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Author Spotlight: Chris Grabenstein

“A library doesn’t need windows, Andrew. We have books, which are windows into worlds we never even dreamed possible.” ― Chris Grabenstein, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Our June spotlighted author is the mastermind behind the Lemoncello series, co-author of I Funny, and more, as well as someone who has worked with Robin Williamson and has a cat named Phoebe Squeak. Who is this fabulously creative person whose apartment was featured in the New York Times, you ask? Well, he's . . .

Chris Grabenstein!

Grabenstein has an impressive and quirky resume that include the likes of working with James Patterson, writing commercials for Burger King, and publishing a book named Shine! with his wife. His book Tilt-a-Whirl was awarded the Anthony Award for Best First Novel in 2006. Another novel of his, The Crossroads, took home both the Anthony Award for Best Young Adult Novel in 2009 and the Agatha Award for Best Children/Young Adult Fiction in 2008.

The first book in a series of his and a personal favorite of mine, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, has amassed a huge fan base, with an average of 4.7 stars on Amazon and the status as a New York Times bestseller. Grabenstein lets us in on his personal mascot, egos in writers, and Stephen King in this fascinating interview!


What book (s) have made you cry?

Chris: Most recently, Wish by Barbara O'Connor. The overwhelming kindness of some of the characters brought tears to my eyes more than once.


What is an essential quality for an author to have?

Chris: Self-discipline! I'm a big believer of sitting down (or standing if you have a standing desk) and writing for a chunk of time every day. My daily goal is 2,000 words.


What part of a book is the hardest for you to write? How do you get through it?

Chris: I think, if it's a new standalone or the first book in a new series, the first "act" is the hardest. That's where you have to build your world and create your characters. I get through it by remembering that the first draft is just for me. So I can go back and change things. As I write that first act, I will get to know my characters better. I will hear their voices. And when I know who they are and what they sound like, I can go back to the beginning and use that knowledge to rewrite.


What is your favorite genre to read? Which do you think is more important: reading books that are the same genre as the books you write or different?

Chris: I used to love reading mysteries but now that I have written so many it's a little like a magician who goes to see someone else's magic act. You know how things are done, the tricks of the trade. They're not as much fun for me anymore. I think my favorite books to read are fast-paced page-turners that turn on the movie projector in my brain -- no matter the genre. I think, starting out, you should read in the genre you want to write. Then you'll know what a good book in that style reads like and you can hold your own work up to that standard.


If you could give any piece of advice to your younger author self, what would it be?

Chris: Why aren't you writing children's books? You're basically 12 years old in your head! (My first books were adult murder mysteries, some of which won awards in that genre.)


Does a big ego help or hurt an author?

Chris: I imagine it would hurt. I think the best authors are introverts who know how to pretend to be an extrovert.


Pick a mascot/spirit animal to represent you as an author.

Chris: To represent me -- I'd have to go with the busy beaver. Always working. Always building, one dam thing after another.


How many unfinished books or plot lines do you have?

Chris: A whole box of them. I'll have eight books come out in 2019. I'm working on five more for 2020. And then there's 2021...


Give us a peek into a regular writing day for you.

Chris: I get up, walk to the gym (about a mile away), daydream, jot down any ideas that pop into my head, work out a little, walk home from the gym, eat something, clean up, and go to my writing room. I will write 2,000 new words every day and start the day by gently editing the 2,000 I wrote the day before. Sometimes, the writing gets interrupted by a Skype call with a school. Then it's back to the keyboard. Something light for lunch. Back to work. And then, after Microsoft Word tells me I've reached 2,000 words, it's nap time! After nap time, it's take a walk for espresso time. And in that walk, yep – I'm already thinking about the next day's words.


What is the best writing book for an aspiring author to read?

Chris: On Writing by Stephen King. It's the book that convinced me I might be able to actually write a book after decades of writing scripts for the Muppets, a made-for-TV movie, and hundreds of radio and television commercials.

And, because I am a structure freak, I also would recommend SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL.


Thank you, Chris Grabenstein, for graciously doing this interview! I hope everybody enjoyed it; Grabenstein is, in my opinion, one of the funniest and most ingenious authors for young readers. We're all very glad On Writing convinced him to try his hand at children's books!

Go ahead and leave a quick comment down below saying who your favorite author is. I'll get in touch with them, and who knows? Maybe you'll be reading an interview with them next! What's your favorite piece of writing advice? Please let me know. Have a great weekend! Ciao.


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