Sigmund Brouwer says put your character in a problem situation

With over 100 titles and four million books in print, Sigmund Brouwer is a bestselling author of books for children, young adults and adults. He will be one of the mentor authors at this year’s Young Authors’ Conference on May 2 and 3, which is part of the Yukon Writers’ Festival taking place that week. Brouwer was hooked on books and writing early on and he knows exactly why.

“By far and away, the answer is a single word—story. I was an avid reader of fiction from the day that I was hooked by the Hardy Boys series and, as a result, always dreamed of being a published author.”

When Brouwer was about 30, the first of his series, The Accidental Detectives, was accepted for publication. 
“Even after my first manuscript was accepted and contracted … it still didn’t seem real. I kept waiting for someone to stop me and point out that I was running a bluff. After the manuscript to the second book in the series was accepted, I began to relax a bit more. And, finally, after the series was extended, I knew that yes, I was an ‘author.’” As might be expected from his early interests, he’s still all about the story.

“I tend to write plot-driven stories, but, to me, the plot won’t work until the motivations of the characters seem legitimate, so my primary focus is on figuring out why a character will keep trying to overcome the obstacles that form the plot line.”

Lots of writers will admit they are the real villains in their stories, always creating problems for their characters and putting them in peril. Brouwer actually advises young writers to think that way about their stories and characters.

“Great stories grab the reader emotionally,” he said. “So put your character in a problem situation that makes us laugh, cry, get angry or grosses us out, and you’ll have us hooked.”

As a full time writer, he has routines he prefers to follow. “I try to get my writing done in the morning, because I enjoy visiting schools with my Rock and Roll Literacy presentations. (see If I’ve visited two or three schools during the day, there’s not much emotional energy left in the tank to get some writing finished.”

He really enjoys those school visits, by the way.
“I love, love, love the chance to spend time in workshops and presentations with students.

“My agent recently started doing some calculations. Many of my presentations are to whole-school assemblies of up to 400 students at a time. We realized that since my first book was published in 1990, I’ve had a chance to present to 1,000,000 students across Canada and the United States.

“We needed to double check that because it’s a crazy number, but I present at about 150 schools per year.”

Brouwer is more than just prolific. His novel, Dead Man’s Switch (2014), was the winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Canada’s best young adult mystery of the year and was a finalist in the TD Children’s Book Awards.

Another young adult novel, Devil’s Pass (2012), was also a finalist in the previous year. This one was part of a multi-author series called The Seven, and was set in the Yukon and Northwest Territories on the Canol Road.

His adult novel, Thief of Glory, was selected as a Book of the Year for the American Christy Awards and is a winner of the Alberta’s Readers Choice Awards.

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