In January, 2016, Simon was chosen to receive a B.R.A.G medallion. This is the interview done by Stephan Hopkins from B.R.A.G.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
IndieBrag found me; I still don’t know who nominated me! But I am very grateful.
Please tell me about your book, Andee the Aquanaut Series, Guardian of the Great Seas.
Andee is a young boy who lives on an island with his parents who are marine biologists. One day a great and frightening storm carries his parents out to sea in their dinghy. Searching for them along the shore, Andee is caught by a freak wave. Under the water he is saved by two dolphins he’d previously befriended, Tingo and Tango. He is carried to safety, an underwater home, where the dolphins become his new family. Here he discovers he is the chosen one, a legendary aquanaut with the purpose of saving the oceans and battling the evil queen Zadora who seeks to over-run the Water Spirit kingdom and the Lost City. He is given a super-suit that allows him to become the heroic warrior he is under water.
What was your inspiration for this story?
I’ve been a surfer for most of my life. I wanted to create a character that would appeal to younger children, to inspire them (and educate them) to help our oceans. One day, while considering a character to present to a toy manufacturer, the concept of the young Andee unfolded. It was up to me to bring him to life, which I believe I have done through the series. I guess he is a part of me. His adventures and quests are challenging, which I love.
Tell me a little about the Aquanauts of the Marine Kingdom; the Lost City.
The legendary Aquanauts were warriors and protectors of the Lost City. The Lost City is an underwater paradise that was guarded for its resources. It was ruled by a compassionate merking (mermaid king). When the king lost his wife and became ill he remarried a mermaid named Zadora, unfortunately unaware of her evil intent. One weakness that the mermaids and men of the Marine Kingdom had was their lust for gold, a lust so strong it could turn the merpeople against one another. Zadora lived and breathed only to have it all for herself once she became queen. The Lost City is filled with gold, among other treasure, as well as cures for life-threatening illnesses. So, to protect his people from lust and greed, the king told them they would not be allowed to return to the Lost City, that they would be safe in the Marine Kingdom, no longer tempted by the gold. The Lost City was then protected by the aquanauts who, over time, disappeared. But, with Queen Zadora gaining more power as the king fell more ill, Andee was called to protect the Lost City from her malicious plan to overthrow the entire kingdom. He was once a legendary aquanaut.
What fascinates you the most about the ocean?
Everything; the landscapes, plants, marine mammals and, mostly, the undiscovered depths. Having seldom been down there, mankind can only imagine what exists beyond what we’ve already seen. That’s why I love it; with an imagination, anything could be possible until proven wrong!
How does Andee deal with a challenge he faces?
He has a strong sense of purpose and responsibility, and believes that his quests will bring him closer to finding his parents. He also falls in love with the king’s daughter, Yolanda. When she is under threat from the queen (spoiler alert) his motive to combat the evil queen Zadora becomes even stronger. So, yes, he deals with his challenges with love and a strong sense of purpose.
Is there a message you would like your readers to come away with after reading your story?
Always do the right thing, especially where the people and beings you care for are concerned. There is always a way to combat injustice, it just takes faith and courage. Once you put your intentions in the right place, you will start to see others begin to help you along your journey.
Could you please share an excerpt?
(Exert from Book One)
Andee and Yolanda swam into the Black Sea; the cold water was icy around their bodies. They saw a large reef covered in huge plants and seaweed, behind which they hid as they looked back in fear.
Zadora and the merman guards had also entered into the Black Sea and were searching for them. Their black hair flowed in the strong current as they held their spears raised, ready for attack.
The Black Sea was a cold and dangerous place for everybody. It was full of giant prehistoric sea life from hundreds and thousands of years ago. Andee and Yolanda hid in amongst the huge leafy plants. They hovered there holding onto the underneath of a huge leaf, swaying rapidly in the churning currents.
Zadora and the guards were getting closer, but they also had to be careful about the massive monsters lurking in the waters.
The water got very dark as the night was coming. It was getting more and more dangerous.
Suddenly the water lit up as giant dinosaur-monster eyes shone out like huge torches into the darkness. A huge roar through the sea broke the silence, and out of the blackness a dinosaur appeared. It surged through the water, chasing the smaller fish.
With its huge serpent-type head and long neck down to its humped back, it used its huge fins to plough through the water. Then, without warning, the serpent lurched forward and grabbed another huge monster fish in its mouth, biting the fish in half with one swift blow from its jaws.
Yolanda couldn’t help screaming, but Andee put his hand over her mouth to stop her just in time. As he did so he let go of the huge leaf that was keeping them hidden.
One of the merman guards caught a glimpse of them. He hissed and pointed with his spear.
“There!” he shouted.
Andee quickly pulled Yolanda out of the seaweed and swam away with all his strength. But just as he did so, the huge sea serpent spotted them. The serpent raced towards them, roaring with its huge mouth wide open.
“Swim! Andee!” Yolanda screamed.
Zadora and the guards hissed and grinned.
“Perhaps the serpent will do the work for us,” said Zadora. “Come on!” she shouted, and together they followed behind the massive sea monster.
Andee was swimming hard. “I can’t outswim him, Yolanda. He’s too fast. We must try and find somewhere to hide.”
Andee saw a small crevice in a rock below. ‘There’s only room for one person,’ he thought.
“I’m going down,” he said, “hold on tight. I can see somewhere for you to hide, Yolanda.”
Andee swooped down to the crevice and quickly dropped Yolanda inside. “You will be safe here,” he said.
“Andee…” Yolanda shouted, “…look out!”
