Friday, June 3, 2011

INTERVIEW: The Sword of Darrow authors, Alex & Hal Malchow

Finally! :-)

I cannot express how excited I am to be able to spread the word about this remarkable book and these amazing, inspirational authors with you all!

Thank you from the very bottom of my heart, Alex & Hal, for being so unbelievably kind and chatting with us!!  It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to share your story...

Author Interview with The Sword of Darrow authors, Alex & Hal Malchow:

First of all, can you give the readers a little background information about yourselves and how this book came about?

Hal:  I am from Mississippi originally.  I managed political campaigns there and ran Al Gore’s 1984 race for the Senate.   After that campaign, I went to DC and founded a political consulting company which I ran for 25 years.  In recent years, I became increasingly discouraged by how political ads have become more negative and almost irrelevant to the real issues we face.   So on election day last year, I shut down my company and decided to spend my time writing.

Alex:  I am a sixteen year old sophomore at St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC.  I like writing, acting and playing football.  On the football field, I play center but am a little undersized.   I like to think I am like Darrow.   I play bigger than I am.

Hal: The book really has its genesis in the “me-you” stories the two of us told together beginning when Alex was four.  Alex would come up with the characters and situation and we would take turns telling the stories.  They became an obsession.  One story, about the first family clan that crossed the Bering Strait, lasted 20 hours.  
When Alex was eight, I read him The Hobbit.  When we finished he came to me and said he did not want to do any more me-you stories.  He wanted to write a book.   I told him to bring me some characters and a situation.  He did.  Two years later we had a first draft.

What was the inspiration for the story itself?  What is the message (or messages) you are hoping the readers will grasp?

Hal: Reading The Hobbit was the inspiration.  We did not write the book hoping to give the readers a message.  We just wanted to tell a good story.  But the main lesson in the book is that believing and finding the courage to act on those beliefs is much more important than being big or strong or having a beautiful appearance.   There is a saying, "He who leaps from the sky may fall, it's true. But he may also fly."  I hope our book will inspire more kids to take a chance and try to fly – that is where all great progress begins.  The other lesson is, of course, that there is magic power in forgiveness.

Which character is your favorite and why?

Hal:  Scodo.  He who suffers most, knows most and understands most.   He is the character who has the greatest reason to hate yet has the greatest capacity for love.

Alex:   Darrow, because of his courageousness, his leadership skills and the way he is able to inspire and lead an inferior army to victory.

Were there any memorable “outtakes” for this book?  Anything you really wanted in, but it just wasn’t going to work out?

Hal: We have a chapter where the good wizard, Asterux, helps Darrow free three old warriors from the dungeon.   Their escape was followed by a sequence where the warden, to find Asterux, jumps on a horse to give chase.  But the horse was actually the wizard, who had transformed himself and gives the warden a wild ride but with a gentle landing and a smiling farewell.  That got cut.  Most elements in the original draft remained but a lot of it was rewritten many times.  

I heard mention of a special edition of The Sword of Darrow featuring formatting for readers who are diagnosed with dyslexia or other intellectual difficulties.  Could you elaborate?

Alex:  Yes.  I have dyslexia and when we started the book I could not read at all.  If you are dyslexic you see letters in a different way, often flipping them.   I also skipped lines.  We asked the teachers at The Lab School, which I attended and helped me through these issues, to test fonts and type size and spacing.  The learning differences version of the book has plain type, bigger type and more spacing.  I like it.  It is easier for me to read.

Alex, what is your favorite memory of writing this book with your dad?

Waking up Saturday mornings, going downstairs and talking about what will be in the next chapter.

Hal, your turn!  What is your favorite memory of writing this book with Alex?

Hal:  My favorite part was right at the beginning when Alex brought me the characters.   When he said he wanted to write a book, I did not expect much to come of it.  Then he brought me these fantastic characters – Hugga Hugga the minotaur, Timwee the dwarf, Scodo the scorpion man, the wizards Asterux and Zindown.  I had never even aspired to write fiction but these characters made my imagination soar.   There is a whimsical quality to this book and it comes from the imagination of an eight-year-old.  My other favorite part was when we finished and I thought, “Wow, we really did this!”

GatheringLeaves: I just can't help it; I get teary every time I think of this! :-)

What is in the works now?  Are you planning to collaborate again?

Hal:   Alex is sixteen and this is another phase of his life.  He has a lot of other things on his plate these days.  So I am working on a sequel, mostly by myself.   It is about the twin son and daughter of two of the heroes of the first book.  Like many twins they can sense each other’s feelings even at great distances.  These twins can also communicate one word each day.  An evil wizard kidnaps the boy.  The girl undertakes his rescue.  Each day the rescue is driven by the words, rightly and sometimes wrongly, by the one word they each exchange that day.

GL:  I cannot wait for this!  Be sure to hit me up for a review when it is ready! :-)

Alex, will you continue to write, alone or with your dad?  (I hope so! J)

It’s hard to find time to write now with studies and football.  But I would like to write more when I get to college.

GL:  Oh, you will write in will write, write, write... *wink* 

What is your all-time favorite book (or books if you just can’t decide)?

Alex:  The Hobbit

Hal:  The Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul and All the Pretty Horses by Comac McCarthy

What are you reading now?

Hal:  Water for Elephants.  Great book!

Alex:   My Geometry textbook.  J   Seriously, my current fiction book is The Great Gatsby.

Alex, now that you’re all grown up J, what do you like to do with your time? 

I am a pretty laid back person.  I like playing football and relaxing at home with my Xbox.

Hal, what is the best piece of advice that you have received or given? 

The best advice is from a quote by George Bernard Shaw. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”   Don’t let anyone else tell you what can’t be done.

Alex, what is something you have learned that you would love to share with other kids facing special needs?

You have to be persistent when you are being challenged.  Patience is important.  Success does not always come right away.  But you have to stick with it. 

GL:  Great advice!

A little fun stuff:
Where is the most interesting place you have traveled and why?

Alex:  Belize.  My dad and I repelled down a 300 foot sinkhole in the middle of the rainforest.  

Hal:   I went to Carnival in Brazil when I was young.  Rio.  It was wild and great fun.

GL:  See my Rio review...Carnaval is on my to-do list ;-)!

What is your favorite color?

Alex:  Red.  That’s my high school color.

Hal:  Green.

What kind of music do you listen to most?  Particular artists?

Alex:  Country.  Toby Keith.

Hal:  I listen to a little of everything.  I even like opera.  But my favorite artists are Hank Williams and John Coltrane.

Where do you see yourselves in ten years?

Alex:  I see myself coaching football or maybe even being a sports writer.

Hal:  I see myself writing more fantasy books bugging Alex for advice.

You guys are just the best!!  I am always proud to support a fellow southerner as well.  :-) As I mentioned, I am really excited about the sequel!  Once again, thank you so very much for participating and letting me feature The Sword of Darrow on my blog!  

For more information on the book go to The Sword of Darrow website or Facebook page.

Purchase any of the available formats of The Sword of Darrow on Amazon.

All authors' proceeds plus one half of the publisher's profits will be donated to learning disabilities charities.