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Between The Sheets

Matthew Sullivan

MatthewSullivan_BetweenTheSheets

In our new feature, Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” author Matthew Sullivan to see how growing up in a family of eight children impacted his storytelling, how he felt upon turning in his manuscript, and where he’s hardest on himself as a writer.

TrunkSpace: You grew up in a family of eight children. Did that set the table for you to become a storyteller?
Sullivan: Most definitely. My brothers and sisters and I entertained ourselves a lot by telling stories from real-life about teachers, or camping trips, or our many misdeeds. Of course with each telling, the stories would usually gain another layer of detail or exaggeration, so there was always a joyful, one-up quality to our storytelling. The Blarney in our house was through the roof.

My brothers and I also spent a lot of time making up these elaborate, often absurd characters and had them interact with each other. We’d draw them and do voices and playacting. Some of those characters went on and on for years, like Art, and Cousin Art, and Bart—these giant guys who injected oil barrels full of heroin, only ate eclairs, and beat up everyone they interacted with. We were bizarre kids. It was the 70s.

TrunkSpace: Do any of your siblings also make a living as storytellers and if not, why do you think you were drawn towards that creative space while they were not?
Sullivan: My mom was a nurse but she also was a writer on the side. She published stories and articles and a few middle-grade novels in the 1990s, so there were always writing magazines in the bathroom, and a number of us inherited those genes.

I was child number five, right in the middle, and was a pretty quiet, observational kid, so the writing thing made sense to me. When I was little I would sometimes wander around the house just crying and crying for hours—kind of like that kid Wilder in Don DeLillo’s “White Noise.” I think it was because I wanted to be noticed, or maybe because I was just sad, and everyone would just yell at me to shut-up already. To me, that’s a precursor to the writing life: Something is wrong! And I have something to say about it! Maybe novel-writing is just an adult way of roaming around and crying?

TrunkSpace: “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” is your debut novel. What was the journey like for you in terms of when you first came up with the concept to when you learned it would be published? Was it a long road?
Sullivan: It was a very long road, but that’s just the path I was on, so I have no regrets. The initial seeds for the story were planted in my twenties when I was working at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, but I didn’t sit down to write it until many years later. Then when I finally did, it took 3-4 years to write the first draft, and another 3-4 years to revise, and sat in a drawer for a long time in between. All that time I was raising babies, working overtime, quitting smoking, burying my mother and my sister—in other words, a lot of important things were getting between me and the page. But it worked out in the end.

TrunkSpace: Are there butterflies as you gear up to release the book to the world?
Sullivan: For sure! But then I remember how this book was sitting in a drawer for quite a while and I wasn’t sure I would ever get it out again, so I can’t help but feel overjoyed at how it turned out. And my friends and family and early readers have been really supportive of the whole thing, which also helps.

TrunkSpace: Knowing that this was your first novel, was it hard to let go of the manuscript and call it “complete” or did you want to keep tinkering?
Sullivan: By the time we reached the very last edits, I felt like it was as ready as it could be, given the writer I am right now. Of course, there’s always more to do, but it’s also refreshing to face a blank page again, to start something new and begin to apply whatever I’ve learned along the way.

TrunkSpace: What did you learn about yourself as a writer in the process of writing “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” that you hope to apply to your writing career moving forward?
Sullivan: On a level of craft, I now pay more attention to a story’s pace and structure than I ever have before, both as a writer and as a reader… it’s so important to keep things moving, even in a character-driven story. On a more personal level, I realized how necessary it is to be persistent, even when things get bumpy, and to be ready to do what it takes, no matter how time-consuming or painful, in order to create a better story.

TrunkSpace: When you’re writing a mystery novel, what is more important to establish first… the plot points or the mystery elements themselves, which we’d imagine, have to be unique to compel readers familiar with the mystery genre?
Sullivan: The initial crime needs to be imaginative and intriguing. But for me, once the initial crime and general arc are established, a lot of the steps involved in getting to a resolution come out of characters—how they behave, what motivates them or catches their attention. Plot points and clues are important, but I’m always far more interested in the people involved. After all, the characters are intertwined with the crime, so I think their personalities steer the discoveries as much as anything.

TrunkSpace: Regarding the process, is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Sullivan: I really love to write. I do. There are times when I am in that creative trance and everything falls into place, but more often than not, it’s difficult, even to the point of drudgery. But that’s all part of it. Creativity is a healthy compulsion, even when it’s tough. I love it.

