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Bruce Coville
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Bruce Coville   Bruce Coville is the bestselling author of nearly 100 books, including the Unicorn Chronicles series, Magic Shop series, My Teacher is an Alien series, and The Sixth Grade Alien series. The Sixth Grade Alien books were the basis for a television series on Fox Family in the United States. In all, Bruce has over 12 million books in print. He's also the founder of Full Cast Audio, an audio book company producing unabridged recordings of children's and young adult books, using full casts rather than solo readers.

Buy Bruce Coville's Books at the following locations: (downloadable audio books) (independent bookstores)
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This episode originally aired on 12/17/2009 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Bruce Coville

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Bonus Question(s) that Didn't Air on the Live Radio Show

Note that you can also listen to this while you read it.

Matthew Peterson: Let me ask you the bonus question here.

Bruce Coville: The bonus round! Yes!

Matthew Peterson: And this is fun. Millions of children have enjoyed your books, what advice would you give them? No pressure. [laughs]

Bruce Coville: Advice for life in general?

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah.

Bruce Coville: Ah, okay. Usually that question continues with “if they want to write.”

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Bruce Coville: The fact that it’s just, “What advice would I give them?” Ah . . .

Matthew Peterson: Well, a lot of kids, you know, they read your books and they look up to you as a roll model. I know I did when I was younger. I loved the author. You mentioned the Chronicles of Prydain... Lloyd Alexander was like my hero.

Bruce Coville: Oh, he’s one of my heroes too. Absolutely. Well, I wasn’t prepared for such a global question. Let me think for just a second, Matt.

Matthew Peterson: Alright.

Bruce Coville: Several bits and pieces. The first and I think the biggest is simply do what you love. You know, there was some consternation in my family when I chose to be a writer. Especially, I’ll never forget the family dinner when I announced that I was leaving my last job to write full time and my grandfather said... there were tears streaming down his face, ‘cause he knew I was going to die. But I would much rather be doing what I love and not making a lot of money than making a lot of money and doing something that I hate. I watched adult men around me become bitterly unhappy in their middle years because they’d never followed their heart and their dreams. And one reason I struck off on my freelance trail and with a philosophy of taking risks is because I didn’t want to become that bitter person. And, you know, I’m basically a pretty sunny guy. And probably because I’m doing what I love and it makes a big difference.

And the second, is to live courageously, which is part of all that. Our culture is closing kids down and we’re saying don’t go here, stay, don’t do this and this, this is dangerous. If we close down too much we don’t lead full lives. I really want young people to embrace their possibilities. You know, you come into school in kindergarten and you’ll try anything, you’ll do anything. You’ll dance, you’ll sing, you’ll create an opera if the teacher asks you to, as soon as she tells you what it is. And then by six, seventh and eighth grade they start to close down because every time we receive negative feedback something inside us shuts down. And the job of the adults around the kids and the job of the kids themselves is to kick those closing doors back open and live with an open heart.

And the third piece of advice is, I’d say, keep a journal, because by writing about your life you save your life for yourself. It’s like a present you give to yourself, that you’re going to be able to understand yourself better and understand the world around you better. And you can see where you’ve been and get a handle on where you’re going. Write down the kind of person you want to be and keep referring to that. It’s really easy to drift away from our dreams so it’s great to have a reference point to go back and say, this is what I wanted to do. Not just what I wanted to do, but the kind of person I wanted to be, because being is better than having. Happiness comes from doing not getting.

Matthew Peterson: Well, thank you, Bruce.

Bruce Coville: Is that alright?

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, oh no, that’s wonderful advice. I’m glad I asked you that question. You had some good counsel there. [laughs] That’s really good, that’s great. Thank you.

Hey, guys, I wasn’t going to include this next part because it centers more on me, instead of Bruce, but I thought, “What the heck!” After this part I’ll include the extras that were cut from the main interview.

I do write a little as well, but . . .

Bruce Coville: Well, I was going to ask you about that because you said “your first book” and that you’d done an audio version of it?

Matthew Peterson: I did! I have one of those sad stories as a first time author. I, you know, got a publisher, and they published my book. I went crazy: I traveled the country, I spoke on the radio, on the tv, I was at conventions, just for like almost a whole year. I was just crazy. It hit a couple bestseller lists, won and placed in like 12 contests, did really well. Problem is, is that my publisher ran out of money almost instantly, ‘cause they weren’t expecting . . . and I told them I was going to be doing all this. And they weren’t expecting this. They were a smaller publisher. They ran out of money and they couldn’t fulfill orders. And in fact they didn’t even pay me, ‘cause they ran out of money.

Bruce Coville: Oh my . . .

