I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of ALISTAIR GRIM'S ODDITORIUM by Gregory Funaro. What a truly imaginative adventure, from start to finish. I was equally as delighted to talk to the author...
I I I love to hear about an author’s inspiration. Where did the idea for ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODDITORIUM come from?
The inspiration for ODDITORIUM came from the birth of my daughter—but I didn’t see it as a children’s book at first. In the original premise, Nigel (Mr. Grim’s right hand man) was going to be the focus of a story about Frankenstein’s monster being reunited with his long lost daughter. That idea rolled around in my head until the following summer, and by the time I started ODDITORIUM, the monster’s daughter had somehow become Grubb and the focus was on his journey with Alistair Grim. Nigel and his daughter’s story still exists in the book, but it’s one of the subplots.
2. What’s your writing process? Plotter or pantser?
Funny, I had never heard of the term “pantser” until fairly recently. I think I’m a combination of both. I give myself a general idea of where the story needs to go, but at the same time give myself plenty of room to make things up as I go along.
3. How do you write a series—all at once, then divide it up? Or do you finish one, start another? How do you pace it? Do you ever feel you need to remind readers what happened in book one as you write book two?
I originally envisioned the series as a trilogy, so I had a pretty clear idea of what needed to happen in each book. However, in the first draft of ODDITORIUM, I crammed in too much toward the end. Fortunately, I had a great editorial team at Disney-Hyperion who really helped me cut and postpone major plot points until the next installment. The pacing in the second book was challenging at times because, yes, the reader needs to be reminded of why things are the way they are. Keeping the voice and the characters’ personalities consistent, as well as making sure there are no plot holes, offer certain challenges, too.
4. What’s your best piece of advice for penning a series?
Have an idea, even a vague one, of what you want to happen at the beginning and the end. Everything then in the middle can be up for grabs, as long as you keep heading in the right direction. Most important, I think, is to write each book as a complete work in and of itself, while at the same time hinting that there is more to come.
5. When you began to envision the Odditorium, was it a place you would choose to spend your own childhood?
Probably not. Grubb is much braver and more resourceful than I ever was.
6. I love the saying early in the book: “A blunder in the gloom leads a lad to daylight or to doom.” Do you find yourself “blundering” about—writing early drafts—at night? If not, how do you work writing into your daily schedule?
Given that I am also a full-time professor and father, I write when I can—usually beginning at 3:30-4am until my daughter wakes for school, and then picking up bits here and there during the day. My goal is to write one thousand words before she goes to bed, but lately I’ve been falling short of that.
7. I found Grubb to be an engaging character. How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Have you ever put a person from your own life into one of your books?
I think every character that I write is a product of my experience, real-life or imagined, but I’ve never purposefully modeled a character after myself or anyone else. However, I suppose I see bits of me in Mr. Grim and Nigel. Maybe also Cleona and Lorcan Dalach from Book 2.
8. The language and descriptions are so right-on for the middle grade set. How do you connect with the readership in order to stay relevant?
I just write stories that I would have liked to read as a middle grader. It never ceases to amaze me how bright and insightful middle graders are, so I am conscious of keeping the language both accessible and challenging.
9. What can we expect to be reading from you next?
Book 2 in the series, ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODD AQUATICUM, comes out in January of 2016! Needless to say, I’ll be on pins and needles until then…
Greg Fuanro can currently be found teaching drama at East Carolina University and directing a play by Lynn Nottage called Las Meninas. According to Funaro, "The play takes place in the court of Louis XIV, and is about an illicit love affair between Queen Marie Therese and her African servant, Nabo Sensugali--a dwarf from Dahomey. Brilliantly written, funny, moving and downright surreal at times, the play has been a joy to work on" He can also be reached at http://www.gregoryfunaro.com/