Del Mar author to offer advice, encouragement at Canyon Crest Academy Writers’ Conference

Author Jonathan Maberry will speak Feb. 21 to fans and would-be writers at the CCA Writers’ Conference.
Author Jonathan Maberry will speak Feb. 21 to fans and would-be writers at the CCA Writers’ Conference.
( / Courtesy)

Horror writer Jonathan Maberry may be the busiest man in the business. Not only has the Del Mar resident written dozens of best-selling, award-winning books, short stories, articles and comics — many of which are now in development for TV shows and films — but he is also a teacher and in-demand speaker who will be giving the keynote address Feb. 21 at the Canyon Crest Academy Writers’ Conference on February 21.

We interviewed Maberry when he first moved to Del Mar a couple of years ago, but thought we’d catch up with him to see what the students can expect.

Cover of one of the books in ‘The Nightsiders’ series.
Cover of one of the books in ‘The Nightsiders’ series.
( / Courtesy)

• You’re going to be the keynote speaker at the CCA Writers’ Conference this year, which will be a real treat for the students. Why did you want to get involved in this event?

It’s important for writers who have gained some measure of commercial and artistic success to share with those who are on the way up or trying to break in. No one ever succeeded without help and advice, and events like the CCA Writers’ Conference allow for that kind of sharing of tips, guidance and encouragement.

• Many of the attendees will probably be fans who have gobbled up your books. What do you enjoy about writing for kids?

Although I started out writing for adults, about half of what I’m currently writing is for teens, and I’m writing in several different age ranges. I find that teen fiction allows for greater creative freedom. Kids are so much smarter than most adults think.

• Can you give us a little preview of your speech?

I’ve been traveling around the country giving keynote speeches, and for the most part, they are variations on a very important theme: positivity and cooperation. It’s a waste of time to focus on the downsides or to be stifled by fear. I prefer to inspire and encourage writers to work together to build a mutually supportive creative community. And to learn how the business works, because although writing is an art, publishing is a business that sells art. They’re not the same thing, and writers prosper when they grasp that and learn to work with the publishing world rather than coast the fringes.

I came from rough beginnings and grew up in a violent household where education and reading were discouraged. I was determined, however, to “write my way out.” I pursued education and sought guidance from those who had achieved some measure of success. I met some great folks along the way — teachers, librarians, booksellers, published authors — and it was their support and encouragement that helped me rise above my home life and become a best-selling author.

• What message do you particularly want to impart to the kids?

My core message is that anything is possible. No one has proof that they can’t until they’ve utterly failed, and utter failure isn’t common. Most often, people become discouraged and accept that as failure. It isn’t. I like to share strategies for celebrating and usefully exploiting the creative potential in the next generation of young writers.

• What are the differences between talking to teens who want to become writers vs adults who want to become writers?

Many of the adult writers have already begun to lose faith in their own success or in their skills. Teens don’t have that problem, and maybe some encouragement will help them jump that hurdle. They’re more open-minded, more creative, and they haven’t yet been inundated by the negativity about publishing that so often stifles adult writers. Also, there are some things they can do now, as teens, to sharpen their skills, their focus and their business acumen so that they’ll have the best chance of coming out of the gate at a full gallop.

• Your first novel came out in 2006, and you’ve had 20 more since then! How do you write so prolifically?

I’ve always been a high-output creative person. I like the fast lane, and I write my best stuff when I have a tight deadline. Currently I’m writing three- to four thousand words a day. This is the busiest time of my career.

• What is it about horror and science fiction that attracts you?

I love how you can tell very important stories — and get large numbers of people to read them and consider the underlying metaphor — if you wrap them in a ripping yarn. Fantastical storytelling is our oldest form of writing. Even “Hamlet” is a ghost story.

• You moved here a little over a year ago, which seems like the perfect place for you, because San Diego is the home of Comic-Con! Have you gotten to attend?

I was a guest at San Diego Comic Con last year and will be again this year. It was a blast. I’ve done the New York Comic Con several times, and although that matches SDCC in terms of attendance, San Diego has a different feel. Much more fun, less aggressive, and spread out enough so you can catch your breath. I had a terrific time. I was hosted by IDW Comics, a San Diego-based comic company that is now the fourth largest in the world.

• What’s the one best piece of advice you would give an aspiring writer?

Learn everything you can about your craft; and learn everything you can about the publishing industry. Do those two things and you’ll be way ahead of the pack.

And another thing: Have fun. Even if it’s hard work, have fun with it. Always.

To learn more about the projects that are keeping Maberry busy this year, visit www.jonathanmaberry.com.

The CCA Writers’ Conference will be held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 21 at Canyon Crest Academy, 5951 Village Center Loop Road, San Diego.

Students can learn more about the conference and register at www.ccawritersconference2015.weebly.com


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