Matthew Peterson: Breached the contract! The week I got all my rights back, I produced the audio book, ‘cause I knew I wanted to do the audio book myself, ‘cause I have a little knack with voices. And the audio book has won a couple of awards, but it’s still, it’s . . . I produced it myself and it’s on audible and other places like that. But, that’s my sob story. [laughs]

Bruce Coville: Actually, it’s impressive that as an individual producer you got on audible, because they’re not often interested in one shots.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. What was interesting is I . . . I don’t know . . . a lot of doors were opened to me. Sony picked it up, you know the [acquisitions] director of Sony talked to me and said, “Yeah, let’s do your ebook.” And audible, I just sent them an email with a link to a sample of it and they listened to it, and they said, “Hey, not only do we want to do it, but we’ll give you a little bit more money for it.” And I’m like, “Okay! This is crazy, ‘cause I was told that you wouldn’t even talk to me!” So at least it’s on audible. That’s one of those more permanent things. I do have the second book. I wrote it--another sad story--I wrote it, finished editing it and then the next day my house caught on fire and I lost my entire house. But I do have a copy of my book, of course, and I haven’t had time to send it out to get an agent and to get a publisher.

Bruce Coville: That’s a horrifying story.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, I know. Now I got all my rights back and a second book, and then my house . . .

Bruce Coville: Your house . . . nobody was hurt, right?

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, nobody was hurt.

Bruce Coville: And you were well insured?

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, well insured, but we’ll probably be without a house for a year. We’re in a rental home right now.

Bruce Coville: Are you gonna build one or . . . ?

Matthew Peterson: They’re going to rebuild the house, but the insurance company, of course, is fighting us. It’s a big ordeal but . . . well the next week I got called to jury duty. [laughs]

Bruce Coville: Ah, geez.

Matthew Peterson: And then Voice America calls me up. And so I’m like, “Oh. Okay, well. Sure I’ll look at the radio show and see if I’ll do it.” And I think this’ll be a good spring board, because I need to get back on track, getting a new agent and getting a new publisher. But it should be fun. But that’s my story. [laughs]

Bruce Coville: So, anyway, are you looking for an agent, then, or . . . ?

Matthew Peterson: I am. Well, I haven’t started looking for an agent, because I’ve been so swamped with this show. I’ll probably have a lot more time [after the season ends]. ‘Cause right now I’m just going frantic, you know, getting the interviews done and editing and getting my website up. I had an agent for just a little bit, but my rights were all tied up with the publisher and she and I went our separate ways, but I have some ideas of like Writers House. I like them.

Bruce Coville: Writers House is very good.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, and Scholastic would probably be my number one choice for a publisher. They did the Harry Potter books. And Scholastic, I just really like Scholastic. I think they would probably be the ideal publisher.

Extra Material That was Cut from the Show Because of Time Constraints

Note that you can also listen to this while you read it (you'll need to fast forward past the bonus questions).

Matthew Peterson: And your Magic Shop series got Book of the Year from School Library Journal. And I couldn’t help but notice that you might have a new one in that series coming out next year? At least I saw in the Amazon UK A Vampire’s Tooth.

Bruce Coville: Well, Vampire’s Tooth is under contract.

Matthew Peterson: Okay.

Bruce Coville: I have not yet written it because all my time and energy is going into the unexpectedly huge Unicorn Chronicles project.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

* * * * * * * * * *

Bruce Coville: And it was an interesting thing in the response to it. The reviews were good, but somewhat tepid and I think there’s an automatic negative response something is set from an adult review about unicorns, but at the same time the response from the young readers was over the top, which certainly left me feeling a little bit whipsawed.

And this one concern with the second book was coming up... was a book that was as good as, if not better--better is what you always want to do--that would please those readers who loved the first book so much. And that became The Song of the Wanderer which, once it was finally done after 5 years, I felt great. I thought it had a sensational ending.

Matthew Peterson: You felt that the book was over at that time, right?

Bruce Coville: No, no, because there was the third book on the contract.

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Bruce Coville: No, there was a cliffhanger there. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: Okay, okay.

Bruce Coville: Talking about the third book. But there was definitely a big strand left open, which I knew would give me the third book, which I thought would be called The Last Hunt and wrap the series, and that’s the book that became so long that I split it. Dark Whispers came out last year and The Last Hunt, I was working on this morning and nearly finished. Scholastic has been very kind in not killing me because it should have been done some time ago, but it’s hugely complex.

* * * * * * * * * *

Matthew Peterson: And Dark Whispers is the third book that came out last year. That one has the two [storylines], and they end on another cliffhanger and so The Last Hunt will obviously resolve lots of issues, lots of things.

Bruce Coville: Resolves everything.

* * * * * * * * * *

Matthew Peterson: Well, you know, in ten years from now, could we possibly see an off-shoot? You know, another... I mean, you never know what’s going to happen, but could you possibly see something else in this universe?

Bruce Coville: Yes. And actually, the way I designed the series originally, you know, the title The Unicorn Chronicles has two meanings. It’s a very common series title for fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles Prydain, but in this case, The Unicorn Chronicles is an actual physical library that exists in this world of Luster, the world of the unicorns, where all the stories that have happened since this world began. All these mentions of the unicorns and their friends are recorded.

So my idea was... I thought I was going to three standalone adventures when I signed this three book contract and that we could always go back to the well. There I could go up and down the history of this world and say, “This is where this character came from. Here’s the adventure that started this situation. Here’s how this mystery appeared.” So there’s room for individual stories or duets or trilogies within the history of this world that I could write about forever.

Matthew Peterson: Kind of like what you did with the alien books. Kind of open it up so you could have lots of different things in there.

Bruce Coville: Yeah.

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