I had the pleasure of reading Andy's book, Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth and have posted my review earlier this week. This book is a delightful read for all ages.
What inspired you to become a writer??
The easy answer is that I loved stories as a kid (and still do). I loved hearing them (from my dad, grandparents, and others), and I loved reading them. I typed stories, as a child, on my mom’s old typewriter. I remember sending movie pitches to Disney, too. I would write them letters about the movies I wanted to see and then asked them to make those movies. I remember how much fun it was to write books in school, too. We would get these blank hardcover books that we would eventually fill with our own stories. Not only was the story ours, but the cover, the illustration, the back-jacket summary.
What is your favorite genre of book to read and/or write and why??
The most fun I ever had reading was when I was ten years old and devouring Roald Dahl books. So when I found my way to writing for children, it felt right. My reader became me as a ten-year-old. I write the books I would have wanted to read at that age.
Back then, though, as now, I read all sorts of books. Mystery, adventure, science-fiction, light fantasy (like Dahl), sports stories. I read newspapers, too. While my first two books have a lot of fantasy in them, who knows what the next ones will look like? (Actually, I just finished writing a draft of a Young Adult novella that’s also a writing text. The narrator, a senior in high school, has gotten rich writing papers for his classmates, and in the book he divulges his secrets.)
What aids do you use to write your books? Music?? Nature???
I guess I’m a purist. I prefer a quiet space. I do tend to brainstorm and often draft by hand on lined paper. When I begin typing, I revise, as well.
What character of your book(s) do you relate to the most??
Well, Davey Cook from Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle is based on me as a kid. He has a bowl cut, wears basketball jerseys that go down to his knees, and loves to read. That was me. I do like Mr. Bruno from Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth, though, too. He wears the same dusty Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap I do, and he seems a patient man. I like to think I am, too. (I don’t spend any of my time sitting on front steps and smoking, however, and he spends most his time doing just that.)
What words of wisdom would you like to share with aspiring writers like myself?
Read as many books as you can, and allow yourself to get lost in their stories. Pay attention to language, though, too. Keep track of the words that are fun to read and bring them to your own writing.
How do you visualize your stories?? In pictures?? Conversations? Dreams?
Some begin with an image. Others begin with some line that comes into my head. I have a series of stories about a superheroic school janitor from another planet, and he was inspired by a custodian at the school where I teach. I was in the faculty lounge with him. It was teacher-appreciation day, and parents had stocked the room with fruit, bagels, and this heaping bowl of mini candy bars, and we both looked at it with big eyes and watering mouths. “They even got them belly bulgers, huh?” he said, as he patted his stomach. The line stuck with me as I walked back to my office. I sat down with the line and it became a character.
If you become a multimillionaire overnight, how would you use the money??
That’s a difficult question. I’m so far from (financially) rich, I’ve never considered it. Well, there’s a house a few blocks from where my wife and I live, one we pass when we take our dog for a walk, and if it were for sale, I suppose we’d move there. Then I’d pay off my college student loans. Then I’d buy my wife flowers, every day. We’d spend a week at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We’d do a little traveling. And then . . . well, I’d figure out a way to create some kind of writing tutoring program for all kids. I’m inspired by the 826 program (http://www.ted.com/talks/dave_eggers_makes_his_ted_prize_wish_once_upon_a_school.html), which brings working writers and middle- through high-school kids together for authentic writing time. It would be fun to figure out how I could contribute to that effort. I’d only want to save enough of the money so my wife and I would feel secure and I would never feel guilty about spending a couple summer weeks doing nothing but reading novels.
How long did it take you to write Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth?? What inspired this book??
It took me 4½ years to write a draft of Skipping Stones. I didn’t always know how the different story lines would intersect. Finally, one day, it all made sense. That was a wonderful day. As I wrote the book, I found inspiration all around me. I was driving one afternoon, for instance, and saw this grand, green lawn that had just been mowed. That became the lawn between Hidden Shores Orphanage and Mr. E’s shack.
If you could have dinner with someone dead or alive, famous or not famous, who would it be and why??
The real (though sappy) answer? My wife. She’s as smart and funny as people come, and we’re both incredibly busy and don’t see each other enough as it is.
The more entertaining answer? Maybe Steve Carell. He’s seems like an awfully nice, grounded guy who’s also remarkably observant and funny.
Let's do something fun...write something about each of the the next 5 words in 10 words or less.
Best when in conversation with our world; then it’s magical.
The single best human creation. Hands down.
Multitasking and/or running errands. Ugh.
My dog has it. So do my students.
A rewarding day at work. A quiet dinner with my wife and a glass of wine. (Sorry. I recognize this answer’s 16 words. Guess I haven’t found the right balance yet!)