Thursday, April 18, 2013

7 Questions For: Author Charles Gilman

Charles Gilman is an alias of Jason Rekulak, an editor who lives in Philadelphia with his wife and children. When he's not dreaming up new tales of Lovecraft Middle School, he's biking along the fetid banks of Schuylkill river, in search of two-headed rats and other horrific beasts. 

His novels in the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series include Professor Gargoyle, The Slither SistersSubstitute Creature, and Teacher's Pest.

Jason Rekulak is an Associate Publisher and Creative Director at Quirk Books. An alumnus of St. Martin’s Press and Quality Paperback Book Club, Jason Rekulak has acquired a number of Quirk favorites, including the international best seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the smash sensation Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. When he’s not identifying Quirk's next big hit, he manages their spectacular team of book editors and designers.

And now Charles Gilman faces the 7 Questions:  

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

I’ve been reading and re-reading The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl for more than twenty years, so that’s definitely near the top of my list.  Everyone knows about Dahl’s famous novels for children; fewer people remember that he wrote dozens of outrageous short stories for adults. Many were originally published in The New Yorker and quite a few were adapted for anthology-style TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The best ones usually begin with an outrageous or gruesome premise: A woman murders her husband with a leg of lamb; a scientist invents a machine that allows him to “hear” the voices of trees; and so forth.  I started reading these stories when I was 12 or 13 years old, and I’ve never grown tired of them. Two other books I’ve re-read many, many times are Holes by Louis Sachar and Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

I have a day job in book publishing that keeps me pretty busy from 8-6, and I spend a lot of that time reading and editing manuscripts by other authors.  When I’m working on the Lovecraft Middle School books, I probably log an additional 30 hours/week on nights and weekends writing and rewriting, which doesn’t leave me any time at all for additional reading.  It’s exhausting (and god bless my wife for putting up with me) but of course I love it.

When I’m not writing a book, I do a lot of reading for pleasure.  Probably 3-4 books a month on average.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

I‘ve worked in publishing since graduating college, so I’ve had easier access than a lot of other people.  If you want to make movies, move to Los Angeles.  If you want to publish fiction, move to New York (and, if you can afford to, get an entry-level job in a publishing house).

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you? 

I’ve been writing and making books for as long as I can remember.  I did a lot of copying and imitation all through elementary school.  In fifth grade, I was selling my comic books in the school cafeteria (each one was hand-copied on looseleaf).  I don’t know this means that I was born a writer (or born an editor?) but books and stories have been a life-long interest.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

Finding the whole story can be tough.  I usually sit down with a vague idea of where a story is going to go, and then discover the rest as I go along.  This discovery process can be very frustrating because I find that I have to explore a lot of dead-ends (and write a lot of wasted pages) to consider every opportunity.  I sort of have to think “on paper” which is not very efficient.  So I guess the beginning is my least favorite’s sort of like building a jigsaw puzzle, and I’m searching through all of these pieces, looking for the corners or the border.  It’s slow and tedious.  But as I move along, as more and more elements lock into place, I start to really enjoy the process — and my very favorite part is always the last draft, when I feel like every element of the story is finalized and I can focus on punching up language, punching up word choice, adding jokes, adding interesting details, all the actual ‘writing’ -- that’s a real treat.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Be careful when soliciting feedback.  If you’ve written the next Lord of the Rings, don’t mind the criticism of someone who’s never read Tolkien (or who doesn’t appreciate Tolkien).  You have to find readers who share your tastes and sensibilities.  Go find them on the internet, or (preferably) in real life. 

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why

I’m going to say Roger Ebert because he just passed away last week and I’m still feeling crummy about it.  I first discovered him more than 30 years ago — I was clicking the channels on an old black-and-white TV and discovered him reviewing the movie “E.T.” on his TV show, back when it was still on PBS.  I started watching him every week and turned into this weird 11-year-old Movie Geek.  I’ve been reading his reviews, books, essays, blogs, and tweets ever since.  Really terrific writer, really great human being.  I feel like I know him better than a lot of my friends.  I wish I could buy him lunch.

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