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Meeting Kurt Vonnegut, Neil Gaiman Influence ElsBeth’s Authors

How did you get started writing?

Chris: I have always written, since grade school, particularly poetry, and was often asked by schoolmates to edit or write things for them. When I was fifteen a student asked if I’d write a poem for an assignment he had. It was selected and published in the school literary magazine under his name, which was fine with me. I still like the poem.

J Bean: Like Chris I began in grade school, but in high school ran into the dreaded grammar teacher and my mojo disappeared. Somehow I resurfaced in university only to be told by my professor that one couldn’t make any money writing. A single parent at the time with mounting bills and a wild little boy to help grow up, writing went to the far back burner. But the urge couldn’t be entirely snuffed. I came upon an unusual stretch of free time and a safe audience when my granddaughter came into my life. For her first birthday I wrote her a story. I liked it, others did, and I’ve rarely stopped wielding a pen since.

Who influenced you?

Chris: The authors I’ve read and loved and a few I’ve met: Terry Pratchett (read), Neil Gaiman (read and met), Kurt Vonnegut (read and met), John Irving (read), and most recently Jonathan Franzen (read). I knew Neil as a young man in England, before he began his writing career in earnest, and his brightness and humor impressed me even then. Before that, in the late ‘60’s, I spent some of my summers at the Vonnegut home on Cape Cod, which influenced me greatly; it was a coming of age for me to a world of ideas and I became much more alive.

J Bean: It is hard to be unaffected by William Shakespeare. Each phrase is so evocative, and I find it inspiring that writing touched by the gods lives in our hearts and minds generation after generation.

Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?

Chris: In our genre I very much like Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, particularly A Hat Full of Sky and The Wee Free Men. Also, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I also love Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce character in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. As a subject I’m fascinated by the spirit in man and in nature, and I love New England and “the old country,” about which we write in ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties.

J Bean: I’m in love with adventure that tackles the “Big Questions.” Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, I’m with you every step.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?

Chris: I would say write and read a lot and avoid studying too much about how to write before you’ve written enough to fall in love with writing (except, perhaps, Stephen King’s On Writing, which I think of as his love story about writing). Some authorities can expertly tell you why writing is hard and there is so much to learn and you won't be successful anyway. But if you come to love writing before you work too hard at getting better, you’ll be getting better as you write anyway. There’s lots to know, I’m sure, but I’d advise not gorging on what you don’t know until you enjoy some of the fruits of your labor, which are entirely knowable.

J Bean: Read. I’m tempted to make that the answer, but it isn’t really complete. I would advise any aspiring author to completely indulge in the joy of creating a work of their imagination to share with others as a gift. Many people will accept the gift and appreciate the writing. Some will not. Focus on sharing with those who do. As to the others, learn what you can from any positive feedback, but never lose sight of what you love in your work.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Chris: Overlooking the river that borders our backyard. J Bean: I like to write in either noisy coffee houses or completely quiet places. I have to be close to nature or lots of people, one or the other. Don’t ask me why.

What else would you like to tell us?

J Bean: There is no better reward for writing than seeing a young person’s shiny face as they read your work. Priceless!

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