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? What are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Sullivan: Like a lot of writers, I find I’m most productive when I get away from social media and the internet. That’s a good start. Ideally, I also try to arrange times when I can really be immersed, even if it’s only for a day. I have an old 1960s “canned-ham” travel trailer, and I sometimes will take off in it by myself, with a laptop, a bicycle, and some books, for days on end. Those are productive times. But that’s also not real life. In real life, it’s more like I grab an hour to write on a Tuesday after work and another one on Sunday night, and try to cobble together the week that way.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Sullivan: I do. I have a hard time seeing something as valuable to the story unless it’s pretty polished on a sentence level, so I’m always reworking. The downside of that, of course, is that I eventually end up deleting a lot of really polished scenes because they don’t fit the story as it evolves. Ah, well.

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Sullivan: I don’t trust myself enough. Even when I like something I’ve written, there’s always a sense of doubt creeping in.

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Sullivan: I have a short thriller being published any day in Joyland magazine, and an essay in Lit Hub, and some little things elsewhere. And I’m working on another literary mystery novel, this one about a woman who ends up living all alone in a strange small town in the Northwest. I’m excited to get deeper into it.

“Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” is available today from Scribner.

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Between The Sheets

Ezekiel Boone

EzekielBoone_BetweenTheSheets

In our new feature, Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with “Skitter” author Ezekiel Boone to discuss the spider scare, juggling two voices, and living a nightmare after watching Elm Street.

TrunkSpace: Are your books “Skitter” and “The Hatching” meant to inspire your readers to check beneath their sheets before bed or shake out their shoes before putting them on? The fear associated with creepy crawlies is the kind that sort of festers and intensifies the more you think about it.
Boone: Mostly I just wanted to write a series of fun, fast thrillers, but yeah, some of the premise came because I had the idea of a spider that burrowed under your skin to lay eggs, and once I had that idea, it was hard to shake. The problem is, like you say, it intensifies the more you think about it, and once you think about spiders on and in your body, it’s basically impossible not to think about. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking that there’s something crawling on you. Just ask yourself, does anything on my body feel itchy? Might there be a spider crawling on me right now? Is there one on the back of my neck?

TrunkSpace: Even those who don’t fear spiders still don’t necessarily like spiders. What is it about them that causes people to feel so weak and small?
Boone: Some of it is just the way they move. They skitter. Something about them triggers the caveman brain inside of most people. The other issue with spiders is that they show up when you aren’t expecting them, quiet and terrifying.

TrunkSpace: There are so many different types of scares. Again, your books tap into the kind that lingers and intensifies. What is a scare that has stayed with you throughout your life by way of something you read or watched when you were younger?
Boone: When I was about 14, I watched “Nightmare on Elm Street” at a girl’s house who lived down the block from me. She was fifteen and had a few girlfriends over, so I tried to be chill about it. But then I had to walk home. It was near midnight, on a quiet street across from a park with a small lake, and of course, there was a nice, thick layer of fog rolling in. I got about halfway home when the streetlight above made a zzzzt sound and went out. I screamed and ran home the rest of the way.

TrunkSpace: Zombies continue to be one of the more popular scare devices across all forms of media these days. How would spiders fare against the undead in a world where it was SPIDERS VS. ZOMBIES!?!?
Boone: Spiders would rule. The spiders could put their eggs inside the zombies and the zombies would still amble about, spreading the arachnoid menace. Spiders ain’t afraid of no zombies.

TrunkSpace: Are there any thriller/horror staples (AKA cliches) you try to avoid in your writing and why?
Boone: Not really. I don’t have any of those “but it was all a dream!” moments, but I’d argue you can break almost any writing rule if you understand the rule and know what you’re doing.

TrunkSpace: The rumor is that Ezekiel Boone is your pseudonym and that you write literary fiction under your actual name. Can Ezekiel and, well, you, exist within the same workspace? Can you juggle a Boone book and one of your other books simultaneously?
Boone: I’m doing it right now. It’s actually a lot of fun, because when I need a break from one, I can go to the other. It’s refreshing.

TrunkSpace: It takes some writers years/decades to discover their voice. Do you think your writer’s voice is apparent in both areas of your work? Is there a literary signature that is visible for someone who reads both?
Boone: Maybe? I think voice drives a lot of good writing, and that usually ends up coming through. I’ve had a number of readers who’ve loved the Ezekiel Boone books go and read an Alexi Zentner book, and they’ve usually loved them as well. I don’t really know what my literary signature is, but I feel like I’ve found my voice.

