Interview with PT McHugh, author of 'Keeper of the Black Stones'

PT McHugh didn’t start out as a storyteller. He was, however, born into a family of that encouraged imagination. He became a fan of history in school and then went to college to become a construction engineer, to build a world of straight lines, angles, and equations.

He was just as surprised as everyone else when he realized that he believed in magic, and might just know the secret of how to jump through time. Since then, he’s been researching the possibility and learning everything he can about history. Just in case the opportunity arises.

PT was born and raised in New Hampshire and currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife, two daughters, and a dog named Bob, daring to dream of alternate worlds and cheering for his beloved New England Patriots.

His latest book is the YA fantasy/time travel, Keeper of the Stones.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you
come up with the idea to write your book? 

As a kid I watched reruns of the greatest cartoon ever…. (drum roll please), Johnny Quest.  How could you not love Johnny Quest?  My other passion is history, one of the few subjects I was good at in school.  So I pretty much combined my two passions – Johnny Q and history – and the result was Keeper. 

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers? 

I did everything wrong on my first attempt.  I actually wrote my entire manuscript from beginning to end without outlining the story first (stupid mistake).  I also thought (naively) that once my manuscript was finished, I was done writing.  I mean I thought I’d have to do some minor editing once I signed on with a publisher, but that was it.  Then reality hit me … hard.  I believe I wrote the
first book twenty times, after all the editing! So my best advice for first-timers would be to understand the editing process!

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish? 

Glass House Press is my publisher. They’re a small traditional press in Southern California, and I can’t thank them enough for believing in me.  They were on my list (which was about a mile long) of publishers to email. They’re one of the only publishers that responded, and thank goodness they did. It’s been a beautiful relationship.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published? 

How long it really takes to get a book published.  It took us close to three years to put this book on shelves. Three years!!!! I’m glad we took our time, because the book – and characters – needed it, but I would never have guessed that it’d take that long to get the book ready to publish.

Q: Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time? 

 Excitement mixed with a little fear, apprehension … and relief. And don’t think I’m doing it any justice, because there were a lot of other things going on in my head. I was feeling something different every second, and I would have jumped off a cliff if it wasn’t for my publisher. Honestly, I didn’t know what to think. A lot of emotions going on there.  

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?   

The second book on the Stones End series is well underway.  We’re shooting for its release in late winter/early spring 2014. We’re also starting to work on the third book, and we have a short story in the works, AND we’re brainstorming an entirely new series, though I’m not sure I’m supposed to talk
about that yet…

Q: Fun question: How does your book contribute to making this world a better place?  

 If I can get kids away from the television set for an hour a day, I’d say I’ve done a good thing.  I’ve also installed a little bit of history in every book (not too much, because we don’t want to scare anyone off). So if you’re not careful, you may actually learn a little something along with the way, and get excited about history. I’d say that makes the world a better place! 

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book? 

That history is a lot more fascinating and entertaining than most people realize. I’m always floored when I hear kids and adults alike tell me that they hated history class growing up. How can you hate history????? One of the greatest lines we used somewhere (I don’t remember where) was that Jason and his friends find out that history can be just as exciting as the present world, and sometimes even MORE dangerous. In Keeper we send them to a place where people are throwing them in jail, taking them hostage, calling them wizards, and trying to kill them with cannons, spears, swords … what could be more exciting than that?

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?  

 Come visit me at, drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter or our blog, and I promise to write back!
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