The Power of Imagination With Teen Author Saige J. Oliver
Interview With Saige J. Oliver
When did you decide that you wanted to be an author?
When I was six my mom had me participate in National Novel Writing Month. Every year I would write one story and self-publish it on Amazon. Granted, these were definitely not full-length novels nor were they the most amazing piece of literature, but hey, we all start somewhere.
When I was in middle school, I ran into writer’s block. I kept trashing draft after draft of stories, until I eventually gave up on writing. It wasn’t working and my thought process was: well, since it’s not working, maybe I’m just not supposed to be a writer.
Back in 2019, when I was in seventh grade, my mom found me this fantasy book that she thought I should read. Since I stopped writing I hadn’t really read many new books, I’d just been reading the ones I’d already read. My mom knew that I liked fantasy and told me to give this new book a try. The book was The Dragonrider Chronicles by Nicole Conway.
I tore through that series with blazing speed. The feelings that book gave me were like nothing I’d ever experienced before. After I finished the series, I just got this feeling that I wanted to create something like that. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an author. I wanted to create a story that would make other people feel the way I did when I read Nicole Conway’s The Dragonrider Chronicles.
At what point did you start working on achieving that goal? Was there a specific event that motivated you to turn your dream of becoming an author into a reality?
Well, so even after I had the motivation that I wanted to create something like that, story ideas still weren’t coming to me. Like I did before, I went from draft to draft to draft, but nothing was working, and I didn’t know why. But this time I didn’t want to give up.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started in America and everything shut down, something incredible happened for me. During the quarantine Nicole Conway, the author who had inspired me to start writing, opened up an online class for beginner authors; exactly what I needed.
I was nervous when my mom signed me up, the only things I had were unfinished drafts and I was expected to actually write something. But, as the class began, I started to learn things, rules and guidelines about writing. That’s also when I took to YouTube to begin researching things like world building, tropes, and various other writing aspects.
This all inspired me and provided the information I’d been missing to begin this journey as an author and create the very first draft of The Last Kingdom.
What inspired you to begin crafting The Last Kingdom series?
Many things. One of them was Nicole Conway herself. Her class, her books, and just her as a person, inspired and gave me the knowledge I needed.
Another was both my grandmas, who are English teachers. Through my grandma I met various authors who throughout the years encouraged me to start writing. One of these authors was e.E Charlton-Trujillo, who gave me nothing but encouraging words and challenged me to write a full-length novel, which I eventually did.
My parents were definitely another. My mom helped me edit and write my books when I was younger and both of them patiently listened while I ranted on every story idea I had. My mom was the one who instigated everything I’ve said inspired me.
And the last thing was actually all those drafts I’d trashed before and thought were useless. Believe it or not, The Last Kingdom is basically a combination of all my earlier drafts compiled together with new ideas.
When you began the process of story development what came to you first the plot of “Padling” (book one of The Last Kingdom series) or the story world, Ariath?
When I started story development, I knew I wanted it to be a series. However, the idea for the story of Padling came first, though I had an idea of where the other books were going to go and what they were going to accomplish. All those trashed drafts I mentioned earlier, were mostly used in the storyline for Padling.
Some of the basic story ideas that were always there were the idea of a wolf being a key aspect and my protagonist always having an older brother and a sister.
Have you found that being a younger writer has allowed you to easily tap into your creativity?
Honestly, I feel like creativity isn’t relative to a certain age. When you listen to younger kids make up stories, they always think of insanely un-realistic things, like unicorns drinking rainbow water that’s flavored like grape candy or something. Usually when you hear these stories, you think how unrealistic that is.
Sometimes we think that creativity like that is only due to the fact that they’re young children. When they grow up and learn more about laws of science or history, they learn that particular story-line is impossible. But then you think of authors like Shel Silverstein or Roald Dahl. These authors are adults, yet they think of such crazy almost illogical things that even kids may not even think of!
So, I think creativity is not dependent on age, rather it’s how much logic you can let go for the time being.
Creativity is about stretching and bending ideas. Younger story-tellers may have an upper hand on creativity but that’s because they don’t fully yet comprehend what’s possible and impossible. It doesn’t matter your age, if you can re-design and break ideas you know are true in the real world and make them false in your story, then you can tap into as much creativity as you desire.
What is your favorite part of the story building process? Is it creating the story world, constructing the characters, outlining the plot or something else entirely?
I am such a character focused person. When I’m reading, watching, or listening to a story I’m always thinking about this character’s arc, what their flaws are, and everything else. When I’m creating my own story, I’m the same way.
I love the character-building process. My stories are always very character-centric. I always treat my characters as different lenses to view the plot and world. Every new character presents a totally new way of viewing the world. I love designing how they feel about certain things, because having one character look at a certain thing positively and another character look at it negatively, just adds a layer of depth to the story.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a young author? What is one creative way you have found to overcome that challenge?
My biggest challenge I’d say came at the beginning of my journey and it’s something that every author deals with at some point, that is writer’s block. I know a lot of teens who are interested in writing or have a story-line in their heads. The biggest answer I hear when I ask why they aren’t writing is, “I don’t know where to go with it” or “I have writer’s block.” I know that many more authors, not just young authors, are dealing with this same issue, so here’s the way I overcame it:
Writer’s block is a situation in which an author doesn’t know how to proceed with the plot. What that means is the author needs new ideas.
So where do you get those ideas? Other stories.
If you’re struggling through writers’ block, pick some stories, it can be books, tv shows, even a video game. Take the characters, take the world, the plot, anything you can from the story, examine it. Figure out why it works. Why do you like it so much? Why do others like it so much? What makes it compelling for you? Then take that into account and try doing something along those lines with your story.
Honestly, after I did that myself to get ideas, dissecting stories like that has become one of my favorite hobbies.
If you could share one piece of advice with other teen writers, what would you most wish to say?
This is such a good question and one I’m very passionate about. I actually have a YouTube channel for the purpose of helping other young authors called “The Art of Story-Telling – Saige J. Oliver.”
But, if there was one piece of advice I would like to give, it’s this:
Stories have the power to change lives, whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, etc.
In a letter I wrote to Nicole Conway, thanking her, this is something I told her that I think can be applied to the advice I just gave:
“We all have heroes in our lives, right? Some actually save our lives, others are there for us when we need them the most. But it takes a special kind of hero to save a dream.”
As an author you have the power to do just that. You can be that special hero. So, write your story the way you want to write it, but with the knowledge that you can help someone who really needs it by simply creating a character. You can inspire others to write the way you write just like Nicole Conway did for me.
Saige J. Oliver
Saige is the teen author of The Last Kingdom. She loves everything about story-telling. As a huge fan of many stories including, Star Wars, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Dragonrider Chronicles, she loves to examine each aspect of the story and implement that into her writing. She also loves video-editing and art, and because of that is having a ton of fun working on YouTube videos examining what makes a certain story great and how other young authors like herself can achieve their dreams.