Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Interview with Max Timm: Author & Writing Consultant

I met Max at Writer's Boot Camp in Santa Monica a few years ago. He was one of my favorite teachers there. In fact his thoughts and wisdom have helped me in all of my writing. 

Max reached out for an interview because he is starting a Kickstarter campaign for his new book THE WISHKEEPER. 

Visit here to help support him:  

Good Luck Max. I know you are going to succeed!! 

Max has also started his own consulting business. You can share in his knowledge. He works with writers just like you to enhance writing skills and understanding of the craft. See below for more details on how to contact him.

Below are the questions I asked him:

Has anyone ever told you that your full name could be a great children's book character? Maximilian Arthur Timm. Where’d you get that name? And how do you come up with character names?

Thank you!  I have received quite a few compliments on my name over the years.  Truly, I'm not too worried about saying that as if I'm "bragging" simply because I had nothing to do with naming myself!  My parents, especially my father, were pretty excited to stick me with such a name. The boring explanation is that I had a great grandfather named Maximilian and a great GREAT grandfather named Arthur.  

My dad, however, says he named me after King Arthur.  Since I am his only son, I'll let him run with that story.  I'd like to think that even though I haven't been crowned "king" of anything yet, I have in some way made my dad (and the name) proud.

The process of naming characters has always been something I've enjoyed. Because I love it so much, it comes easily to me. My literary roots, in terms of when I first fell in love with reading, are based around J.R.R. Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings. Tolkien took pride in naming his characters. No character received a name that didn't represent him or her in some essential way. A character's name, especially within the literary world (as opposed to the screenwriting world), is so very important. Every aspect of a story must be carefully and purposely placed, and I treat the naming of my characters as an equally important step in the construction of an adventure. The construction of a word, to me, is like magic and to allow a character to not experience some of that magic is sinful.

One secret that I'm slightly embarrassed to reveal is that I have kept a list of baby names in my wallet since my sophomore year of high school. I have always wanted to be a father, and thus started jotting down names I liked and could see myself giving them to my children. That list has grown exponentially over the years, and unless I have about 100 kids, most of the names will never have "Timm" after it.  Because I enjoy the naming process so much, I've simply used my list of baby names as character names in my screenplays and novels.  It's the only way all of my "little ones" will ever see life (unless I marry an extremely aggressive woman...or a Catholic).

Describe your writing in 5 words.

Painstaking.  Heartfelt.  Deliberate.  Planned.  Life-affirming (had to add a "hyphen")

Why write for kids?

The easy answer is that I still think of myself as one. 

The industry-renowned advice of "write what you know" is difficult to apply to my own particular adventures since I primarily deal in the fantasy adventure genres. Do I have daily interactions with fairies? Of course not, but I do know and remember (all too well) how I felt as a kid growing up. I was that boy who wore rose colored glasses and was hopelessly naive. I got bored easily and when things didn't work out the way I planned, I wasn't mad or angry, I was confused. How could what I want NOT happen? 

It's not that I was spoiled (far from it), I simply didn't understand the idea of hesitation or doubt. I will never forget how painful it was to have doubt thrust upon me for the first time. I was 11 years old and my uncle asked me what I was going to be when I "grew up". My answer was so straight forward and I was actually surprised that he was asking such a thing.  I was going to be the future shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. But when my loving father explained to me, with his rugged realistic world-view, that it was very likely that I would never play professional baseball, my heart stopped. In no way did I suddenly think my father didn't believe in me (if there is anyone would have loved to see me play a professional sport, it's my dad), it was more the sudden wave of doubt that rushed through me.

As we grow up, we let life get in the way. It gets in the way of our childhood urges to just simply be joyful and have fun and find the next level of "fun" to have. It's the simplicity of childhood that we all long for, but the evolution of our lives and how we change and develop - each in our own very unique and subtle ways - is what drives a good story. We all handle change differently, but if children can learn how to manage the change and not fight its inevitability, life will tend to retain some of those childlike tendencies adults so easily forget.

Even though I am writing for a younger audience, I simply think of kids as "adults in training" (which I think is a good thing) and if my stories can assist a little girl who is having difficulty dealing with her handicap, or disability or whatever it is that society deems different, then I have done my job and can consider my writing a success.
So, I write what I know and I know a lot about what "growing up" means.

Who is Shea and why are her wings broken? Why should we root for her?

The WishKeeper is a fantasy adventure based on the idea that we all have a WishKeeper fairy assigned to us when we're born. That fairy tends to our wishes, protects them and guides them toward fulfillment. The story's hero, Shea, is a broken-winged fairy who has never been allowed to be a WishKeeper since she can't fly.  Her parents destroyed a True Love Wish when she was little, and the explosion ripped the wings from her back. Ultimately, it's a story about a handicapped teenager who is pissed off at the world for how her life has turned out and she will do everything she can to prove herself worthy.

