Sunday, February 24, 2013


P.T. McHugh, author of the YA time travel adventure Keeper of the Black Stones, talks about his book's inspirations, characters, and background.

What inspired you to become a writer?

Insomnia, and an over active imagination. 

What was the first idea you had for Keeper of the Black Stones, and how did the story grow from there?

My favorite cartoon growing up was Johnny Quest.  Even though it was originally released before I was born, my father introduced me to the reruns on Saturday morning and I was hooked.  I always loved history and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a story that contained the excitement of Johnny Quest and the intrigue that only real-life historical events could create?  I loved the idea of a normal kid, thrust into incredible circumstances. I wanted to see what he would do.

That and the fact that anything having to do with a badass bodyguard equipped with modern weapons thrown back in time sounded fun.

What was your favorite part of Keeper of the Black Stones and what was the most challenging?

Without giving too much away, I just love adventure, drama, and action, and there are a couple of scenes where Jason’s bodyguard, Reis Slayton, gets to flex his muscle as well as his weapons. Writing those scenes was extremely cool.

Least favorite?  I don’t necessarily have a least favorite, although just like any author writing the first book in a series, I had to take time to set the stage, introduce the characters, and develop the plot. Had to get that all out of the way before I could jump into the action, if you know what I mean. So getting through those scenes – finding the right tempo in regard to introducing all the details without bogging down the reader … that was tough for me.

Keeper features a colorful cast of characters, from the nerdy but intrepid main character, Jason, to the dastardly villain Dresden.  Do you have any favorites?

Ironically my favorite character wasn’t even in the first version of the manuscript.  Tatiana is by far my favorite character.  She’s everything I wanted to date growing up, and I believe represents what all girls wish to be – bright, assertive, tough, beautiful, and determined.  She was great fun to write.

What would you say motivates Jason, an ordinary teenager, into throwing himself back through time?

I really wanted to create Jason as the ordinary teenager.  I didn’t want him to be at the bottom of the totem pole in regard to how his peers treated him. That’s been done to death. I did want him to think, act, and feel like most teenagers – alone and full of doubt.  I wanted him to be a normal kid, thrust into extraordinary circumstances. With that being said, Jason goes back in time for two main reasons. The first is obvious – to save his grandfather.  But the second is a little subtler, and in line with both Jason’s age and station in life.  Like most teenagers, Jason is sick of being told what to do, and not being in control of his life or his destiny.  Even when it comes to the stones, he has adults telling him that he can’t or shouldn’t go. In that way, it’s pretty obvious that he – as a teenager – is going to do exactly what everyone is telling him not to do. Besides, this is his chance to make a decision on his own, control his own destiny, and save the world. What boy wouldn’t jump at that?

What can you tell us about the mysterious black stones that serve as the time travel devices?

Well you already know exactly what you’re meant to know! I can tell you that the stones give people the ability to go back in time, but only certain people. Everyone can travel on them, obviously, but only certain people can see where they’re going and when. Perhaps some people can also control the stones … but who knows? In the next book we’ll discover that the stones can also give some insight … but only in certain situations. I know I’m being vague here, but I’m not going to give it all away!

If someone were to walk in on you while you were writing, what would they see?

They would see a messy desk, with sticky notes scattered all over my computer screen, a half-empty can of Diet Mountain Dew (yes Diet – it took about two weeks to make the switch, but you have too after you hit a certain age), and a NE Patriots mouse pad.  All essential ingredients.  

How have your real life experiences influenced your writing? 

My favorite question. We tend to write what we know.  In this case, Jason’s home town and friends resemble the town where I grew up, and my friends and family there. Even some of the teachers from my high school. Many of the quirky conversations and experiences that Jason and Paul experience come straight out of my memory – growing up in a small town, wondering if this was all life had to offer, and wishing for more. So my real life experiences have actually become fodder for my writing.

In Keeper, Jason travels back in time to 15th Century England.  Why did you choose this setting?  What kind of research did you do?

To be honest, I didn’t know much about that time period or the historical events that surrounded it, which made me want to research it.  I read a wonderful book several years ago written by Ian Mortimer called Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England.  Ian did a wonderful job telling the reader not so much what took place at that time, but how the people lived and the environment that surrounded them.  I love it, and highly recommend it.  It made me want to know more about the time period, and get into it myself. When I started writing Keeper, that was my second choice for time period. It ended up being the best place to start the book, and the series.  Other research came down to visiting my local library (old school), scrawling through my old history text books, and falling in love with the vast knowledge at my fingertips via the internet. 

What’s next for Jason and his pals?

Well I know where it’s going, and my editor knows where it’s going. I believe we’ve already released the fact that it’s going to be in … wait, maybe we haven’t released that yet.

Then again, perhaps I’m having fun with the reader and I don’t actually know where it’s going. I’m waiting to find out where Dresden shows up next, just like everyone else.

Keeper of the Black Stones is available at: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook e-book)

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