TrunkSpace: Regarding the process, is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Boone: Labor of love. There are some days when it can feel like a grind, and even though revision is incredibly important, that usually leaves me feeling drained. You have to treat it like a job if you want to be successful, but writing is a great gig.

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? What are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Boone: I’ve got kids, so I work when they are at school. I’m pretty happy in my office, but give me a decent pair of headphones and a computer and I can work anywhere. But the ideal conditions are when writing is the only thing I have to worry about. The deeper you can fall into your world the better. When I’m writing, I want to focus entirely on that.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Boone: Absolutely. It’s not the right way for everybody – I often tell younger writers to just crank out a draft – but it’s the way I work. Because of that, my first draft is usually more like a seventh or eighth. But then I do a lot more revision after that.

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Boone: I always think I could be working harder.

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Boone: The third and final book in “The Hatching” series, “Zero Day,” is done and in with my publisher and will be out early next year. That’s going to be followed by a novel called “The Mansion,” which will also be out in 2018. Past that, I’m trying to finish a straight up action thriller, which is as of yet untitled.

Skitter” and “The Hatching” are available now.

Featured Photo By: Laurie Willick

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Between The Sheets

Abby Stern

AbbyStern_BetweenTheSheets

In our new feature, Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with “According to a Source” author Abby Stern to discuss how she got the ball rolling with the book, how she needs to block out large chunks of time to write, and why she hates her coffee table so much.

TrunkSpace: Debut novels in particular can be a big undertaking because a lot of times it’s about just getting the process underway. What did that process look like for you?
Stern: I actually started the process, believe it or not, by next week it will be 10 years. Those were not 10 consecutive years by any means. I would start the process and I would put the book down, for even two years at a time, and then I would pick it up and do some more and get some feedback and get some notes. And then once I felt that I had a draft that I was really happy with, when you’re querying for agents, that’s a whole other part of the process. So I would query a group and then you kind of have to take a mental break. (Laughter)

It was never on my bucket list to write a book. I’d always written. I’d always done creative writing since I was a child. I wanted to actually write screenplays and television and stuff like that, but when I started writing this, the narrative just really took the form of a novel. I figured, “Why not give it a shot and we’ll see how this goes.” Then you’re 80,000 words in and you’re like, “Well, I guess I better finish this.” (Laughter) “That would be a horrible waste of time if I didn’t really pursue it.”

So yeah, that’s really how the process started and you’re right, it’s a huge undertaking. It’s kind of like yoga in the way they say, “Getting to your mat is the most important part.” Sitting down and forcing yourself when there is no deadline and nothing necessarily to be gained from doing it… it’s a lot of mental prowess and prep that you have to be responsible for because there’s no deadline and there’s no one asking you where pages are.

TrunkSpace: So when you were writing, did it take you time to get into a rhythm as far as a regular page output?
Stern: You know what, I really didn’t have one. I have to be honest. I was very inconsistent with my process, but that actually really worked for me. I’m also the type of writer where I need six hours of time. If I have an hour and a half, I can’t sit down and do anything. I’ve tried. I stare at the screen. I start thinking about how I have to get my laundry out of the dryer in 20 minutes and I just can’t focus as well. I kind of just have to block out these huge days and chunks of time. That was my biggest consistency, I would say.

TrunkSpace: So what are the ideal conditions for you in terms of writing for those chunks of time?
Stern: Well, my ultimate place, I think, would be an island in the Caribbean, but that’s not where I wrote. (Laughter) I write from home. I can’t do a coffee shop. I can’t be in public. I can’t have noise. I don’t write with music or the television on. I really need to be able to hone in on whatever I’m working on, whether it’s the dialogue or the character development or if I’m trying to go back and edit. I really need that focus. So, I’m super isolated, which is a lot of fun for your social life. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) It’s true. Writing is a very solitary act, but then you’re done and suddenly you’re working with editors and agents and it goes from solitary to this little community.
Stern: I was lucky. I actually had a very editorial agent and he was great. I loved it because he got me into such a place where I felt so confident with the work that we were presenting to publishers. And I also got really lucky in terms of my editor where she would give me notes and there wasn’t ever a time where I got a note and sighed and was like, “Ugh, that’s not what this is… you don’t get it.” It was more like, “That’s going to be a lot of work, but it will actually make it better!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Back to the Caribbean island! (Laughter)
Stern: Yeah. Maybe with book two if this one does well. (Laughter)

But yeah, I love to collaborate. I do television writing and I have a writing partner for that. He’s wonderful and he was actually very helpful throughout this process too in terms of being able to see what I couldn’t when I was doing revisions or adding things. He was helping me before I even ever got my agent. So I’m used to being collaborative.

