Oliver Neubert  has been a maintenance planner with Coast Mountain Bus Company since 2007—but he’s also a children’s book author on the side!
Oliver’s four-book series is a fantasy adventure called Chantel’s Quest, which you can pick up at Kidsbooks , at Chapters , or your local library. (Or check the April Buzzer to see how you can win copies of the first two books!)
You may have seen a quick interview with Oliver in the April Buzzer, but since we actually had a much longer conversation, I thought I’d post the extended version on the blog. So here we go!
How did you get started writing?
I went to night school for some years, and I would tell my daughter stories in the evening. We would act them out: I would play a horse or an eagle, and she would play herself.
Then when I finished night school, I had some free time, and my wife said, “Why don’t you write the stories down?” And that was in 2005.
The series is called Chantel’s Quest – Chantel is the name of my daughter – and I wrote four books in one year. I spent evenings and weekends working on it. My daughter dances quite a bit, so I would drop her off at dance and I would find a restaurant to work in for two hours.
I started with this, and within a year I found a local publisher, Simply Read Books, who was interested in the story. So I signed a deal, and the first two are now in print.
The third one is due out this year, in September or October. And next year will be the last one.
Simply Read has been publishing since 2000, publishing mainly picture books. But now they are into chapter books for young adults and middle grades.
What are the books about?
What I’ve tried to do for each book is focus on an underlying idea. The first book talks about sharing. Chantel is a 12 year old girl who has to find four relics. On her birthday, she finds out she is the last descendant of her family, and has to go on this quest. In the first book, she is looking for a golden sword, and it’s a symbol for sharing, not fighting.
She goes to the mountain wood to find the gold sword, and has to complete certain tasks before she can get it. She finds some friends, like a little mouse who can turn into a mighty warrior—although he doesn’t always want to. She also finds another friend, who is another girl who is 12 and has wings—she can fly. They go through all four books together, and solve challenges and riddles.
How have people responded to the book?
It’s been pretty good. There are interesting reviews in some magazines. CM Magazine is a librarian support magazine that lists all the new books – I was reviewed there . And another blog, Picnic Basket, which is done by a lady in Boston, has a review . You send her books and her readers will review it.
Both books are available at Kidsbooks and Chapters, and in libraries in Australia and Canada and the States.
What does your daughter think about being the main character in your books?
She likes it. She has the book at school and they’ve read it in her class. They were quite excited too—I think they liked seeing a classmate through a story. For me it’s quite fun. I can review what happened when my daughter grew up—she’s 12 now.
What do you like most about writing?
I just like being creative. Sometimes at work you follow a certain setup and procedure, and outside that my creativity can just flow really well, coming up with new ideas and new things to write about. My wife said it might be a bit of psychotherapy session. But it’s nice to be creative! With fantasy, you’re not bound by anything.
Have any other authors inspired you?
Because I went so long to night school, for both my BA and MBA, I only read accounting books and engineering books. But there’s one scene in the first book where she goes to the mountain and looks in the valley— it looks like a lake of clouds. I had that experience when I went to Whistler for skiing. So mainly I get my inspiration from what’s around me, especially in nature. I live close to the beach and collect shells there with my daughter. We collect sea glass, which is glass from bottles that has been washed out by the water and the edges are nice and round.
What kind of work did you do to promote the book?
I went to the Toronto Book Expo in 2007, which was so nervewracking. I had a book signing and I was like four hours early. I’m sure everyone was wondering, ‘What are you doing: you’ve passed my booth six times!’ But there was a lineup at the signing, and the people were friendly, asking what was the story about.
I also went to Denver, for the Annual American Librarian Expo event, which is a huge event they have there to share annual reviews and ideas. I went to the New York Book Expo.
I have also done school visits and have had two book launches in Vancouver. One was at Kidsbooks in Kitsilano, and the second was at Once Upon a Huckleberry Tree, at Main and 28th.
At the first event, we had 120 people coming out, and the second was about the same—they couldn’t all fit in the store! It was raining, and it was so full the windows fogged up. Mainly children and their parents came to the launch. My wife is quite active in promoting me at schools. We put up some posters and sent out invitations.
What’s next for you?
I just finished editing the third Chantel book for the ninth time. It took longer to edit than to write the whole series! I’m going to edit the fourth book before the summer and we’ll see what’s coming up next. I’ll try to see if a publisher will buy my next book or if I should get an agent yet.
In the meantime, I’ve written 6 books, and four stories for a Korean English as a Second Language program. My next books are a three-book series called Vita – it means life in Latin. It tells the story of two different tribes: one is in the mountains, and they have wings and can fly, and the other is in the flat lands and they can run really fast. There are old laws saying that if there is a baby born without wings in land, they must die, and vice versa. And the story develops. The two tribes used to be one tribe, but due to some past events they separated. The idea to overcome some old stories and old hatred. I also try to have a bit of a moral.
I am also working on getting the word out about my books. I have my own website and I have a Twitter account. It is tough though. Lots of publishers went out of business last year. The big question is e-books. It doesn’t affect our writing and our writing style, but the publishers and the royalty deals are different when there are no printing costs.
What do you do with Coast Mountain Bus Company?
I’m working out of Burnaby Garage — I’m a maintenance planner. I review the bus schedule to see when they come up for repairs, and review the annual budget to see what repairs can be done.
What do your coworkers think of your second role as an author?
My coworkers are quite excited. Another maintenance planner said that he’s quite proud of me! It’s very nice to hear.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I do want to add is that production of my books is Canadian. I have a Canadian editor who lives in Vancouver, and the books are printed in Winnipeg.
Thanks Oliver! For more on Oliver and his books, please visit his website at oliverneubert.com .