Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Author Spotlight, Gary Schwartz on his award winning book, The King of Average



WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER? The easy answer is reading great books. It’s the same impulse that drew me to acting. I saw a fantastic performance and said “I want to do that…”
WAS THERE A TEACHER OR OTHER MENTOR WHO INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING?
 My 12th grade English teacher, Stephen Tessler, introduced me to James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I wrote an essay in Joyce’s style of stream of consciousness and he laughed at my audacity, but gave me an “A” after reading it. I also worked with Canadian children’s author Susan Hughes who mentored me with my first manuscript and helped me hone my style.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD-WINNING BOOK? 
True story. I came from a violent and chaotic family burdened with mental illness. My mother often wished I was never born and called me worthless. I suffered poor self-esteem. When I was eleven, I rebelled against that idea and had a conversation with myself on the way to school one day. “I’m not so bad.” I told myself. “Okay, I’m not very good, that’s true… but I’m not as bad as my mom thinks. ‘Right!’ I said. “I’m average!” That made me feel better. Then I thought, ‘what if could be more average than anyone else in the world? - Then I’d be SPECIAL!’ That paradox made me laugh. I was reading The Phantom Tollbooth at the time and thought of my story in those terms and came up with characters like Mayor Culpa, the scapegoat and Kiljoy, the professional pessimist. It would be 52 years later before I actually wrote it out.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LINE FROM YOUR AWARD-WINNING BOOK AND WHY? Spoken by Monsieur Roget, the professional optimist. “…when he sees a glass of water filled halfway, a traditional optimist sees it as only ’alf full. But a professional optimist is also happy to see fresh, clear water to drink or wash with or to water plants and make things grow. Like food for instance! ’Alf-full or ’alf-empty? For amateurs!”
WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS FROM YOUR AWARD-WINNING TITLE DO YOU BELIEVE ARE MOST LIKE YOU AND WHY? I am the hero, James. His journey was my journey to be sure. The thought of being the MOST average propels him into the fantasy world called The Realm of Possibilities. There he explores the emotional landscape of Average, Above Average, Lake Inferior, Hearsay, Epiphany and Serenity, to name a few of the places he visits.
WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL GLEAN FROM YOUR AWARD-WINNING BOOK? I truly hope that kids who feel ‘less than’ get the message that imagination and perseverance and empathy for others are the key to escaping a poor self-image. There is salvation in helping others. In doing so, you save yourself.
TELL US SOMETHINGINTERESTING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER: 
I was disappointed in the stage version of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth and wanted to write a new version for the stage. I contacted his representatives to ask permission to adapt his book for the stage. One morning, I got a call from NORTON JUSTER! We spoke for a long time but the upshot was his agent advised against a second stage version. It was like Lewis Carrol calling you up to say ‘hi!’
IF YOU COULD BE COMPARED TO A WELL-KNOWN AUTHOR WHO WOULD YOU MOST WANT THIS TO BE AND WHY? If you thought I’d say Norton Juster, you’d be wrong. I’d like to be compared to Roald Dahl. I want to be that prolific, imaginative and enduring. A big goal.
WHAT BOOK HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE? 
The Phantom Tollbooth, the thought of being the most exceptionally average person saved me from a very different life, I think.
HOW DID YOU GET PUBLISHED? 
Once I finished the manuscript I sent to over sixty agents and publishers. I got picked up by Booktrope (Seattle), now defunct. I am currently seeking representation.
IF A CLOSE FRIEND OR LOVED ONE WANTED TO WRITE A BOOK, WHAT GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM? 
Stop talking about it and just do it! I waited over fifty years.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK? Send it to everyone you can think of. Get reviewed and don’t give up. Keep talking about your book and have some ready to give away. Read how others promote, but don’t let others do the work for you. You are your best promoter.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT? 
This debut novel has gotten such a great reaction by being chosen as a Best of 2016 by Kirkus and IndieReader and the two gold medals from Children’s Literary Classics gives me hope, I have a future as a writer.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ASPIRATIONS? I want my book to enter the pantheon of Children’s classics alongside of The Wizard of Oz, The Phantom Tollbooth, Narnia and Alice in Wonderland. I would love my book to be a positive influence on children and adults who need this message for generations.
TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT THEY MIGHT FIND INTERESTING: I am the voice of Heavy Weapon’s Guy and the Demoman from the hit video game Team Fortress 2. I was also a children’s television actor in the 1980s as Bravo Fox on Zoobilee Zoo.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS? 
In the words of Joseph Campbell, “Follow your bliss.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS? I am working on a
Carl Hiaasen-like adventure story for kids called The Benji Loper Caper about a boy who hires a limo to take his school crush on a date in Hollywood. He gets mixed up with a movie producer, a limo driver who is an aspiring actor and screenwriter and an international jewel theft ring on the date. It’s “Get Shorty for kids.” I am also working on the sequel to The King of Average.
I hope to attract an agent and publisher for my next book, based on the reception of my first one. I want to have it ready for publication by 2018.
LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval http://www.clcawards.org

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Author Spotlight, Patricia Reding on her award winning book



WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER AND WHY?
This is an interesting question because I can’t think of a time when I first gave consideration to the thought. I’d always been an avid reader, and from early on, I wrote. But there isn’t a day I can point to when the clouds parted and the sun shone and an epiphany came unto me saying, “You should write.” Having said that, there was an event that served as the catalyst to my starting my first full-length work. Specifically, I was so inspired by a fantasy series I read, that I had to see if I could write one myself.
AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU ASPIRE TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
I came from a large family of all girls (eight, that is, count them!), back in the day when we weren’t encouraged to aspire to much of anything, really. Still, even as a child, I was intrigued by courtroom dramas. By the time I was finally able to articulate what I might want to do (practice law), I’d been conditioned into believing that such a venture was reserved for others—that it was not something for me. One day, I dared mention it to a friend. I remember being afraid to even say the words. Then, I quickly followed up with: “But I don’t think they’ll let me.” She responded with one simple question, a question that may well have changed the course of my future. “Who is ‘they?’” she asked. In that moment, something was born—a hunger for more and a belief that perhaps I, too, could have dreams and could follow them. As time unfolded, I found myself pursuing those dreams. I’ve now been practicing law for some years. In many ways, the same idea applied to my writing. I saw others create fascinating works and thought, “Why not me?”
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE?
My two daughters—my youngest two children—were in their early teens at the time that the Oathtaker story and title came to me. I was lamenting about things I saw going on around me. I had a vision of my children seeing the world I’d grown up in, at least for a moment. It was a world in which (to my young mind, at least, back in the day) people said what they meant and meant what they said. You could count on them to follow through on their word. I felt badly that my children were growing up in a world in which teachers don’t always follow through, spouses give up on marriages, religious leaders on occasion fall (quite publicly) from grace, and politicians are excused with the old adage: “Well, they all lie.” I wanted to make a statement that one’s word matters, and that words have a price. Yet I also wanted to express the great glory that can come with honoring one’s word. To do that in a manner that might be accepted by others, I chose to illustrate the concepts I had in mind through a fantasy story.
TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER:
For me, the most random and funniest events are those moments when in the midst of writing, something trips from the end of my fingertips that I never expected. Sometimes, it’s a funny or thought-provoking, line. For example, in Oathtaker, when a slave woman, Erin, reprimands another, Ginny, whom the reader already knows is slightly cross-eyed, Erin says: “I thought you were only cross-eyed. Now I see that in truth, you are blind.” It’s the kind of line a person would never express out loud in real life, but that a character can get away with saying—and that an author can get away with using. Other surprises have come to me when, for example, a character has shown up in a scene unexpectedly. In Oathtaker, to my delight, that happened at the end of the tale. I remember typing away that Mara (the main protagonist) looked up when the door opened. Then, I stopped, stunned, my hands hovering over my keyboard. I saw the person entering the room, but I was in shock. I had to ask myself: Is that possible? For quite some time, I refused to believe it, but eventually I did, and in the end it was completely right. In fact, it was as though my subconscious knew all along that it was coming, but decided to surprise me along with everyone else.
WHICH AUTHOR HAS MOST GREATLY INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING STYLE OR HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE?
I can’t say that any one in particular has influenced my style, but as to impact, I have to go back to the classics. Perhaps my all time favorite is Les Miserables, which to my mind is sheer poetry. Moreover, it tells a tale of sacrifice. In many ways, my stories also suggest that sometimes there are things more important than “self.”
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT?
Of course, there is the obvious of taking a story from start to finish. That may seem ordinary to many, but I suspect many writers would agree that it feels miraculous—particularly the completion of a first full work. Aside from that, both my books are award-winners and WindDancer Films asked to take a look at Oathtaker (Volume One). Not many new authors can claim that a major film production company has shown interest in their work. Even so, I’d have to say that it is the comments from readers that mean the most. I especially like when someone tells me that he or she didn’t read fantasy before, but because of my stories, has been “converted.”
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK?
The best advice for a new author seeking to promote her work would be the worst advice for her, in general. That is, if she wants to be great at promotion, she needs time to do it. This might suggest she should quit her day job. Please don’t! Instead, new authors should be active on social media—preferably before they first publish. (I wish I’d known this before I first published!) Also, I would encourage them to enter contests, but to be wary of them. They are not all equal. An author should look to enter those that are used to promote ideas with which the author agrees. For example, Literary Classics caught my attention because I discovered LC’s emphasis on works of quality.
DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS?
Ephemeral and Fleeting: The Oathtaker Series, Volume Three went “live” on March 24, 2017.  I know there will be more to the series, so I suppose I should get started on the next one (post haste!). I’m very excited about Volume Three. Also, I’ve decided to take the plunge into audio books and have spent some time looking into them and doing some recording. You see . . . I want to read them myself. We’ll see how that all goes. It is daunting—and exciting.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?
Yes! If you are a blogger and would be interested in reviewing my works, I would love to hear from you. To all other readers, I very much appreciate getting feedback—particularly “in the moment” feedback. So, if you’re reading one of my stories, please feel free to contact me via Facebook and follow me there, or on my website www.PatriciaReding.com  and share your thoughts with me. Finally, if you’d like to know more about how my works came about, I’d be delighted if you would join me on Bublish. Just click on the “Follow on Bublish” button. Bublish is a great tool for authors to use to share with readers what they were thinking in the writing process, what things might have influenced their stories, and so on.

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval http://www.clcawards.org