That part wasn’t difficult for me. It was just the, “You’re going to be writing for six to eight hours and be stuck in your apartment and you will learn to hate every piece of furniture you own.” You’re like, “Why would I ever buy this coffee table? It’s the ugliest coffee table I’ve ever seen! I don’t know how I can live another day with this coffee table in my life!”

TrunkSpace: BUT, that coffee table probably looks pretty great right now with your new book sitting on its surface!
Stern: Yeah, but it would still look better if it were a different coffee table. I haven’t recovered! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you’re also a television writer/screenwriter, which is a world that has a lot of rules in terms of formatting and story structure. Did you sort of have to retrain yourself and step away from that way of thinking?
Stern: I would definitely say that the biggest thing was nuance for the novel as opposed to writing a pilot. I’m used to kind of trimming the fat in terms of the descriptions. I remember on one pilot, a half hour, it was like 54 pages because I got super descriptive and people were like, “You’ve got to cut this!” But, you need to do all of that in a novel to make it good and well-rounded and to really be able to engage the reader. So that was definitely a retraining for me.

TrunkSpace: What about with dialogue? In TV and film it’s something that is relied on. Did you have to pull back on that at all?
Stern: Not really. Dialogue and the pacing and putting it in conjunction with the rest of the narrative has always been an easy part for me, luckily.

TrunkSpace: So what was the biggest lesson you learned as it relates to putting the book together and getting it out there that you’ll apply to your career moving forward?
Stern: Oh goodness! Well, the biggest lesson I learned was from a writing mentor of mine who is a YA author named Rebecca Maizel and she was actually so instrumental, especially years and years before it ever came to a point where there was a draft that I could even submit. And the biggest piece of advice that she gave me was, “Show don’t tell,” which I had not ever learned. (Laughter) I learned very quickly. That’s a big thing.

And then in terms of getting it out there? I mean, it’s kind of the same thing in Hollywood. It’s just the persistence and believing in yourself and not taking no for an answer, but always pushing and always going. It really is perseverance and you do end up finding the people who connect with your material. People will give you all kinds of BS excuses about why they’re saying no and you shouldn’t even listen to them. You just hear the no and you move on and you keep going. The excuses that they give you will get in your head.

TrunkSpace: So with the book set to release today, will you focus on how it is doing from a sales standpoint or do you need to remove yourself from that aspect and just focus on the creative moving forward?
Stern: Well, yes and no. You always have to be hustling. It’s time to get it into places, to set up signings, and letting people know about it and getting on social media and podcasts and doing things like this. So, in a way, no, because I’m always thinking, “Oh, would this outlet fit?” But, I have removed myself from the numbers side of it because at this point I’ve done the best that I can do and now the cards fall where they fall. I hope it does well, obviously. I hope it’s the beach read of the summer and everyone enjoys it. I care more about people enjoying it because there are so many options for content these days. To spend however many hours reading a novel is a big commitment, so I hope that people think that their time was well spent and that they got some enjoyment out of it.

According to a Source” is available today via Thomas Dunne Books. You can purchase a copy here.

Featured Photo By: Martina Tolot

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Between The Sheets

Gian Sardar

GianSardar_BetweenTheSheets

In our new feature, Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with “You Were Here” author Gian Sardar to discuss the panic upon hitting send, when she found her voice as a writer, and what an ideal work day would look like if she had a magic wand.

TrunkSpace: “You Were Here” is a much different book than your debut “Psychic Junkie.” With that being said, did you approach the way you wrote the book differently?
Sardar: Absolutely. “Psychic Junkie” was a true story, the life of Sarah Lassez, and though I lived most of it with her as her roommate and close friend, I still had to defer to her when it came to choices – so my writing was not only hitched to truth, but to another’s opinion. As I was writing “You Were Here,” I only answered to myself, and that freedom was both exciting and at times frightening.

TrunSpace: “You Were Here” gets down and dirty with some pretty heavy subject matter. Words can really paint a picture of terror for a reader and place them in the shoes of the characters within a story. Do you think about that… giving goosebumps to your readers… when you’re working on a book or a particular scene?
Sardar: Yes! For those certain scenes I can only hope I give goosebumps to my readers, because if I did, the scene was successful. I know that while writing it I spooked myself on a few occasions, as I have the unfortunate tendency to do a lot of writing around 2 or 3 AM, and let me tell you, it’s very dark then, and the house is very quiet…not always the best time to write scary scenes.

