Friday, 21 April 2017

What's the scariest book you've ever read ...

I see you, Myles ...

I had the honor of visiting a large school outside Toronto yesterday, and I did three one-hour presentations about my Silver Birch Express nominated title, Myles and the Monster Outside.

What an incredible bunch of kids, with SUCH GREAT questions! I saw over 300 students in grades 3-5, and during each session there were more questions than I had time to answer. Also, I've spoken to tens of thousands of kids now over the years, and yesterday I got some questions I'd never heard before, which doesn't happen that often.

It was wonderful!

They also made me some lovely covers for the book, and artwork lined the walls. You know, when you start writing kids' books, you have no idea that this could be the outcome. That you actually get to inspire kids to read, write, to draw, to question, to dream. I see it as a sacred trust, every time I go on a school visit, and I'm so honoured to do it.

So, enjoy the artwork you see here. AND, here is a sampling of the questions that I haven't had before, which blew me away:

Q: What's the scariest book  you've ever read?
A: Stephen King's Full Dark No Stars, hands down. For kids, it would be Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Q: Which of your own books do you hate the most?
A: (After laughing) ... um, I don't really HATE any of them, so maybe I'm lucky in that, but I can tell you which was the hardest to write: The Gargoyle Overhead, because it's book 2 in a trilogy which I had no idea I was going to create when I wrote book 1.

The most terrifying of trees!
Q: Do your own kids read your books?
A: Yes, when they were little they did. Now they are older, not so much.

Q: If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?
A: I play guitar, so maybe I'd be a musician. But writer is the only thing I've ever wanted to be!

Q: Do you ever get lost in the middle of your story when you're writing it?
A: YES! Author's call it the "Messy Middle." Most of us know how a story is going to start and how it's going to end, but it's not always that clear how to go from start to finish.

Q: How many books are you going to write in your life?
A: (I've had a version of this before, What's the last book you're ever going to write?) This one took me a minute to answer, but I finally said, I hope I get to publish a book every year or two until I can't, so let's say 20, that sounds like a lot!

Q: Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A: I usually start by laying out ideas by hand with paper and pencil in a journal, but I do the writing on the computer. I revise though, on paper, by hand. So a combination of both.

Q: Do you deliberately put cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, or does that just happen?
A: (LOL) Yes! As a copywriter (which I explain during my presentation), I learned how to get people to keep reading, to turn the pages of my letter, and to do something like buy a magazine, or a book, or give money to a good cause. So, writing kids' books is a little like that. Cliffhangers are the best way to keep you reading!

Q: Have you ever lost all your work?
A: Ouch! That's every writer's nightmare, so I can honestly say that I am really, really careful about backing up everything I do. I'm obsessive about it, so I back up my work constantly, and I've honestly never lost anything.

Q: Are you a fast typist?
Yep! Back in the old days, when I used a typewriter (imagine that), I used to jam the keys because I typed faster than the machine could keep up. Nowadays, when I'm typing, people come into my office any say, you aren't really typing that fast! But I am. (Last time I tested my speed, I was around 100 words a minute, but it might be more).

Q: What word processing program do you use?
A: Microsoft word has always been my standard.

Q: What do you think was the scariest part of Myles and the Monster Outside?
A: I really liked the scene in the diner, because that's just what it's like to drive all night. You stop in weird places, everyone seems a little off, and the story really moves along in that scene.

Tumble Chickens!
Q: What was the message you wanted us to take from Myles and the Monster Outside?
A: Well, the story is really about anxiety. Myles is an anxious boy, a little like me when I was a kid. So I want my readers to realize that although Myles is anxious and his imagination can get the better of him (so he sees the monster), his imagination is also a wonderful thing, and he can use it to be brave too, and see the dog, see Courage.

Q: What stage of writing a book do you like the most?
A: I think it's the very beginning, when I'm just starting a new story, and it's full of possibilities, and I haven't made any mistakes with it yet, and the ideas are fresh and new and exciting, and I can take the story anywhere.

There were so many more great questions, I had a really great time. Thanks for having me, and keep reading everyone!

A few other blog posts about school visits:

10 Oddest Questions I've been asked at Readings
When Our Villains Come to Life
What's the Last Book You're Ever Going to Write?

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