Posted on August 31, 2008
All About Alan
My guest today is the wonderfully nice (and talented) Alan Gratz! He’s one of the most helpful (give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back…well, not that I’ve ever asked him for his shirt…it’d probably be too big and, well, the wrong style for me since he’s a boy) guys I know and also a wonderful writer. He’s the author of Samurai Shortstop and the awesome Horatio Wilkes series (Think Shakespeare. Think Mystery. Think Awesome.). He’s been a teacher (and even taught catapult building…how cool is that??) and has written more than 6,000 radio commercials (whoa!).
You can learn more about Alan at his official website.
Something Rotten…a little Hamlet, anyone? Stinking-rich family. A reeking paper
plant. A murder most foul. Something is definitely rotten in Denmark, Tennessee,
and only 17-year-old detective Horatio Wilkes can sniff out the killer.
Here’s my question for Alan…
You’ve given a lot of workshops for both authors and teens. What have you learned from them?
And his answer…
I’ve learned that there are many ways to write a book. When I give workshops, I always talk about my outlining process. Before I write the first word of a book, I outline every single chapter. I want to know what happens every moment of my story before I begin. I teach my process in the hope that it will work for someone else, but I know going in that outlining doesn’t work for everyone. There are general writing tips and tricks that can be shared, but when it comes down to it, each writer has his or her own method for bringing a story to life. I once read that Ellen Raskin, the author of the incredibly fabulous and very tricky mystery The Westing Game was once asked if she outlined her complicated stories in advance. She said no—if she knew what was going to happen before she started a book she would be too bored to write it!
And Alan’s question for me…
Okay, tell me about the big leap to quit your corporate job and become a writer. I quit teaching to become a full-time writer (and stay-at-home-dad) and it was scary. What was your transition like? And had you already written Sucks To Be Me, or was that a product of your new “day job?”
And my answer…
Well, it was kind of a kismet situation. I was a manager at AT&T Labs and it was before the takeover…basically, it was all layoffs, all the time. Very depressing. I felt like my whole job was trying to figure out who I should put on the chopping block next and I’d worked with all of these people for years. My husband was starting to think about changing jobs within the company he worked for, but it was something that was going to require a move (from Florida to Kentucky). We talked it over and decided, hey, we could both use a change. And I’d always wanted to write for a living (rather than just doing stuff on the side). It was kinda scary (heck, terrifying) and we effectively cut our income in half.
Then the bad news – right after we moved I hurt my back and leg. I couldn’t walk for a while and had to go through all kinds of nasty medical stuff and heavy duty medication. But I somehow managed to write Sucks to Be Me during that time. I honestly have no idea how – the doctor had me on Vicodin and muscle relaxers and I spent a lot of time sleeping (those kind of drugs make me verrrrry sleepy). I was also in quite a bit of pain. Pretty much the entire time we lived in Kentucky was kinda sucky. I didn’t really get over the back and leg trouble until after we moved to Illinois.
The writing was kind of therapeutic, I suppose. Mina has a strong character voice in my head and I like her snarky style. She’s spunky. And funny (at least I think so). It was kind of a way to get inside my head and away from the physical pain.
Ha, I suppose that’s more than you ever wanted to know! But, seriously, quitting the corporate life was the best thing I ever did. And now that we’ve got a baby, I’m even more glad. You can’t work 60+ hours a week and have a kid. Well, I guess you can…but it ain’t the best idea. Though between the baby and YABC, I almost feel like I used to have more time to write.
Want to puzzle out the mystery yourself along with Horatio Wilkes? Enter to win a copy of Something Rotten (‘cause you should read it before October, when the next book, Something Wicked comes out) by visiting Alan’s website and then emailing me at kim @ kimberlypauley.com with the subject line “There’s Nothing Rotten About Alan!” and tell me what Alan wanted to be before he became a writer (hint: check out the Author Q & A linked on the “Author” page). Be sure to get your entry in by September 7th!
And don’t forget to check out all the Sucks to Be Me Book Launch details for more giveaways!