TrunkSpace: Cover art has become so eye catching and often times very complex. “You Were Here” takes a more with less approach. What was the thought process behind the design?
Sardar: I was lucky enough to have the Putnam design team on my side, and so I must credit them fully for the beautiful cover. What I love is the sense of mystery, the hazy lettering, the hints of so much more. It does such an amazing job of capturing the essence of the book – and both the time periods – in such a simple way.

TrunkSpace: Writers put so much time and energy into a book. What is the first thing you did when completing the final draft of “You Were Here” and how long was it before you started writing again?
Sardar: Honestly, the first thing I did after hitting “Send” was freak out and start reading it again. I had to force myself to walk away and not look at it, because I knew if I did I would see a dozen things on every page that needed changing. So it took physical willpower to walk away. And though I’d been excited to get back to a project I’d started while waiting for notes and edits, I definitely needed a buffer zone, so to speak, after finishing this one before diving into anything else. What helped was reading, dipping into other worlds. A book every other a day for a couple weeks was just what the doctor ordered.

TrunkSpace: With that same idea in mind, is it hard to let go of a manuscript and call it “complete” when you put so much of yourself into it?
Sardar: Yes! If you let me sneak into the printers’, I’d make changes even now. The only reason I finally considered it done was because they had to cut me off and tell me no more changes. And I don’t just mean on the sentence level, but when you’re that immersed into a world the characters stay with you and might just whisper in your ear that they’d like another scene or two. It’s definitely hard to consider it complete when it still lives within you.

TrunkSpace: What did you learn about yourself as a writer in the process of writing your first two books and how do you hope to apply that to your career moving forward?
Sardar: Trust. I learned that the answers come to me, they always do, so I just need to trust. With my fiction, not everything is figured out when I start – I have a loose outline and a lot of questions and often I know where I want to go but not how I’m getting there. I discover a lot in the writing process. But when you’ve got a blank page, it’s hard to remember that it will all, somehow, miraculously, come together. I need to keep that in mind and spend less time worrying and more time trusting.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a writer?
Sardar: That’s a good question. I think it’s been there since college, but it’s certainly evolved based on my own changing view and interest in the world.

TrunkSpace: Regarding the process, is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Sardar: I love writing. Nothing makes me feel more elated than when I had a good writing day. Of course sometimes questions arise about plot or character, something I need to figure or make
sure is working, and that’s when there’s anxiety involved. But even then, if I just sit down to write, whether it’s something I keep or not, I’m transported. And that’s when I need to remember to trust, that if I give myself time it will come together. I never worry about “wasted pages” that never see the light of day, because it’s the writing process I love and sometimes I just need to write to work through whatever’s got me caught, just so I can feel inspired.

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? What are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Sardar: If I had a magic wand, I’d create a rainy day that starts at 4 AM and involves me writing on the couch under a blanket until about 10 AM. Of course that would involve someone else making my son breakfast and taking him to school, and since my husband is at work at 6:30 AM it’s obvious this is all fantasy. In reality I’d take just waking very, very early in the morning (3 or 4 AM), getting in a few hours of writing and then taking my son to school. Then I’d come home and read a bit, then write some more and hopefully take a short nap before picking my son back up.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Sardar: Yes. Every day, when I start writing, I back up and re-read and edit what I wrote the day prior, and once I’ve done that I start with the new material. Then, periodically, I’ll read from the beginning as well, to see how things are working. I find so much in the editing process that it helps to go back and re-examine and tweak constantly. Editing is my favorite part of writing.

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Sardar: Can I say “everything”? It all depends on the day – some days are just off from the start and on those days I can do nothing right. In general though, I tend to be very critical of my dialogue, so that’s something I’m constantly examining.

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Sardar: I’m about mid-way through writing another novel, but am keeping it quiet so I don’t jinx anything. (Laughter)

You Were Here, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, is available May 16.

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Between The Sheets

Jeff Kinney

JeffKinney_BetweenTheSheets

In our new feature, Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” creator/author Jeff Kinney to discuss his ideal working conditions, Uncle Scrooge, and the best joke he’s ever written.

TrunkSpace: Is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Kinney: I’m not sure I know the answer to that. Writing is always difficult for me because the amount of time I have for writing is always short… just a month to finish a 217-page manuscript. If I had more time, I might say I enjoyed it!

