Dan Gutman is the author of the My Weird School series, the baseball card adventure series, and many other books for young people such asThe Kid Who Ran For President, The Homework Machine, and The Million Dollar Shot. Dan lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey with his wife Nina and their two children. You can find out more about Dan and his books at www.dangutman.com.
The Genius Files
Coke and Pepsi McDonald are a pair of 13-year-old twins who are traveling cross-country in an RV with their parents over summer vacation while a bunch of lunatic bad guys are trying to kill them..
Questions Regarding The Genius Files for Dan Gutman:
How did you get started writing?
I never took a writing class in my life. I studied psychology in college, and even went to graduate school for two years before I decided that it wasn't for me. I wanted to move to New York and become a starving writer. So I did. I tried writing newspaper articles, magazine articles, screenplays, and non-fiction for adults before it ever occurred to me to try writing for kids.
How did you get your first book published?
I was working as an editor for a video games magazine in 1984. My managing editor Shay Addams and I sold Simon & Schuster on the idea of making a book about the greatest video and computer games of all time. That was my first book--"The Greatest Games."
What do you like best about being an author?
The freedom--to work at home, to write what I want, to go on vacation when I want, to not have a boss, and to dress like a slob. Also, I love the emails I get from parents, teachers, and librarians telling me about the kids who read my books and get turned on to reading.
You write a lot about sports and you write a lot of Weird School Series books. Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from all different places: reading newspapers, watching TV, listening to the radio, listening to my own kids talk, and my own childhood. Sometimes I just make crazy stuff up.
What process do you follow to write a book?
First I try to come up with a "big idea." Like, I try to take an ordinary kid and put that kid into an extraordinary situation. A kid runs for president of the United States ("The Kid Who Ran For President"). A kid gets the chance to take one foul shot for a million dollars ("The Million Dollar Shot"). A kid finds the most valuable baseball card in the world and discovers he has the power to travel through time with it ("Honus & Me"). These are the kinds of stories I think kids can fantasize about. Then I start to brainstorm about the story, jotting down any good ideas (and sometimes bad ones) on file cards. Then I juggle the file cards around until I can shape those ideas into a story. That's my outline. Finally, I sit down and start to write it.
Once creating a great opening and grabbing the reader, how do you keep the story going in the middle?
If I have outlined my story well with my file cards, it's not a problem. If I get stuck in the middle, I try to throw some kind of an obstacle in the path of my main character to make the story more interesting and give that character more depth.
Do you know the ending of your story before you start?
Yes. Sometimes the ending comes FIRST. In my book "The Homework Machine," I knew from the very start that it was going to end (spoiler alert!) with the kids destroying the homework machine. Once I decided to have them catapult it into the Grand Canyon, the rest of the story fell into place.
What is your favorite quote?
"And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make."
What is the best advice you have for aspiring young writers?
Don't try to imitate another author. Pretend you're having a conversation with a reader. Be curious. Learn the rules of writing...and then break them. And go to www.dangutman.com and click TIPS FOR YOUNG AUTHORS.