Readers have so many options in terms of wonderful books to read, spanning multiple genres - even new genres like "New Adult" (I still don't know what that means). What I'm trying to do with The WishKeeper is make fairies "cool". I don't want a traditional fairy to only be something a five year old will enjoy, but I want to ground the fantasy story in character development and turn the genre on its head a little. Just because Shea is a Tinker Bell-like fairy, doesn't mean a teenager can't relate. It is sometimes easier for a reader to suspend their level of disbelief when reading a pure fantasy adventure, and thus allow for the story's themes and messages to be on display. 

So, why should a reader pick up my book? Everyone is different and we all have different reasons, but I'd like to think that a reader will be able to root for Shea and see themselves within her little six-inch frame, cheering for her to make her dreams reality. We all have wishes...and Shea's are truly no different than our own.

Where is the best place for a cup of Joe/Tea in your hometown?

If you were to drive down my hometown's main street, you would laugh quite hard if asked such a question.  I grew up in a town of roughly 6,000 people - primarily farmers and blue collar folk. I love my little hometown, but what makes this such a comical question is that Delavan, WI was at one time the nation's circus capital. 

In the early 1900's, PT Barnum, on his cross-country trips from show-to-show, would make my hometown their seasonal base camp. The water tower park just up the street from the house in which I grew up boasts a massive statue of a giraffe and an elephant with a clown between its legs. To cap it all off, the drinking fountains are the open mouths of lions!

I never thought of my little town as a place to nab some coffee, but as I grew up I learned that the Mom and Pop shops and restaurants are really the best. Home cooked meals and greasy breakfasts just taste better when there isn't a giant corporate entity hovering over you. To answer your question (and despite the fact that a Starbucks had the nerve to move into town a few years ago), I would say the tiny restaurant called Elizabeth's Cafe is my favorite "Joe stop"...especially since the best bookstore in the world is just a few doors down (called Bibliomaniacs).

You used to work for Writer’s Boot Camp. What is the most helpful writing tip you learned from that experience?

I learned SO many helpful writing tips, but the best advice is usually the simplest: do NOT stop writing. 

In other words, you will not be successful as a writer if you do not put in the time.  It's really as simple as that.  No one is going to sit down and write your screenplay or book for you.  You can't sit back and Google your story to see how it ends (believe me, I wish I could do that).  If you're not writing, you're not a writer.  

If you're sitting in a bar on a Saturday night talking to people about your writing, there is some hobbit-like guy or gal slouching over a keyboard who has gone two days without a shower finishing his/her project.  That person is a writer.  

If you can't handle being anti-social, slightly miserable on a regular basis and be able to admit that what you create might actually need to be rewritten...please save yourself the agony and find a much more stable career.

It sounds harsh. It sounds mean. But I'm just being honest.

How can Kickstarter help writers? What are your expectations?

If you, the person reading this, has a creative project that you would like to get funded, Kickstarter is a great way to do so.  The caveat is that it takes an immense amount of work and time - much more than you initially planned.  The best question to ask yourself is, "doesn't my project deserve an immense amount of time and planning?" Don't expect to half-ass a Kickstarter project and get the results you intend.

Also, be realistic about your funding goal.  I've seen so many projects (primarily novels and fiction-based projects since that is what I've been studying) that ask for $20K - $30K as if they expect to make an income from Kickstarter.  Not gonna happen!  The Kickstarter projects that perform the best are the ones that ask for realistic funding goals between $1000 and $5000.  It's also because that is generally the amount needed in order to properly and professionally self-publish a book. My expectations are not to make a profit from Kickstarter, but to release a book and jumpstart its promotional angles.

I chose Kickstarter (as opposed to some of the crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe) simply because of its popularity and brand. Everyone has heard of Kickstarter. Because of its notoriety as a leader in crowdfunding, your campaign can be used as a marketing tool as well. This isn't to say you shouldn't also dedicate your time to gathering fans and followers through Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, but Kickstarter is a great way to get the word out about your project.

I'm looking to raise $3000 for my book. I set the goal purposely low, but I also had to factor in the minimum amount of money that I needed in order to actually release the book (eBook, paperback and hard cover). You have to treat your book and writing career as a business, so crunching numbers and doing dreaded math is necessary.

What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I'm an early riser, though I have not always been one. About six or seven years, when I made a conscious decision to take my writing seriously, I told myself that in order to dedicate the appropriate amount of hours to writing, I had to find the time. That is one piece of advice I always give writers - whether I'm coaching, teaching or just giving friendly advice - there is ALWAYS time. If you're dedicated to your writing, you will force yourself to find the time.  Even if it's at 20 minute intervals while the kids take a nap.  There IS time.

I forced myself to get up at 5:30 every morning and write for two hours before I went to work. Was I exhausted on a regular basis?  Absolutely. Did I finish multiple projects in less than a year. Yep.  Were they any good?  Probably not.  haha  But they were finished and the amount of satisfaction that comes from completing something, even if it's just a first draft, is life affirming.
What do I eat?  Pretty basic stuff; anything from eggs, bacon and toast, to cereal, coffee and, well, coffee.

What do you think of self-publishing? Traditional publishing?

Self-publishing is scary for a lot of different reasons. For years I shunned self-publishing because anyone can do it and usually for basic reasons of vanity. The resulting books are usually poorly written early drafts that haven't been edited properly and professionally.

What I've noticed lately, though, is that the trend is growing and changing. People are taking self-publishing a little seriously now. By no means is it widely accepted within the literary world and for reasons I completely understand, however if approached with an extremely professional eye and with an incredible amount of patience, self-publishing a book can be extremely rewarding.

I worked on The WishKeeper for six years without showing a single person any of my drafts. For one, I was terrified, but more importantly, I knew it wasn't ready to be shown. I knew because I focused a lot of time on practicing my craft and learning as much as I possibly could. I learned that I was making a lot of mistakes most writers make, so I spent my time not just fixing those mistakes, but figuring out why I was making them in the first place. Eventually I learned enough about the writing industry and business, the craft of writing and developed my personal writing style and voice. Once I felt comfortable with the drafts, I delicately allowed only a select group of people read and give notes. These readers were professionals, friends and I knew they wouldn't blow smoke up my ass. They wouldn't tell me what I wanted to hear. I knew they would be just as hard on my writing as I was.

Self-publishing only works if you're dedicated to releasing the most professional project possible. You are not going to release a book and make a million dollars. The reason you hear about the people who have is because they're the ONLY ones who have! Is it impossible?  Of course not.  Is it easy?  Good lord, no.

I'm self-publishing because The WishKeeper crosses genres a bit - how does a publisher market a traditional, Tinker Bell type of fairy to a young adult audience who just finished reading The Hunger Games?  I have an extremely steep uphill climb, but I really love the marketing and business side of the industry which makes it easier to manage every aspect that isn't specifically "creative".

You also have a consulting service for writers. What do you focus on? Who can apply?

I donned many different hats while at Writers Boot Camp; Director of Development, event manager, private consultant and instructor. My favorite and most enjoyable times were when I was one-on-one with a writer. I take an incredible amount of pride not in brainstorming a project with a writer, but in developing the writer's craft and ability. I am not the type of consultant that will sit with you for hours on end brainstorming scenes or what a character should say and when. I want to develop a writer and help that person become better at what they love to do regardless of the project they're working on.

Anyone can work with me and if you have questions, feel free to email me at I would be happy to answer your questions. The services are tailored to a writer's needs, so it's difficult to define price and schedule without knowing what the writer wants.  Even if you have non-consulting service questions, I will happily answer questions, time permitting.

Who is your biggest cheerleader?

It's amazing that I can't think of only one person, and I'm suddenly filled with an incredible amount of gratitude!  Thank you for asking this question.  I guess it means that I am lucky to have a family that so loves me - they are all equally my cheerleaders. And this isn't even including my friends who are so self-less and caring.

I think because I've surrounded myself with people who believe dreams and wishes are important, my own goals and intentions are taken seriously. It's what happens when you jump into the creative industry without a life preserver. Your life preservers are your friends and family members floating there right alongside you.  I am now seeing the unintentional metaphor of "life preserver". Let's just say, I would probably be pumping gas somewhere if it wasn't for the support of my friends and family.

What is your writing process like? Do you use outlines? Idea bubbles? Just sit and write?

My writing process is very structured - much more than most writers I know. If I don't have a plan before I sit down to write, I won't get anything done.  This is just me and how my brain works. I know a lot of writers who start without any plan and have no idea what path they're going to take, and they write some of the best stuff I've read.  

It's different for everyone, but I've learned that setting little goals per a particular outlining tool (i.e. "today I will work on only a list of character development issues per character") helps promote successful writing sessions. In a way, I focus my projects based on individual writing sessions.  If I'm constantly looking at "big picture" and concept, I'll never get to what's important like how a character evolves, and what obstacles that character needs to overcome and when. 

When it comes to revising, what is your number one rule?

You haven't revised a thing if you're just going through your work and correcting misspelled words and fixing grammar.  That's not rewriting.  Take chunks of your project that you know aren't working, figure out how the problems of such chunks are affecting other chunks, and then focus on the characters. And don't be afraid to throw out material or scenes that are not serving the story or character goals.  Even though you may love a scene, it's likely that the rewritten scene will be even stronger.

How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Right now I'm so focused on launching my Kickstarter campaign, so if your readers could help promote the campaign, even if they don't pledge, I would be extremely grateful.

Any big news?

I am most excited to receive daily concept designs and artwork from my book's cover artist. I wouldn't call it "news", really, but my artist, Dan Howard, is doing such an amazing job with bringing Shea to life and setting my cover that I'm ecstatically impatient to see what the final cover will look like.  You can see some samples of Dan's past work here:

If you would like to follow the ongoing book cover designs, as well as news about the release of The WishKeeper, I do most of my promotion on Facebook at  

Feel free to "Like" the page if you'd like to keep up to speed.

To end this fantastic interview, I have to thank Angie for agreeing to do this. Angie is a dedicated writer, a wonderful person and I'm very thankful and honored to be a part of such an equally wonderful blog.  Keep supporting her.  You won't regret it.

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