Saturday, May 4, 2013

GUEST POST WITH GEOFF RODKEY, AUTHOR OF CHRONICLES OF THE EGG

I'm thrilled to welcome Geoff Rodkey, a successful screenwriter (Rodkey penned DADDY DAY CARE, RV, and the Disney Channel's GOOD LUCK CHARLIE, IT'S CHRISTMAS).  His first MG, CHRONICLES OF THE EGG, has released, and it's such a fun ride, filled with humor and adventure.  Not unlike the author himself...



Your author bio states that someone once wanted to kill you when you were a teenager!  I’ve gotta ask for the story behind that…

It doesn't reflect well on me. But here goes: back in high school, I dated a girl, off and on, over a couple of years. During an off period, I asked her little sister to the Homecoming dance. 
I realize now this was a very bad idea. 

The ironic thing is that, thanks to Facebook, I'm still in touch with both sisters -- and after the book came out with that line in my author bio, the little sister sent me a message to say her son loved the book…and that she figured the person who wanted to kill me was our high school German teacher... Right?
I had to explain that, no, it was actually her older sister. So that was a little awkward.
Was being 13 tough in other ways (besides that whole threat on your life thing)?
Being thirteen was awful. Junior high school was among the most miserable couple years of my life. But that which does not kill you makes you stronger, and I was able to mine a lot of that unpleasantness--in particular, the hopeless crushes on girls and the stomach-clenching fear of running for your life from some older kid who's going to beat you senseless if he catches you--for the Chronicles of Egg series. I didn't have the same experiences as Egg does, but I felt a lot of the same emotions.

Where’d you learn to speak pirate?  College?  (I took Latin—Pirate est way moreus funus.)

I took some Latin, too! It was great, at least as far as improving my SAT verbal score. 
The pirate-speak I made up. It's basically normal-speak, except that "for" is "fer," "your" is "yer," "what" is "wot," and you cut the "g"'s off the end of any word that uses them. So, for example:
"Thanks fer askin'! Wot's yer next question?"
You’re also a screenwriter—do you prefer telling a story in screenplay form or in book form?  What was the biggest surprise to you when you switched formats?
Books are much more satisfying, because you're in complete control of your story's universe, and what you write is actually what the audience experiences. Screenplays, on the other hand, are blueprints for a story that doesn't really exist until someone makes it into a movie, which involves literally hundreds of people, all of them making creative decisions in which you don't have any input. Also, given the way the movie business works, if you're the original writer of a script, you'll probably get replaced by other writers long before the movie's ever made…so in the end, it's possible to receive credit (and occasionally even sole credit) for a movie that was written by other people, sometimes to an unrecognizable degree. That can be frustrating.
The biggest surprises when I switched formats were A) that I could actually write a book; B) that I enjoyed it much more than writing screenplays; and C) how ridiculously long it takes to write a whole book. With a screenplay, you can sort of put your head down and plow through a first draft in a couple of weeks. With a novel, if you put your head down and plow through for a couple of weeks, when you look up again, you're still months away from the finish line. It's grueling.
Why MG for your first book?

The story basically dictated it. I had an idea that involved pirates, adventure, a lot of comedy, and a 13-year-old main character--which didn't sound like the kind of book that gets marketed to adults, regardless of its quality. But I thought I was writing YA-- I wasn't really aware that there was a difference between young adult and middle grade until after I wrote the book and started sending it to agents.
One of the first things that drew me straight into your book was the humor.  It’s a skill I thoroughly admire, considering how much of humor really depends on timing—and timing isn’t exactly easy to translate onto the page.  Is humor writing completely natural for you?  Do you think humor writing is a skill that can be learned?
Humor writing is natural to the extent that it's the first thing I wrote when I started writing for an audience via my high school newspaper, and most of what I've written in the 25 years since then has been comedy. But like anything else, it took years and years of practice to fully develop it into a skill. 
I do think you need a sense of humor to write comedy, and that's something you can't learn--you either have it or you don't. But while it's necessary, it isn't sufficient--even if you have a talent for it, you still have to work very, very hard in order to turn that talent into something good.
Was it tough to talk about humor writing with your editor?  Were there ever instances / passages that just didn’t tickle your editor’s funny bone?  How’d you deal with that?

My editor, Jen Besser, has a great sense of humor, which may be why she liked the series enough to buy it in the first place. Offhand, I can't remember her ever telling me something wasn't funny. But I trust her, so if she said that, I'd listen.
Percentage-wise, how much of the writing of this story was a struggle and how much was pure fun?  How did you get through the struggle?
The first book, Deadweather and Sunrise, was mostly just fun. That may be because I had years to think about the story before I put it on paper, and no one except me knew I was writing it--so there wasn't any pressure involved if I screwed it up.
Figuring out what was going to happen in New Lands and Blue Sea Burning was more of a challenge. I had a rough idea of what was in them when I sold the first book, but once I realized I actually had to write the sequels, it took probably four months of sitting and staring at a wall before I felt confident that I wasn't going to botch it.

