Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It was called The Fabulous Flight, by Robert Lawson about a boy who fell out of a tree and scrambled his atoms so that he shrunk to the size of a mouse. He found that as he got smaller, he could talk to the animals. His father made him a saddle for a pigeon and he organized an air and land raid on his mother's garden party with squirrels, pigeons, field mice and ferrets. It is out of print and published in the 1950's. I read it in the third grade and it stays with me to this very day.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up outside of Schenectady NY. A boomer in the era of suburban life. My parents were from the city and did their best to live in an area outside of their income level so I would have a good education. I did and went to school with many kids who's parents were engineers, scientists and business people. My parents had very little education and did their best to give us a good one.
When did you first start writing?
I drew as a kid and read comic books and fantasy and mythology. In junior high school, I loved making up stories and repeating my favorite comedians' monologues and funny poets out loud to friends. Comedians tell tightly structured stories called jokes and I got a lot from studying them. I was a good mimic and in high school, while studying James Joyce, I was late on turning in an assignment. My teacher called me and warned me I'd get an incomplete for the course. I wrote a stream of consciousness essay on not being able to turn in my assignment on time. My English teacher thought me presumptuous but after reading it he grudgingly gave me an A.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The idea came to me when I was 11 years old. I was told by my mother that I was no-good and ruining her life. She was a very unhappy woman. I argued with myself. I'm not that bad. Okay I'm not so great, but not bad. I'm average. Then I gave myself a laugh "What if I was the MOST average person who ever lived?" that would make me exceptional. Exceptionally average. I loved the paradox. I had just read the children’s classic, “The Phantom Tollbooth,” where the very bored Milo is transported to curious encounters via a tollbooth that appears in his bedroom.
So I thought my hero could have the same kind of adventure..
“There’s this boy who meets a goat whose name is Mayor Culpa, a play on mea culpa, or my fault. He’s this scapegoat that takes the blame away from the boy who feels responsible for his parents’ unhappiness,” So with fun word play, I came up with characters just like that. Kiljoy the pessimist. Places like Accusia and The Flatterlands, etc. Lake Inferior. It was fun to think up.
It was quite the journey from concept to completion.
“I‘d told people over the next 50 years I had this concept for a book,” Schwartz said. “But then a friend at a Christmas party one year says, ‘Gary I challenge you to show me 30 pages.’ So I said, ‘Mark, you’re on.’ ”
I sat down to write him his 30 pages, but ended up with 300.
“I was thrilled that I could even write it,” he said. “But then I looked at it and said, ‘Oh, this is a mess.’ ”
So away it sat in a drawer for a couple years. He later picked it back up, thinking he still wanted to put this out in the world, but knowing it needed to be improved.
“Anyone can write a book,” he said. “But is it something somebody else wants to read?”
So I located a writing mentor online, an award-winning children’s novelist in Nova Scotia. She was very insightful, asking a lot of questions he didn’t have answers to. I committed to a lot of extra writing just to figure out the background of minor characters, so even though the extra content may not be in the book, their participation in the story made sense.
“With each rewrite — I must have done 20 or 30 — you start to appreciate what a writer does,” he said. “Within two years of very hard work, I got her something that was readable. She sent me an email: ‘Congratulations, you have a book.’ ”
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I was published by a company called Booktrope who went out of business, so I was left little choice once the book was out. I'm looking forward to the journey.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Getting so lost in the writing that time has no bearing. I love sitting down in the morning and looking up thinking, 'it's dark!' but I've had so much fun!
What do your fans mean to you?
I'm hoping my fans from my work as a children's actor and performer and video game voice guy, come to know me and themselves better through this book. I hope it helps kids who don't feel great about themselves feel better and can use me as an example.
What are you working on next?
I've written a first draft of a story called The Benji Loper Caper. We follow a pair of youngsters taken for an adventurous ride through Beverly Hills, in a limo they've rented to surprise their girlfriends, but get involved in a jewel robbery and a stolen screenplay idea by a sleazy producer and con-man. It is inspired by my days as a limo driver in Southern California while trying to be an actor. It's sort of "Get Shorty meets Ferris Beuller".
Who are your favorite authors?
Norton Juster, Roald Dahl, S.J. Perelman, Nikos Kazantzakis, JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien. Just to name a few. Not to forget Stephen King, John Grisham and James Clavell.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Making coffee for my wife who works while I write.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love teaching Improv games to anyone of any age. Adults, Kids, anybody. Teaching is my other passion.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
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