Many fiction writers have a happy and productive day job. They write stories not for work but rather to express their personal creative talent and connect with the greater story community. Simon Chesterman is a law professor who's also in the process of publishing the third book in his YA mystery thriller series, RAISING ARCADIA. We share the same editor at Marshall Cavendish. The law professor bit might explain his writing approach: carefully plotted, engaging and filled with intellectual teasers. If you've also been juggling a day job and a personal story project, and you'd like to get some inspiration, check out his website here. Thanks to Simon for doing this interview.
MEET SIMON CHESTERMAN
Please introduce yourself and your Raising Arcadia book series.
By day I’m a law professor, writing books on the United Nations and helping our students hone their critical and analytical skills. I studied law in Australia and England, but have been based in Singapore for a decade.
As a teenager, I toyed with the idea of writing fiction and actually completed two (unpublished) novels. They were fun to write, but I look on them now as a kind of diary – a window into my mind at that point in my life.
Now I have my own children, who love to read, and the oldest is about to become a teenager. So I thought that maybe it was time to try to write something for them, and young adults like them (as well as young adults at heart).
The result was the Raising Arcadia trilogy – a coming-of-age-detective-mystery-thriller about a sixteen year old girl, Arcadia Greentree, who has an exceptional mind and must use it to find out who she really is.
What inspired you to develop this particular series?
Having children and watching them grow has caused me to reflect on the impact of nature and nurture on our development. How much of their identity is due to genetics, and how much to the environment? I teach at a university with amazing students, but are their talents due to biology, pedagogy, or something else? These are some of the questions that Arcadia confronts when she discovers that her very existence is bound up in some kind of experiment. Over the course of the trilogy, we accompany her on the journey to work out her place in the world and the competing forces that shape her as a person.
What’s your story development and writing process like?
I’m a fairly methodical person, so I planned out most of the trilogy in advance and have elaborate notes so that I keep hold of the various threads. But when I actually write, it’s more like doing a jigsaw puzzle. No one does a jigsaw starting in the top left corner and then working your way down. You do the easy bits first: the border, distinctive sections that stand out, pieces that clearly fit together. So I will jump around a fair bit, but all with an eye to getting a draft that I can then edit and re-edit. I think for the first book I ended up on version 66.
What’s the most interesting experience or realisation you had, in writing this series?
Despite being methodical, the most interesting aspect of the writing process was the extent to which the characters came alive. In the course of writing, I would start to get a sense of how the characters would sound, what they would do. And in one case, I got so attached to a character that I decided that I couldn’t go through with a plotline that saw that character die. So I revised the plot to keep the character alive through the series.
I hope people enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoyed writing them! Book three, which concludes the series, should be out by the end of this year.
Connect with Simon
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MAGICIENNE is my recent YA novel
co-authored with celebrity magician and author Ning Cai
Published by Marshall Cavendish
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