Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Tommy Greenwald, author of CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING

K.M. Walton here and I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Elevensie author, Tommy Greenwald. Tommy, when not writing books, is executive creative director at Spotco. They make ads for broadway shows. If you want to know more, check out their website:

Tommy has three sons named Charlie, Joe and Jack. (Charlie Joe Jackson, get it?) Over the years, he struggled to get his sons to read. He decided to write a book about how to avoid books.

CHARLIE JOE JACKSON may be the most reluctant reader every born. He does whatever it takes to get out of reading, and so far, it’s worked out really well. But one day in middle school he gets into trouble, and finds his impressive record is on the line. Will he push his luck and do whatever it takes to get out of reading, or will he finally bite the bullet and… gasp… read a book??!?

Tell us a little about your journey to publication. My journey to publication was embarrassingly short. My agent, Michele Rubin at Writer's House, is an old friend from high school and she's been after me to write an adult novel for a long time. Finally I sent her a picture book text about a boy who hated reading, based on my own sons. She asked me to turn it into a middle-grade novel, which I did. I wrote a draft in three months and she sold it two months after that, to Nancy Mercado at Roaring Brook Press.

Tell us a little about your book. My book is called CHARLIE JOE JACKSON'S GUIDE TO NOT READING, and it's inspired by my three sons, Charlie, Joe and Jack, all of whom hated to read growing up. I resolved to write a book that even reluctant readers would be interested in. I figured a book about how to avoid books was the way to go.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book? The biggest challenge writing the book was to create a book that starts out as a guide to not reading, and ends up a compelling story that kids find interesting. I'm kind of trying to fake out reluctant readers by making them think they're reading some simple guide book, but then before they know they're genuinely enjoying an actual book book!

What’s a typical writing day for you? I commute from Connecticut to Manhattan every day, and so when I'm writing I usually get most of it done on the train. On the weekend I go to Barnes and Noble or the library to write for an hour or two a day. I can't write at home. Home is for playing with the dogs and watching tv.

Who do you share your writing with when you need critical feedback? Crit partners? Crit group? Family? The dog? Which works best for you and why?  My agent was my sole source of feedback for the first book, and when I finished it I made my wife and kids read it too. I'm now in a critique group and they've been a great help as I've worked on the second book.

How much revising did the book need after you found your agent and editor?
I did one massive revision, and then a bunch of tweaks. Then the illustrations came in, which were wonderful, and I had to do a bit of re-shaping to fit the drawings.

What are you reading now?  I'm reading a bunch of books by my fellow elevensies! I'm partial to realistic fiction - not a big sci fi or paranormal or dystopia guy. I've just read RIVAL by Sara Bennett Wealer, DOGSLED DREAMS by Terry Lynn Johnson, and SOMETHING LIKE HOPE by Shawn Goodman - all fantastic.

What’s your next writing project? I've just turned in the second book in the Charlie Joe series, called CHARLIE JOE JACKSON'S GUIDE TO EXTRA CREDIT. The goal is to eventually make it a 5-book series, but I plan on taking a break between books 2 and 3 to write something different! Enough Charlie Joe for a while!

A few “apocalyptic” questions:
In the post-apocalyptic world, what one book would you like to have with you? Why that book?  My post-apocalyptic book would be CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller, because it's the funniest book I've ever read, and I think I'll be needing a laugh right about then.

What one food would you most like to have with you? How come?
The food I would take with me would be rice. I LOVE RICE.

How about music? What tracks would you make absolutely certain were on your device? Or would you choose a single album? Oh the dilemma. Music-wise, I would take some Beatles, some Elvis Costello, some Simon and Garfunkel and some Beethoven. If I had to pick one album above all others, it would be PARSLEY SAGE ROSEMARY and THYME by S & G. Never gets old.

Visit Tommy Greenwald at:
Follow him on Twitter: @tommygreenwald

1 comment: