Interview | MG Author Chris Grabenstein

In the past few months I’ve discovered an author that’s been around awhile, but that I’ve only just discovered. Since then, I’ve read multiple books by this middle grade author and can honestly say that he is my new favorite author.

Chris Grabenstein is a funny, interesting, and intelligent author from Buffalo, New York. He co-writes the I FUNNY, HOUSE OF ROBOTS, TREASURE HUNTERS, and JACKY HA-HA books with James Patterson, as well as writing many of his own, fabulous, works. My current favorite is a three way tie between Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, and Dr. Libris Library. You can find Mr. Grabenstein at Goodreads and at chrisgrabenstein.com.

I caught up with Chris this past week and he very kindly answered a few questions for me to pass along to you. So, without further ado, here is Author Chris Grabensteins Interview.

1) I stalked your Goodreads page and saw that Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was inspired by a library in New York and that a 5th grader made the comment that got the ball rolling for Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, which are both amazing, but who did you base the characters on? And are YOU MR. Lemoncello?
The characters come from various sources.  Kyle Keeley, who is the third son in his family, is based on my memories of being the third son in my family.  The only time I could ever beat my big brothers was when we played board games.  Sierra Russell is based on every bookworm I’ve met on my numerous school visits (and seems to be a character that resonates with a lot of young readers and older ones, too!)  Miguel Fernandez is based on (and named after) a fifth grader I tutored at my church’s Homework Help program.   And, yes, Mr. Lemoncello is sort of based on me and also the late Jim Henson, whom I worked for back in the 1980s.   The wackiness comes from me.  The unbridled creativity coupled with a bajillion dollars comes from Mr. Henson.
I, like many of us, adore the late Jim Henson. This makes me love Lemoncello even more (which I didn’t know was possible)
2) Welcome to Wonderland, Home Sweet Motel is coming out October of 2016 and (on your website) features Roadside Americana. Was it a piece of that roadside Americana that prompted and inspired this story? If so, what piece started the journey?
WONDERLAND is based on my memories of visiting my grandmother every summer in St. Petersburg, Florida.  We’d pack up the car and hit the road, stopping at places like South Of The Border and Weeki Wachee Springs (mermaid shows!).   While staying at an extended stay motel in Michigan, helping my wife take care of her father, I remembered how much I used to LOVE staying in a motel when I was a kid.  Swimming pools!  Snack vending machines!  Toilets sanitized for my protection.   So, I wondered, what if I was a kid who LIVED in a motel!
I feel a road trip coming on!
3) You’ve written books across the age levels, is there any difference in your writing process when those age levels and genres change?
When writing for ages 8-12, I have to watch my language.  No, not that way (even though I do).  I have to be more aware of the vocabulary I am using and, if I use a word that may not be in a fifth graders lexicon, put it into a context where the meaning can be understood.  I also write for short attention spans because I have one, too, and get bored easily in the long descriptive paragraphs that most readers tend to skip anyway.
4) What IS your writing process? (I, personally, tend to be a pantser. Do you outline, meticulously write note cards, or just let the words flow?)
When I was writing one, maybe two, books a year I was definitely a pantser.   Now, as I attempt to write or coauthor 5-6 books every twelve months, I craft a very tight outline with all the major beats, twists, turns, etc. planted.  I find that my working on the outline for a week or two, I save a month or two one the back end with rewrites.
Maybe I should start working on finding the right kind of outline again…I gave up that search awhile ago but…saves a month or two on rewrites!
5) Do you have any superstitions or traditions that help you get more writing done and, if so, do those change depending on the story, age level, or genre?
No real superstitions.  Just a very boring, self-disciplined work ethic.
6) I’ve seen you give the advice to ‘write, write, write…’ and ‘give yourself permission to write a bad first draft.’ Do you have any other advice you’d like to give to aspiring (or already there) authors?
Follow Elmore Leonard’s TEN RULES FOR GOOD WRITING
Especially the last bit of advice:  “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
7) Do you read Indie and/or self-published authors? What advice would you give them?
I must admit that I don’t have much experience with self-published books.  I have self-published a few e-titles of my own and have great respect for those who can make it work for them.  I don’t have the marketing/promotional energy to do it correctly.
He’s not kidding! I am a totally indie author at the moment and I never have that energy!
8) What books are on your reading pile right now?
Edward Eager’s KNIGHT’S CASTLE, HAMILTON, and UNDERGROUND AIRLINES.
Look, even Chris Grabenstein is reading Hamilton, I need to jump on that bandwagon.
9) Finally, in Dr. Libris the protagonist(s) find an island on a lake where story characters come to life. What character(s) would you most like to have come to life to spend a day with you? (yours and/or someone else’s)
Mr. Lemoncello. So he can tell me what happens next.
a) that means we’ll possibly be getting a 4th Lemoncello book (the 3rd is coming soon!)
b) he’d be on the top of my list too, along with Gandalf. I want to see Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Lemoncello hanging out.
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