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? What are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Kinney: I work in an almost-empty house. I have a laptop, a small glass table, and a metal chair. I like to keep it bare bones. An ideal day is a day when the ideas flow… but I’m never sure exactly how that happens.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Kinney: I do. I read and re-read and re-read my words as I go on the early pages. But eventually, the writing catches fire, and I don’t look back.

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Kinney: I feel like I have an obligation to my readership to write the best comedy I can, so I beat myself up quite a bit.

TrunkSpace: In a lot of ways, writing seems like a young person’s game. Or, a retired person’s game. All of those points between the two get filled with family, kids, and general life chaos. Has finding the time and proper creative head space gotten more difficult the older you get?
Kinney: I think it’s stayed pretty consistent. It’s always hard for me. I started writing these books before I was married. Now I have two kids, one of whom is taller than me. Writing has remained a challenge throughout.

TrunkSpace: Some of your favorite reading growing up involved diving into your father’s comic book collection. How do you think reading comics shaped your creative approach?
Kinney: I learned that great storytelling, and even great literature, can be done in comic form. My favorite stories to this day are the ones written by Carl Barks, who wrote Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics in the 1940s-60s.

TrunkSpace: Your father was a collector. That collector gene seems to get passed down. Do you collect anything?
Kinney: I’m not much of a collector, but I do own a 500-pound Uncle Scrooge statue.

TrunkSpace: You were also a big fan of fantasy books. What was it about that particular escapism that you enjoyed escaping to?
Kinney: I first felt like I got transported to another world when I read “The Hobbit.” The last time I felt that was with the first “Harry Potter” book. Books, as they say, are magic.

TrunkSpace: Do you think adults are too nostalgic about books they read as kids? Are we emotionally tied to books that we read decades ago that perhaps, in truth, were never really that good? For example, one us here bought a book he had loved as a kid for his own kid, only to be disappointed when he read it back to him today.
Kinney: Yes, I think we have happy memories of our favorite books, but some books age better than others. I’ve had the same experience you’ve had. Wonder if it was the same book!

TrunkSpace: We read a quote from you somewhere that said, “I will sacrifice a good story for a good joke anytime.” With that in mind, what’s the best joke you’ve ever written?
Kinney: It probably involved Fregley handing Greg a piece of paper with a booger on it.

TrunkSpace: Laughter seems like a difficult reaction to bring about based on the written word alone. Is comedy the most difficult genre to pull off in book form?
Kinney: I think it would be hard for me to deliver laughs without pictures. I use them as a crutch. I like the rhythm of setting up a joke in text, then paying it off with an image.

TrunkSpace: You never set out to write “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” for kids. Is it still a surprise that it has resonated with so many of them?
Kinney: I worked on Wimpy Kid for eight years with an adult audience in mind. I thought the book would sit in the Humor section of the bookstore. I had never considered that there was a Middle Grade section. So I became a children’s author on accident. My publisher told me I hadn’t written one big fat book for adults, but a whole series for kids.

TrunkSpace: Writers get pigeonholed just like actors and musicians. Does it ever feel like the success of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” has placed you in a particular box?
Kinney: I like being in the Wimpy Kid box. Childhood is a big universe, and that’s the universe I’m playing in. So if this is the only thing I ever do, I’ll be satisfied with that.

TrunkSpace: The success of the brand has gone beyond just books themselves. As the profile of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” continued to grow, did people try to influence your writing/books? Did it feel like those on the outside were trying to have a hand in the one aspect that you had entire creative control over?
Kinney: Thankfully, I control everything in between the covers of the book. That’s what’s wonderful about being an author… you have dominion over the contents of your creation. The further you get from the book, the less control you have. But that comes with the territory.

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest “pinch me” moment from the time “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” found a home to where you are today in your career?
Kinney: I’ve got pictures of the Pope holding the first copy of the Latin version of the book. That was a double whammy for me.

TrunkSpace: Writing can be a solitary, emotionally-draining endeavor. What’s the longest span of time that you have taken to step away from writing to refuel the creative tank?
Kinney: I got on this train about ten years ago and haven’t gotten off. Hopefully I can ride it for another ten years or so. I like having this job. Even if I didn’t get paid, it would be a privilege to do it.

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Kinney: I’m working on the 12th Wimpy Kid book. Out in November!

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway” is due November 2017.

“The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary: The Next Chapter” is available May 9, 20017.

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