How long did it take you to write Egg’s story?
I thought about Deadweather and Sunrise off and on for two years before I started writing it. The first draft took about six months. After I got an agent, I spent a few weeks rewriting it before it went out to publishers. Then there was a couple of months' worth of rewriting based on my new editor's notes. Then there was the four months of figuring out what was in New Lands and Blue Sea Burning, followed by six months of writing New Lands, then three months of rewriting it, then another five or six months of writing the first draft of Blue Sea Burning, which is where I'm at now. And in between all of those drafts were periods of as much as three or four months when I was working on other things or doing marketing for the books. All in, I guess it's been a little under three years of full-time work, spread out over four or five years.
What techniques did you use to plot and pace a story that arcs over the course of more than one book?
I wish I had a smart answer for this. A lot of it was just muddling through, although I've done enough screenwriting that story structure is burned pretty deeply into my synapses--I'm very conscious of things like keeping the plot moving, building toward both big and little climaxes, and varying sequences so that moments of heavy action are followed by lighter/quieter moments (and vice versa).
Having pirates in your novel allows for some crazy character building!  How’d you do it—did you rely on people you’ve met, or did you let your imagination just run wild?
Most of it was just made up. There's a little of me in Egg, and some of Millicent was borrowed from a girl I had a debilitating crush on in high school. Other than that, I have no idea where anybody came from. Guts just showed up one day, and so did Burn Healy.

What do you hope is the takeaway for young readers?

I tried to write a book that has a little bit of everything--humor, adventure, mystery, relationships both good and bad, conflicts on every scale from warring countries to bickering siblings--along with characters who you believe in and care about as people. And I sincerely think that what resulted is about as much fun as you can have between two covers of a book. Hopefully, readers will respond to it whether they're ten years old, or twelve, or fourteen, or fifty. 

Once THE CHRONICLES OF EGG runs its course, what will you do next?

I have ideas for a couple of different middle grade series, a YA novel, a book of historical fiction for adults, and some television and film ideas as well. I'll probably end up doing another middle grade series next, but I'm honestly not sure--I'm in that slightly scary in-between phase.

I can’t conclude without asking: What’s your favorite way to fix your eggs, anyway?

I used to prefer omelets. Then I developed a taste for eggs sunny side up over toast…right around the time my doctor told me my cholesterol was too high. So while that's still my favorite way, these days I'm mostly stuck with egg whites. Which unfortunately just aren't a lot of fun no matter how you dress them up. So I guess my best answer at the moment is "turkey sausage."
Keep up with the latest Geoff Rodkey news by vising his website.  And don't forget to snag a copy of CHRONICLES OF THE EGG and NEW LANDS.


 

CHRONICLES OF THE EGG:

A stunning middle-grade debut--full of heart, humor, and nonstop action.
It's tough to be thirteen, especially when somebody's trying to kill you.

Not that Egg's life was ever easy, growing up on sweaty, pirate-infested Deadweather Island with no company except an incompetent tutor and a pair of unusually violent siblings who hate his guts.

But when Egg's father hustles their family off on a mysterious errand to fabulously wealthy Sunrise Island, then disappears with the siblings in a freak accident, Egg finds himself a long-term guest at the mansion of the glamorous Pembroke family and their beautiful, sharp-tongued daughter Millicent. Finally, life seems perfect.

Until someone tries to throw him off a cliff.

Suddenly, Egg's running for his life in a bewildering world of cutthroat pirates, villainous businessmen, and strange Native legends. The only people who can help him sort out the mystery of why he's been marked for death are Millicent and a one-handed, possibly deranged cabin boy.

Come along for the ride. You'll be glad you did.
 
 


NEW LANDS:

This highly anticipated sequel to Rodkey's much-praised debut is funny, heartfelt, and action-packed. Don't miss it! 

After a narrow escape from Deadweather Island, Egg and his slightly deranged partner Guts head for the remote New Lands. They’re in search of the lost Okalu tribe, who hold the key to the mysterious treasure map that Egg can't decipher.

But the ruthless Roger Pembroke is hard on Egg's trail, and the New Lands are full of new enemies — against which our heroes' only weapons are their brains, their courage...and the two dozen swear words Guts just memorized in the local tongue.

They're going to need help.

But who can they trust?

Is Kira, the beautiful and heavily armed Okalu refugee, their ally…or their enemy? Is Pembroke's daughter Millicent on Egg's side…or her father's? Why on earth is the notorious pirate Burn Healy being so nice to them? And the biggest question of all: what shocking secret is Egg about to discover in the shadow of an ancient Okalu temple?





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