Hi everyone! I was recently lucky enough to interview Shawn Brink, who kindly sent me a digital copy of My Gypsy War Diary in exchange for my honest review. Before I get into the interview, I would like to take the opportunity to thank him for his time and kindness.
When did you realise you wanted to become an author?
On some level, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to hold a pencil. For years, I wrote just for my own amusement. Then, in 1994, I was working overnights at a Kmart store. The problem was, there was very little to do on my nights off. My friends were all asleep. I didn’t have online access in those days and TV only ran infomercials. So, I decided to write a novel. All I had was an old smith Corona typewriter and a ream of paper. That manuscript never got published, but it did do one thing. It got me hooked on writing longer pieces with an eye on getting published. I began writing then in earnest and have never stopped since.
Which character in My Gypsy War Diary was the most fun to write?
That’s a tough question. All the characters were fun to write. The main character (who is never actually named in the book) was probably the most fun. It was fun to write that kid because it was loosely based on myself. A lot of what was shown to the reader through this character’s eyes were based on real memories from my own childhood, so writing him was like taking a stroll into my past.
What was it like growing up in Norfolk, My Gypsy War Diary’s setting?
Norfolk was a great place to grow up. It still is a great place as far as I know. Just like other towns, it’s changed a lot since the timeframe of My Gypsy War Diary. For example, Memorial Field, which I mention in the book, is now a waterpark. I lived in that town from 1977 to roughly 1992. I consider it to be my hometown and is where I graduated high school. It was a great place to grow up.
What advice do you have for someone working on their first draft?
Don’t get discouraged, and don’t stop. The first draft won’t be perfect, that’s what second, third, fourth…twentieth drafts are for. Just write, write, write.
Write that first draft like writing is going out of style. Write quickly. Just put the words on the page. Later, you can refine it into something that flows. Just write.
What inspired the idea of Milo’s Bible and the treasure in My Gypsy War Diary?
These elements just kind of coalesced. Honestly, when I started writing this book it was more for myself. I just wanted to write my childhood memories down on paper. But being a storyteller, elements of fiction began to mix with those memories. What resulted is a fictional story of young love, betrayal, blackmail, a treasure stolen and stolen again, a tale of vengeance and a life lived in secret.
What was your favourite scene to write in My Gypsy War Diary?
There were so many I enjoyed writing. Personally, I really liked writing the walk home from the football game at Memorial Field. In this scene, a storm brews that two of the main characters have to walk home in. It was one of my favorites to write because again, my memories became so vivid when I wrote it. I used to walk to the football games and on numerous occasions had to walk home in either rain or snow storms. These days, I have no desire to do that, but when I was a kid, such walks were an adventure.
If you could meet the characters from My Gypsy War Diary, what would you say to them? Do you think you’d get on?
I would get on with some of them more than others. For many of these, I can’t really talk about why I would or would not like the characters in real life because doing so would create potential spoilers for anyone reading this interview who has not yet read the book. I can say that I would truly get on with Mrs. Scholes. Mrs. Scholes was based on my real-life elderly neighbor in Norfolk. She was born in the 1880s. I found the stories she told about Norfolk and her past to be very intriguing.
Do you have any plans for future books? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
Oh yes, I never stop writing. My Gypsy War Diary was published in 2018. Since then, I’ve had multiple short stories published in anthologies and magazines. My latest novel published through Tell-Tale Publishing Group in 2021. It’s called Pets for Legion, an adult horror novel. Also, Tell-Tale is currently considering my next novel for publication, an adult supernatural thriller.
What key message do you want readers to take away from My Gypsy War Diary?
My Gypsy War Diary was written to entertain. It’s to be read and enjoyed. Beyond that, I didn’t really set out to convey a specific message. Certain things were promoted in this book that I value – things like faith and loyalty to one’s friends. But again, these were just elements in a book that I wrote with the goal of entertaining the reader.
Finally, in a sentence, how would you describe My Gypsy War Diary?
If you like entertaining YA books filled with intrigue, suspense, action, mystery and unique characters, then this is a book for you.
I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and it inspired you to pick up My Gypsy War Diary! If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, you can explore all of Shawn’s work on his website, and support him on facebook and twitter.