, to let go of my creative mind. I love to build imaginary worlds and create interesting, intriguing characters, but I also like to talk about real life issues that children and teenagers are confronted with on a daily basis. Another reason is my daughter, when she was younger she asked me to tell her stories and I found so much pleasure in that that I had to write them down so that she would have something to remember me by. That started ten years ago and I have written a total of twelve books from which five have been published so far. At least two more books will be published this year. My mind is full of ideas and I will keep on writing for a long time.
KBL: Many authors write from what they know. Would you mind telling us about your background?
ON: I grew up in Germany with all the old German fairy tales and folklore, in a world of old castles, dark forests, scary witches, cold winters and princesses and kings. My favorite story was Hansel and Gretel. Two children lost in the forest, overcoming their fears and the old witch - classic. I also like modern fantasy like the Shannara series by Terry Brooks or more recently The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Professionally I am working in the engineering field which is pretty dry and lacks the fantasy, but I also have a degree in Psychology which lends itself well when I think about and create new characters and personal conflicts.
KBL: You’re also the author of the “Chantel’s Quest” series. I haven’t gotten to read those books yet. What are they about?
ON: The Chantel's Quest series is named after my daughter and it is based on the stories I told her when she was younger. Chantel wakes up on her 12th birthday and is informed by her guardian, an old gray owl, that she is the last descendent; the one who has to find four relics to defend the darkness that is overshadowing the four lands - thus four books. She makes friends with a mouse who can change into a Mighty Warrior and who becomes her protector; with a young winged one who becomes her chosen sister; with Mother Nature who suffers from the pollution and destruction that come with the darkness, with Rock Climbers, a Gargoyle, a flog of bats and many others. Each book addresses a topic that is close to my heart: sharing, simplicity, family and truth.
KBL: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and over the past few years I’ve been entering the publishing world by sending query letters to agents. What are your experiences in the publishing industry?
ON: I was very lucky with the Chantel's Quest series. I was at the right time at the right place with the right story and found a small publisher within a year. For the "Wind of Life" trilogy, I sent out many manuscripts, to agents and publishers. Most of the time I didn't get a reply, some wished me good luck and a few publishers were interested by they only dealt with agents. As I researched the publishing and agent market more and more, I realized that I was spending too much money and time for what I really wanted to accomplish - bringing my stories to the readers. I have received very good reviews for the Chantel's Quest series and I receive many letters from readers who enjoy the story. So I published "The Wind of Life" series myself - it is available as paperback and e-book and I love self-publishing tremendously. I have hired professional people who do the editing, the book layout, the cover design, the printing and the distribution; this way I make sure that my stories are presented in a professional way - like a major publisher would do with one big difference: I let the reader decide what they would like to read. I am being judged by the reader and not by an agent or a publisher.
KBL: So what have you learned from self-publishing?
ON: Since I started the process of self-publishing I have learned so much more about the readers who enjoy my books that I am writing better stories now. I am contacting the readers myself and I appreciate their feedback. For example, for "The Wind of Life" I sat together with a 13 year old boy and a 13 year old girl and discussed the story with them before getting the editing done. I also have more control over the final product and I make sure that my ideas and thoughts come across without them being edited out.
KBL: Why do you choose to give away your books on GoodReads?
ON: I joined GoodReads in November last year and I was overwhelmed by the setup and quality of the web site and the feedback and smartness of the readers and reviews. I saw the giveaway as an ultimate challenge to get my books reviewed and evaluated by such an excellent group of people. In the mean time I have participated in group discussions and made many friends without promoting my books, which is actually the goal of joining GoodReads. GoodReads is a community of readers who are open minded and intriguing, and who give excellent recommendations for reading books no matter what genre you like. Since joining I haven't watched TV and I have reviewed about twenty books.
KBL: Now for some personal questions, so we really get to know you. What is your favorite book? Or, if you’re like me, what are your favorite books?
ON: Hansel and Gretel, The Hunger Games, The Bartimaeus trilogy. I like books that are original, that have interesting characters with some flaws that they are able to overcome, that are not involved in mixing up two different worlds like our world and the fairy world - one world only, that tell me something new, that are not too predictable.
KBL: Do you listen to music or snack while you write?
ON: No, when I write I am in a totally different world. It is like being part of the adventure and seeing it unfold in front of me while I write. The only think that gets me back into the real world is the pain in my back from sitting too long. I used to write my stories long hand, lying on the floor with all types of materiel surrounding me. Now I write the story directly into the computer as it develops and then I review it several times. I tell my wife and daughter not to disturb me when I write, the only one who is not listening is our little dog when he wants attention. That reminds me, I also get inspired by music and I love to eat chocolate, like Nutella right out of the glass, with a spoon (yummy).
KBL: What advice do you give to aspiring writers?
ON: Keep on writing, set some time aside every day and write about anything. And never give up. Write for yourself in the first place, this way it is original. I see so many books about vampires and werewolves now and I don't enjoy any of them because they are taken from an original idea and just rewritten to follow the present trend - teenage forbidden love triangle with blood and glory.
KBL: Timo, your main character, is fourteen-years-old. What life advice do you have for young adults?
ON: Believe in yourself and don't be afraid of trying new things (except harmful things like: drugs, theft, bullying, etc.); be open minded for everything that you might experience and don't be prejudice. I have one saying in one of my book: You can only see what you are prepared to see. Don't worry about what other people think about you, find the people who accept you for who you are! Be who you are - you are precious and great.
KBL: Thank you for agreeing to this interview! We’ve learned a lot about you and your books. I can’t wait to check out the others.
Reader Question: What is your favorite part in writing a story?
ON: Starting out with the initial idea and then slowly developing the characters and the world in which the story happens is what I like most. Finding names for the characters and places, thinking up creatures or doing research on the topic is great. I usually don't have an idea board or layout, I let the story unleash itself as I write it and then it depends also on my mood. I find that I get the best ideas when I am unhappy for some reason. Maybe it is the desire of hiding away in a world in which I want to be in? I enjoy the whole process, but then the dreadful part happens - editing!
Reader Question: How do you keep your interest in a book when editing? That's what always kills me, I will have a book written, go back to edit it and then start to hate it all.
ON: With regards to editing: once I have a book written I put it aside for a while, maybe three to four weeks, think about it and then read it again. Sometimes I add new ideas or rewrite a section, but there has to be a point when you accept it as it is. When I had my first book published, "Chantel's Quest for the Golden Sword", it was returned to me about 25 times for editing and review and I must admit, I hated the book at the end, but after it was published six months later and I tried to read it again, I fell in love with it again. I also write what I like and enjoy to write about. I don't try to write something in what I don't believe in, this makes it much harder and more difficult to find readers, but I truely engage in my stories and belief in them, this makes it easier not to hate them when I review and edit them. When I write I totally get submerged in the fantasy and I almost see myself in the story as a silent observer, this is what I like most - forget reality and float in an imaginary world. I have also found a wonderful editor for my latest trilogy "The Wind of Life". She is totally professional and doesn't hold back, but she allows me to keep my story and my ideas the way I have written them. Other editors try to change the story to how they see and like it, which makes it really difficult to edit. My mood also influences me very much and when I review my story and it doesn't sound any more like I remember it, I put it aside again and get back to it later, because at one point in the past I must have liked it otherwise I wouldn't have written it down. So editing is touch but never doubt your work.
On March 1, he will choose two of the people who left a comment on this interview to receive a free copy of THE FLYERS! That’s right – Oliver Neubert is giving away two copies of THE FLYERS! In order to qualify, you must include your email address on your comment so he can contact you and you must agree to review the book on GoodReads.