AUGUST 13, 2008


Michael Grant - Co-Author of AnimorphsMichael Grant, author of Gone, recently took the time to chat with me — he called me on the phone, all the way from Italy, which was incredibly kind on his part. Michael has written about a million books under various pseudonyms, so he has a lot of great insight on all things literary and on many that are not. (I must add that he was really super-fun to talk with, and if he didn’t live in Tuscany, I’d kidnap him for weekly interviews.) And now, for your reading pleasure, I present: Twenty Questions with Michael Grant …

Question One

Me: What gave you the idea for Gone?
Michael: I was working on an adult science fiction concept called Guns and Dragons, and that idea mutated and became something completely different.

Question Two

Michael: What do you like to drink?
Me: I am addicted to coffee and Coke (-a-Cola), and I’m embarrassed to admit that I drink about a half gallon of Poland Springs spring water every day. (Note: Michael says water is a good thing, even bottled water, and Coke is bad, of the cola variety or not.)

Question Three

Me: What was the original idea for Guns and Dragons?
Michael: That is going to probably have to remain a trade secret because I may still sell the concept, but I’ve always been fascinated by the concept that the laws of the universe are ultimately just like software, that they can be hacked, re-written, altered.

Question Four

Michael: How’d you end up in New York?
Me: I was an army brat, and then after my dad retired, he went to seminary and became a minister, and the church that hired him when he finished seminary was in Westchester County, right outside of New York City.

Question Five

Me: There’s a hint of religious metaphor in Gone, an idea of a last reckoning with God, and in my original review, I compared the events to the evangelical Christian idea of the Rapture. What are your own religious ideas?
Michael: I am non-believer with a background in both Judaism and Christianity; I’m an atheist but not in any way hostile to religion, and I frequently incorporate religious characters and religious themes and wherever possible I’ll steal from the Bible or from Shakespeare or from re-runs of Star Trek.

Question Six

Michael: What do you do in New York? What do you do for a living, because God knows blogging doesn’t pay.
Me: I am a true starving artist, finishing up — or maybe I should just say working on — my own book, and maintaining this blog.

Question Seven

Me: Why do you write under a pseudonym?
Michael: Because I have also written for and about politics at different times in my life and in fact for awhile produced political ads for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and I realized that the two worlds are somewhat incompatible in that I don’t ever want to be preaching an agenda for readers of my fiction.

Question Eight

Michael: Tell me about your background in politics.
Me: I was very, very conservative when I was younger, and I became very, very liberal when I hit college, and from the time I was thirteen I was working on political campaigns, but I gave it all up when I was about eighteen because in all those years I had only ever met one politician who genuinely meant everything he said.

Question Nine

Me: What’s up with the family move to Tuscany?
Michael: My wife and I have both moved a lot in our lives — I was an army brat, she was a corporate IBM kid — when you move around a lot you learn to embrace it, so we embraced it and we were bored with every other option we came up with, and our kids were brats and we didn’t think that the French would put up with them. (Michael elaborated, saying the French really don’t put up with the brattiness of American kids. Hmm.)

Question Ten

Michael: What are you writing, and tell me about it?
Me: My current book is called The Worms in My Brain, and it is a memoir about surviving abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety; although the topics are really heavy, I’m trying to approach it all with a sense of humor, which I think is vital to survival.

Question Eleven

Me: What can you tell us about Gone 2?
Michael: Right now it’s titled Sacrifice; it started out being titled Hunger — it’s very dark and very long, and I just about fifteen minutes ago heard from my editor that the second draft is great and I still need to rewrite parts of the end, which hopefully I can turn around quickly because everybody is very impatient with me right now.

Question Twelve

Michael: When you think about succeeding as a writer, which is the moment that you daydream about?
Me: It’s really weird, but I daydream a lot about my acknowledgments page, where I think of all the people I’d want to thank and maybe a couple of people I’d like to insult.

Question Thirteen

Me: What are your all-time, desert island, top five favorite books?
Michael: They wouldn’t necessarily be my favorite books, but the books I’d take with me on a desert island, first of all Lord of the Rings, and I know that’s a cliche answer, but Lord of the Rings is the reason I’m a writer, and then everything by Patrick O’Brien, who wrote seafaring novels — they say he’s the Jane Austen for guys — and I love Brill Bryson, who’s a travel writer, because he makes me laugh enough to spit up beer, and of course my personal God in the writing business is Stephen King because he’s faster and more prolific than I am, and I write fast.

Question Fourteen

Michael: Do you lie awake nights imagining the moment when you get the call from the editor that says, “You’re in”?
Me: Not really, because … a lot mumbling under my breath … I’m more concerned at this point about technicalities of things like representation, or lawyers, or paperwork, and also about actually finishing my book.

Question Fifteen

Me: What’s next on your plate?
Michael: I’ve got to write Gone 3, and it’s six book contract. I need to be writing it, like, tomorrow. I’ve got roughly about 2500 pages left to write of Gone, assuming we go through all six books.

Question Sixteen

Michael: When you talk to writers, when you interview writers, do you have the general impression that they are being forthright with you, or are they shady?
Me: You know, out of all the sorts of people I’ve interviewed — from politicians to religious leaders to museum executives to teachers — I’ve found that writers, especially young adult writers, are the most forthcoming and the most palatable.

Question Seventeen

Me: How many books do you think you’ve written, total, under all your pseudonyms?
Michael: The number we usually cite is about 150 books, and this is my wife and I writing together most of them until recently, and we don’t write together now because we retired for awhile, and we realized when we don’t write together we hit each other much less frequently with frying pans.

Question Eighteen

Michael: Here’s a softball for you: How’s the website going?
Me: It’s turned into a lot more work than I originally thought it would be, which means any at all, but I’m enjoying it and getting some good responses, although I would love for more readers to flock over and stay and discuss, and right now my biggest problem is that I don’t know exactly how to lure people in — I think it’s going to have to involve free stuff.

Question Nineteen

Me: What would you like to say to our readers?
Michael: To anybody to buys a YA book: Every YA author appreciates all of you more than you can imagine, and it’s not just about getting paid; it’s about the fact that the writing is an extremely solitary occupation which creates a lot of insecurity in a writer, and as you’re typing away on your book, you’re not quite sure it’s ever going to mean anything, and you’re typing into the void, and then you get a reader, and everything makes sense, and you’re not just some fool who was daydreaming, you’re a writer, because somebody out there was a reader.

Question Twenty

Michael: What do you think of Harry Potter?
Me: Ohhhhhh. I adored Harry Potter. I worshipped Harry Potter. I thought about book seven constantly from the day book six came out until the very sad day that book seven was released, and then I realized that JK Rowling had not written the book I’d come to expect. I was so sad. The epilogue is what really killed me, and I’d like to go into bookstores and tear that last section out of every copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.



Link: http://www.yanewyork.com/2008/08/twenty-questions-with-michael-grant/

Thanks to Dan for the article and the link.


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