Have you ever read a book that made you think 'wow'? If so, what book was it and why did it have such an effect on you?
Shortly out of high school, while bumbling along with half-finished manuscripts and a stack of rejection letters that could have been measured with a yard stick, I found a novel at the library that grabbed me by the shoulders and refused to let go until I managed to read the thing twice before the book's return date. The story was called Fade by Robert Cormier. It's the story of a thirteen year old boy who discovers the ability to turn invisible, to fade from eyesight. At this point, Cormier's novel could have traveled along a very predictable path, a teenager with the power of invisibility starts sneaking into homes, watching ladies undress, playing pranks on his teachers and the bullies at school, the usual mixed bag associated with that particular gift. Instead, young Paul Moreaux, the boy who can fade, embarks on a course most unexpected for someone his age, seeing friends and family for whom they really are, and figuring out what kind of person he is as well. The story was so well written, with Cormier's voice as the perfect antidote to Paul's foreboding journey, that it caused me to not only re-focus my own writing practices, but to get my life together while time permitted. Life's simply too short to blindly stumble along. I'm known locally as a addict for the written word, always spotted with a book under my arm, in search of a place to rest my backside and score some reading time. Fade is the only book I've ever read more than once.
Who is your favourite author and why?
Choosing just one would probably take me a week's worth of head-scratching to decide on, and by that time I've no doubt that my list would still be a half page in length. A few writers who come to mind, depending on what genre I'm reading at the moment...John Sandford, who's Prey series has withstood the test of time, Terry Brooks, who's sci-fi novels I enjoyed as a teen, Robert Cormier, (see above :) Joe Hill, yeah, King's son definitely knows how to weave a spooky yarn, and David Wroblewski. If you haven't read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, you have my condolences :)
Who, or what, inspires you?
I knew at an early age that my best stories, the one's I'm most passionate about, are based around a middle grade to young adult audience, (although my editor insists that Charm should be shelved in the adult section at Wal-Mart. It's an ongoing controversy.) Added to it the fact that my wife and I are licensed foster parents, taking in as many as four or five troubled and often homeless kids at any one time, propels me to write what is most important: our future, and those who will someday be in charge. Telling their stories, horrors experienced through the eyes of our youth, is where inspiration can spark like an ember, and fester into a story worth reading.
Where is your favourite place to write?
It's not so much where, but more of a timing issue. I've found that when the urge to write something becomes too great to ignore, the scenery could be the shoreline at Pawly's Island, or at a cluttered work station scooted into the back corner of an aging factory. Pushing a lead pencil over crinkled tablet paper with machinery roaring overhead like mystic beasts from a Tolkien novel. And yes, I've done both. When an idea comes along, something worth remembering, the place is irrelevant. It's the "when" and the "how" that must be dealt with. If given an option however, I'd take my boring office at home, on a quiet Sunday morning, thoughts running rampant.
What is your book about?
South of Charm is the story of ten year old Danny Kaufman, a mama's boy forced into dealing with his mother's ongoing battle with paranoid schizophrenia. A youngster who's been dealt a very real, very adult twist of fate, and the life lessons he learns, or refuses to acknowledge, along the way. It's the story of a boy with a secret. A ten year old with a gift. A talent capable of stirring an entire town into a frenzy. And for those who've read it, and often send inquiries to my inbox on the subject, there's a cat. An interesting orange tabby, getting up there in years...and I'll leave it at that :)
What is your favourite film that was based on a book?
Love this question! One that comes to mind is A Time To Kill, by John Grisham. In my opinion, it falls into a short list of Hollywood flicks that actually managed to capture the raw soul from the written version that is so often left behind on the editing floor whenever novels are selected for Cinema Ten. This was a great story, followed by an unforgettable movie.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the main characters?
It's every writer's fantasy...seeing their work on the big screen, and hoping that Hollywood doesn't screw it up! Whenever I conjure up the thought, (which is often :) I picture a roughed up, somber-looking Viggo Mortenson as Danny's father. Sandra Bullock fits the role of Sheryl Kaufman like a hand in a glove. And as for Danny and his younger sister, Katie...I'd suggest a talent search, awarding the main character to some kid that no one outside of their family and friends have ever laid eyes on. Then, if the movie's a hit, no matter what future roles he'll accept over the years, he'll always be known as that kid from South of Charm. Danny Whats-His-Name.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I'm not the first writer in my family. W.Dale Cramer, author of Sutter's Cross, Bad Ground, and Levi's Will, is my aunt's cousin. He lives in Georgia, but we manage to keep in touch.
Tell us something interesting about the area where you live.
I'm originally from Florida's Gulf Coast, but actually grew up in central Ohio. Currently we live in a modest cape cod near Ashland, Ohio, where it's common practice to find oneself traveling along behind an Amish buggy on an otherwise busy state route. In time, when our kids move on, and my wife and I find ourselves alone in a house built for the rigors of a family, we plan on returning to the Gulf, where my heart remains.
Thanks, Elliot... fantastic answers!
For more information about Elliot and his book, visit http://www.woosterbook.com/additional/southcharm.html