Author Questions

I recently mentioned that I received my first official letters as a published author courtesy of an awesome bunch of second-graders from an elementary school in Augusta, Georgia. Not only was it extremely flattering and downright cool, but these seven and eight year old students asked some really good questions. Although I already wrote back each of them individually, I wanted to blog about their questions and my answers and I've added a little more detail to a few of them.
  1. Nikolas asked, "How do your stories become books?" This is a really good question because it was all very new to me. I'm going to take the whole submission approach to answer Nikolas. First, you've got to finish a book, beginning, middle and end. There are edits and rewrites and a slew of family members and friends that will tell you it's the greatest thing they've ever read. Next, there's the whole query letter process to where a finished manuscript might eventually get accepted for publication or representation from an agent which is very painful and long. In one or two paragraphs, you have to find a way to explain your whole story. I hate these things, because I'm long-winded and have never been able to sum anything up in one paragraph. Next, if you're like me, in come the rejections. My first book was rejected for seven years straight and is still not going to be published. I started submitting the Adventures of Hashbrown Winters to agents in April of 2007 and finally got an offer from my publisher in December of 2008 after close to 100 rejections. It's tough and sad, but the key to any success is sticking with it. I'm now a believer that perseverance will pay off.
  2. Kiana asked, "What characters do you like?" I love characters (male or female) that can snap back at you with wit. A lot of characters have other strengths like magic powers or athletic ability, but I don't have either one of those. What I do have is a sense of humor and somewhat of a knack of creating witty remarks that are not always funny, but get a reaction nonetheless. So, I love characters that mirror my own natural tendencies or abilities. True, you can still have that wit in a character that has powers (think Ron Weasley and the twins), but what's great about those guys is that they generally use their wit first to get the upper hand in the situation.
  3. Timothy asked, "Where do you get the titles of your books?" That's a tough one. Some of my books don't even have titles yet, because I'm not very good at that little aspect. The Adventures of Hashbrown Winters was kind of easy, because I already had the name picked out and I just slapped "The Adventures of" on the front. Somewhat of a cop out, but oh well. Hopefully, it works. Titles are so important, because a good title and an awesome cover will draw you in to buy the book. I really didn't answer this question very good. Maybe I should be a politician.
  4. Samuel asked, "Why did you want to become an author?" Have you ever had that moment when you finally realize what you were meant to do in this life? When you discover what makes your mind settle and you feel at ease with yourself? I experienced that when I signed the contract with Cedar Fort. Writing has always been a release for me. I love telling stories and making people laugh. I used to want to be an actor and actually started studying that in college. Luckily, I realized very quickly, that I can't act worth beans which led me to my real love of writing.
  5. Jayden asked, "Where is your studio?" Clever boy! My studio is my black leather (probably not real leather) chair in my bedroom. I force myself to stare at the white Microsoft Word screen until something spews onto the page. My wife Heidi says that we need to convert a room into an office and I agree that would be awesome. Until then, I write in my room usually with Heidi close by so I can bounce ideas off her.
  6. Brianna asked, "What is your favorite book you have written?" Another tough one because they all have sentimental value to me. I love my first book because it was the first time I ever finished anything and I know how cool that series could be one day when it's finally completed after mountains of edits. The Adventures of Hashbrown Winters was the one that got my foot in the door and it still makes me laugh even though I've read it a thousand times. And my newest one which is still untitled, is by far my best overall written book and came as nothing less than inspiration (I wrote 60,000 words in a month on that one.) So to answer your question, I don't yet have a favorite. Well, maybe the next one I write will be my favorite. :)
  7. Elijah asked, "How old were you when you started writing?" I remember being home sick from school, probably in Elementary one day and I asked my mother for a handheld tape recorder. I had an idea for a story, but I was too weak to scribble down on paper. It was a weird one that linked Werewolves to the City of Atlantis. Who knows, maybe one day I'll finish that one.
  8. Jarvis asked, "Do you like to work?" Well that depends, Jarvis. Work is satisfying at the bookstore and I am surrounded by great books to look at, but I love to write and sometimes I'm not given a lot of time to do that. So it's a toss up. When work is going well and I have an opportunity to write, I love it, but if not... well, it still puts bread on the table, so I won't knock it too bad.
  9. Austin asked, "Do you write about your life?" In my humble opinion, an author's best material is his or her own experiences. I always use something from my past as a catalyst or a spark and then naturally I alter it. In The Adventures of Hashbrown Winters I use a lot of memories severely altered. In fact, I actually see myself as one of the characters, but I can't tell you which. It's a secret. I will give a little hint on how I start writing anything. Generally, I start with dialogue. I'm sure brilliant authors and editors out there will disagree with me, but I can spin a situation or an event off of good, witty dialogue. So it's not unusual for me to begin the entire writing process with quotation marks. Of course, dialogue alone, is just gabbing so naturally I'll need some storyline and that's when I pull an experience from my life and rework it to fit my needs of the book.
  10. DeAndra asked, "What's your first book called?" It has changed quite a bit, but currently I've titled it Cooper Jackson and the Gothian Box. Of course, that was before I realized how popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians was growing and that's just a little too close for comfort. So I'm still looking for a good, strong name and maybe a better title for that one.
  11. Tianna asked, "Are your books funny?" I sure hope so. A serious book about a kid named Hashbrown and his sidekicks Snow Cone, Whiz (the pant-wetter), and Luinda "The Manatee" Sharpie will more than likely fizzle on the shelves.
  12. Lastly, Davie asked, "Do you have a dog?" No, I don't, but I loved this question because it was cool and also because Davie told me he loved Kentucky Fried Chicken. So do I, Davie... unfortunately, so do I.

There you have it. My first real questions from some of my target audience. I have to give another big thank you to their awesome teacher Christen who made it possible. One could only wish that every second grade teacher was as cool as Christen.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Love the new layout!