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Alex Neptune Dragon Thief - David Owen

Meet Alex Neptune, the boy with the power of the ocean in his hands - a brand-new hero for fans of Percy Jackson and Dragon Realm!

For as long as Alex Neptune can remember, the ocean has been trying to kill him. So he's not too happy when a bunch of sea creatures drag him to the abandoned aquarium on the hill, where an imprisoned water dragon needs his help. But how can he say no to a magical creature?

Recruiting his tech-genius best friend Zoe, legend-lover Anil, a sharp-shooting octopus, three acrobatic otters and a thieving seagull, Alex plots a heist to break the dragon out. And suddenly discovers the power of the ocean at his fingertips...

As part of the blogtour, organised by Kaleidoscopic Books, I am thrilled to share these brilliant insights into the writing of the book from a Q and A with author, David Owen:

What is your favourite thing about writing books?

The mental anguish and gnawing insecurity, of course!

No, wait. My favourite thing about writing books is when something – a character exchange, a chapter or (much more rarely) an entire book – becomes exactly what you set out for it to be. A first draft and the final draft usually have an incredible distance between them. When you close that distance to almost nothing and can stand back to smugly put your hands on your hips… it’s a very nice feeling.

Until you begin to fear that what you were trying to do in the first place was always rubbish. Achieving rubbish feels like much less of an accomplishment.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?

I’ve got a soft spot for Zoey because she’s so much fun to write. I think in part this is because she’s very different to me – she’s confident, forthright and brave, three things that I am not. She also gets all the best lines, some of which still make me laugh (even though I wrote them).

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?

I’m an incredibly boring person who only drinks two things: water and Coke Zero. So chances are I’m just drinking water while writing. Usually enough of it to make me need to urinate loads so I have an excuse to frequently stop writing.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?

All of them? All of the bad habits? I’ve looked at Twitter three times since starting to write these answers.

Honestly, I don’t know that there is such a thing as a bad writing habit. I just do whatever I need to do to get writing done that day. Sometimes that’s putting earplugs in so I have total quiet, sometimes it’s blasting death metal. Sometimes it’s logging out of everything and hiding my phone, sometimes it’s letting myself get distracted every ten minutes. As long as I get the words down I don’t really care!

How did you research your book?

The most significant and targeted bit of research I did was visiting Brighton Aquarium, which is the oldest in the world. This was less to see the animals kept there (though obviously that was useful too) and more to see the architecture and tank decorations, soak up the smells and atmosphere, and get a sense of how older aquariums were laid out. All of this can be seen pretty clearly in the aquarium in my book. Before that visit, I was having a hard time working out its character.

Otherwise my research has been a lot of beach walks and googling random facts about ships and sea animals in the hope that it vaguely seems like I know what I’m talking about.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I feel like my previous answers might make this a surprise, but I’m actually a massive plotter! I don’t start writing a book until I have a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline that I can follow and I always write linearly. Some details will change as I write, as sometimes what I’ve put in the outline doesn’t work in practice. And a lot of individual moments and jokes just come naturally as I write. But I would stall pretty quickly if I didn’t have an outline to guide me whenever I sit down to write.

Having worked as a freelance games journalist and taught on a BA Creative Writing course for three years, David Owen's debut novel, Panther, was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and was followed by three further highly acclaimed YA novels. Alex Neptune is his first series for younger readers, born of his love for nail-biting heists, fantastical monsters and heartfelt friendships.

Find out more by following David:

My thanks to Kaleidoscopic Books and Usborne for the copy of the book and for having me on the blogtour.

Post by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot) August 2022.

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