For any questions specifically about The Golden Hour series you might want to check out the section heading "About the Books."
Lots of places. I've found a treasure trove of material from my own past, stories from other people's pasts, newspaper and magazine articles, overheard conversations, an arresting image, an interesting face, a peculiar phrase. When I do get an idea I like to roll it around in my head for a good long while before I start working on it, just so I know it's worth pursuing. Sometimes I'll juggle an idea around for years. Sometimes one idea bumps into another and creates a new idea, kind of like nuclear fusion. I can literally feel a little explosion happening. Perhaps that's what causes headaches, I don't know, but I'm convinced that when it does happen, if you look closely enough, you'll see little puffs of smoke coming out of my ears.
sually I take my dog for a walk. I find that I get ideas when I'm in motion, either out with my dog, or driving. Also, playing music that is associated with what I'm writing about tends to help. I've played Western themes when writing a screenplay about the west, played love songs when writing love scenes and the like. For the Golden Hour I played a lot of Mozart and other classical composers from that time period. And my dog got a lot of exercise.
I like both. Writing for television is a group activity. It's collaborative. Whatever you write is usually re-written, and then it's interpreted by actors and directors. It's fun to be involved in a group project like that, especially when it is comedy and you are around funny people. Writing a novel is a more intense, personal experience. You have to be very disciplined. It can also be a little lonely. But the final product is much more satisfying, on a personal level.
At my home. I write the outline on my porch outside or in my library, then when I'm ready I compose at my computer, which is in my bedroom.
When I was writing The Golden Hour I wasn't working on a television show. Ideally I get up, walk the dog, take my kids to school, read the paper, make myself a cup of tea and then work until lunch, that is, from about 9:30 to 12:30. After lunch I either do research or plan what I'm going to write the next day. I always try to end on something exciting so that when I start the next day I can dive right in. Then I pick up my kids from school and goof around with them for the rest of the day.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Homer Price and Centerburg Tales by Robert McCloskey, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. Watership Down and The Once and Future King, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I've also become a recent fan of Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and Louis Sachar's Wayside School series.
Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens. Many teachers; my fourth grade Teacher Ms. Schacher, My ninth grade English teacher Mr. Metcalf, my favorite history teacher, Mr. Teel. My father, who is a scientist, is a very organized writer, and I've tried to emulate that.
You have to read a lot and you have to write a lot. Don't be afraid to revise. Be ruthless. The key to good writing is in the revision. Economy of words is a must.
Not at first. I started out trying to write the great American novel. It would be for adults. It would be simplistic in style and yet profound in meaning. It would be poignant yet brutal. It would be humorous, but deadly serious. Well that book had already been written. It's called Huckleberry Finn, and I highly recommend it. Finally I realized the truth...I just don't have anything to say to adults. First of all, I barely think of myself as an adult. I feel like a fraud trying to write for them. But I do think I have something valuable to say to children.
I simply like the audience. Children between age nine and fourteen are old enough to follow a complex storyline, but not so old that they've grown jaded or cynical, and also not so old that they're distracted by the opposite sex. Kids that age still believe magic can happen, and they should, because at that age a kind of magic does happen. A good book puts them under a spell; the book becomes part of them and directs their thoughts and actions for years to come. These books become like old friends to a kid. They are revisited many times.
I remember my own experiences reading such books, and because I am vain I can only imagine that everyone has had the same experience I had. When I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I read it several times, I would buy a fancy candy bar, sit down with the book and start. When I got to the part where Charlie Bucket carefully peeled back the wrapper of his Wonka bar, I started peeling back the paper on mine. Logically I knew I wasn't going to find anything, and yet still in the back of my mind I could convince myself that maybe I had just missed the announcement...maybe there was a golden ticket contest and maybe I could win a chocolate factory. Of course I was disappointed, but like Charlie I would gobble the bar with relish as I read the words describing his euphoria when eating the chocolate. My copy of the book, covered in chocolate smudges, is testament to the fact that it was read and re-read several times.
When I read The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I started looking for good places to hide whenever I went into a museum. When I read Harriet the Spy, I started walking around with a notebook, taking copious notes on my family and friends. I still do it, only now I call it "research."
Yes. Both mediums require concise, simple expression. You have to get a lot done in only a few pages. Good characters are everything. Storylines have to keep moving, have unexpected twists, a mixture of drama and humor. They need to have memorable moments. Both need to be visually written, with tangible elements. You can't stay inside a character's head...things need to happen.
That depends on what mood I'm in. Ancient Alexandria, Egypt has always fascinated me as a multi cultural, cosmopolitan center of intellectualism, beauty and commerce. Renaissance Italy is also a favorite time. But I'd have to say that as a writer of color I'd probably head straight for New York and Paris in the 1920's during the Harlem Renaissance. I'd go to hear Duke Ellington lead his band, I'd hang out with Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Du Bois. Then I'd sneak into the Algonquin Hotel so that I could listen to the wits of the Round Table. After that I'd buy a drink for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Then on to Paris to hear more hot Jazz!
I have several. First and foremost I want to write a rollicking, fun adventure series for middle grade readers. If I haven't done that, then I've failed. The intention of the books is to entertain; anything else is a bonus.
Second, I want to make history come alive for my readers. It is distressing to me when I hear children (or anyone for that matter) say that history is boring. How can it be boring? It is the story of our lives, informing everything we do now and everything we ever will do. Unfortunately this is not how it is taught in schools. I've seen history textbooks, and they are extraordinarily boring. By including details about how it felt to live in the past I hope to make it more relatable to the reader, so they can imagine what it would feel like if they were the ones in the alleviators traveling back in time.
Third, one of my goals as a writer has been to write about characters of color in fun adventures. When I was a kid I read a lot of books, and my favorite genres were the "fun" genres; mysteries, adventure, science fiction, fantasy. One thing I noticed was that the protagonists were always white. If the protagonist was black, you could be sure the story was going to be about racism. Either that, or it was a folk tale. After awhile I began to find this irritating. The subtle message I was getting was that white kids are allowed to have wonderful, fantastic, fun adventures, while the only thing black kids can do is suffer and battle oppression. Now there are many, many fine books about racism, but I wouldn't exactly call them "fun," and so I ended up avoiding the books that were deemed "black literature."
So my goal was to show characters of all hues and cultures engaged in exciting adventures, without racism being the driving point of the story. This desire has actually posed it's own challenge; when researching the various historical events I have to dig deep to find information about what minorities were doing at that time, how they were being perceived by the dominant culture, what they wore and ate, where they lived and so forth. This extra level of research has produced some fascinating information which I am pleased to include in the books. I've learned a lot as well!
I think The Golden Hour would make a wonderful movie, however I would want to have some control over the project. Having worked in the entertainment industry for some time, I have seen wonderful books become horrible movies. I've also seen some books become very good movies. It's more important to me to have the project done well then to make a quick buck.
Yes. And I can't wait to start writing them. I'd like to give the Golden Hour Series a good launching before I write something else, though, so for the time being they will have to wait.