Just as he turned he saw the huge sea serpent’s jaws just about to snap on him.
‘Use your suit,’ Andee suddenly heard a voice say. ‘Use your suit, Andee. Think and feel, and become one with your suit.’
Andee shot out of the way just as the serpent bit down hard.
Smash! The serpent got a mouthful of rock as Andee sped away. But the serpent then let out a roar and gave chase on him again.
Where can readers buy your books?
Via Amazon. Not only can they read them, the books are available as audiobooks, too, also via Amazon.
How did you come up with the title?
I wanted an androgynous sounding name so both boys and girls could relate to the character, and I also wanted ‘Aquanaut’ in the title. So, the name Andee the Aquanaut was born. Indee (for girls mostly) arrives toward the end of book two. The names together ‘ring’ well.
Who designed your book cover?
Cover designs and illustrations are done by award-winning artist, Zoran Zlaticanin. We have an amazing working relationship. We are totally in tune with each other; I love working with him. In fact, I also named Andee’s sidekick (from book two) ‘Zoran, the dolphin’ after him.
In 2015, Simon was contacted an interviewed by Dannie McClain from Dannie Speaks. Here’s the interview.
Did you always want to become a writer or did writing find you?
Writing found me. I am originally a product designer. I had designed a new character concept which was ‘Andee the Aquanaut’. I took him to a toy agent from Hasbro. We had a meeting regarding having him produced as a toy. The agent told me that Andee really needed a story behind him, in order for the toy to succeed. So, he asked me if I could write one. I said I had never written before and, also, that I am, in fact, dyslexic; I’d never written before. He said, “I think you can do it. Shut yourself away and go into Andee’s world.” He then added that a lot of famous writers are in fact dyslexic. I didn’t know this and was surprised and encouraged. So, I went away to write. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have written 5 books now and I’ve also co-written a screenplay. I’ve also just finished the first book in my new children’s series called Menosaurus, which will be a 6 to 12 book series (depending on how far my character takes me)!
When you started writing, were you quickly drawn to writing your stories for youth?
Not really. I think I just ‘fell’ into writing for youth. I love writing at a fast pace with never a dull moment, and I discovered that writing for kids gives me that thrill. I love the excitement of ‘make believe’, and also creating new ideas for characters and superheroes. The sky’s the limit; there’s so much you can tune into.
The Andee The Aquanaut Series is for ages 6 to 14. What inspired you to write this Series? Did you set out to write the series to support marine life?
Well, I think I have answered this question coincidently in question one. But, also, Andee is such a strong character under the ocean, he’s a real eco-warrior, and the way he serves and protects the marine life; it just inspired me to consider donating to marine charities. I just think that Andee is a great young ambassador for the oceans; we need one at the rate we are losing our precious marine species today and plastics in the oceans. Plus, I love the ocean and I surf regularly. I love being in the water. So, if I can save a shark and a dolphin (or two) then this would make me and Andee happy!
Proceeds from your Andee Series help support marine charity, Protectors of Dolphin and Whales. Can you tell us more about this cause?
The Protectors do a great job around the world in making the public aware of what’s happening to whales and dolphins being ‘over-fished’ and exploited.
They’re slaughtered in inhumane ways via cruel hunting and killing methods and, also, those hunting them actually fuel the captive cetacean industry by providing cetaceans to marine parks. Dolphins might look happy as they have a permanent smile on their faces. But this is the illusion. I can assure they are not. In captivity they ‘work for food’, they become ill easily, are force-fed various drugs to keep their temperaments balanced and, most importantly, they have their freedom taken from them. Dolphins swim up to 100 miles per day, this is what they do. But in a tank they swim around in pools not much bigger than 10 to 20 meters in diameter. So, it’s the exploitation of these majestic animals that really needs to be brought to the attention of the public. Andee agrees, of course! In the wild, some orgs do a lot of research that often helps to prevent the beaching of dolphins and whales. Seismic testing and so on interferes with their sonar and can cause internal bleeding on the brain. Marine orgs work to put this to an end. They also work on issues like ‘incidental by-catch’ which is when small cetaceans and other marine mammals get entangled in fishing/trawling nets. Basically, Andee also takes care of issues like these with his super powers in the books!
With your love of marine life, is your character, Andee, based on a version of you as you grew up to love the marine world?
Totally, I love the ocean and have always been fascinated by it as a young boy. I was the seven-year-old kid in the facemask and flippers, pretending to be the man from Atlantis looking for crabs and fish (oops, I’m showing my age now)! I also used to live in the swimming baths. I wouldn’t get out until I was a prune! The ocean has always fascinated me as we still know so little about it. We know more about space than we do about what’s down there in the depths of the oceans. And that’s why I love writing about it so much; there’s just so much to write about down there! Anything’s possible, and I can do this vicariously through Andee.
With the Andee series ongoing, what is in-store next? New books, events, another series to support a new cause?
Actually, Andee’s full story is by no means finished. I will definitely be writing more about him in the future. In the meantime, it’s great that readers are getting to know him. I am currently writing, and have just finished the first book of my new children’s science fiction series called Menosaurus. Basically it’s about a superhuman race who were around on Earth before the dinosaurs. They have evolved over millions of years, becoming a highly-intelligent race, but they can change back into dinosaurs. They left the Earth when a meteor struck, but now they’re coming back. I love writing these books as I also love dinosaurs, and have done so ever since I was a small boy. They fascinate me, too. There is a great cast of characters in these books, and lots of humor in there, too. It’s something very different, and I am hoping the kids will love reading the books just as much as I love writing them.