Yesterday I had the older group of kids who are my nieces and nephews interview me. Today we continue with the younger crowd, starting with my niece Renee, to whom THE FIRFLAKE is dedicated.
RENEE (age 11): What inspires you the most?
ANTHONY: Yesterday I talked about how inspiration for writing comes from a lot of different places: people I’ve seen, places I’ve been too, things I’ve read. But what inspires me as a person, every day, is love. I’m blessed to have so many amazing people in my life, and that love and support inspires me to be a better writer and also a better person. And hugs. Hugs are important. As you know.
RENEE: Are you going to make another Christmas story for me and Vinnie?
ANTHONY: There is another Christmas story coming. CHRISTMAS GHOSTS isn’t written for you and Vin the way THE FIRFLAKE was, but I still want you to read it! And who knows… maybe Christmas Eve I’ll have a new story to tell you guys, and that might someday become another book!
JARED (age 11): What inspired you to become a writer?
ANTHONY: Yesterday, I said “comic books.” Of course, it wasn’t just comic books that did it. It was also teachers and other adults who encouraged my creativity. Mrs. Bleakly and Mrs. Vezina at Austin Road Elementary; Mr. and Mrs. DelCampo and Ms. Burgh at Mahopac High School; the professors at Elmira. When I mentioned the cousins on Long Island whose house I used in my super-hero stories? Aunt Terry used to read everything I wrote while I was visiting, and then she’d ask questions and make suggestions about how to improve it. All of that encouragement helped, and continues to help.
JARED: Are your characters in your stories based on people you know?
ANTHONY: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The main characters are very rarely based on any one person. For instance, in CHRISTMAS GHOSTS, the character of Collum McCann has bits and pieces of the personalities of lots of sixth graders I’ve known over the years. It’s hard to base a main character on a specific person because there’s always the chance that person will be insulted or upset at the way you portray them, despite the fact that the story is fiction. I find it’s easier to use friends and relatives as supporting characters, so they can be happy they got included but I don’t have to worry about how they’ll feel about their portrayal. CHRISTMAS GHOSTS is a good example: between students, teachers and coffee shop workers, there are a LOT of familiar names and little “winks” at family and friends. Who knows … YOU might even be in that one!
JARED: What’s your favorite kind of writing and is it the same as what your favorite kind of reading is?
ANTHONY: Hmmmm. They are probably not the same thing. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, but I haven’t really written that much science fiction or fantasy so far other than the super-hero stuff I wrote for the Super-Team Amateur Press Alliance (STAPA). I can say that I read a lot of short stories (at least 365 every year) and that’s the story length I like to write too. Novels are hard work!
MORGYN (age 8): How do you like to elaborate with your stories? I’m learning to elaborate with mine right now.
ANTHONY: I’m glad your teachers are teaching you how to elaborate on your ideas! You know, the first draft of the THE FIRFLAKE was a lot shorter. There was a lot less detail about the kids and how they were a part of the storytelling tradition of the family. So when I wrote later drafts, I added more sense detail: smells, sights, etc., and I gave the kids more to do. And then in one of the last drafts, your Uncle Jon said “there’s still something missing. What is it? Elves. Santa. Snow. Presents. Waitaminnit! Where’s the reindeer??” And a whole new scene got written. So sometimes I elaborate by asking “what is it the characters are seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, doing.” And sometimes I elaborate because someone says “hey, did you ever think about including a scene where…”
MORGYN: How do you decide on a topic to write on?
ANTHONY: Mostly it’s whatever strikes me when I sit down to write. It might be a new idea that popped into my head while I was driving, or it might be a scene in a story I’m already working on but I’ve been struggling with it. Story ideas come from all over the place, but it’s really rare that I have an idea and immediately start working on it. I usually let ideas sit in my head a while, until I’ve thought them over and they seem ready to be written. I call that “letting them percolate.”
MORGYN: If you could interview someone you haven’t interviewed yet, who would you pick?
ANTHONY: I can’t give just one answer to this question. So I’m going to divide it up by category, okay?
Authors: Rick Riordan. Neil Gaiman. Seanan Maguire. Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman.
Musicians/Singers (adult): Rosanne Cash. Dennis DeYoung. Adam Levine. Kalan Porter. Pentatonix.
Actors (adult): Nathan Fillion (Castle). Colin Morgan (Merlin). John Glover. John Lithgow.
Comic Book Writers/Artists: Gail Simone. George Perez. Bill Willingham.
Musicians/Singers (teens): Kropp Circle. Cody Simpson. The Feaver. And I know you and Renee would love it if I could interview Big Time Rush.
Actors (teen): Sterling Beaumon. Zach Mills. Jeanette McCurdy. Molly Quinn.
XAVIER (age 8): What inspired you to write the book?
ANTHONY: Well, Xave, like your mother I have always loved Christmas. And I’ve always loved the animated television specials like Rudolph, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. So those cartoons were part of the inspiration. Reading The Grinch and Polar Express and ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas to Vinny and Renee when they were very little was another inspiration. And then there’s the tradition of wishing on the first snowflake of winter, and what magic that snowflake carries. All of that came together to become THE FIRFLAKE you know and love.
JACK (age 10): Who is your favorite Harry Potter character? (even though I already know)
ANTHONY: Well, since you already know, I don’t have to answer, do I? haha. Okay, since other people probably want to know, too: Remus Lupin. He reminds me a lot of me. My second favorite character would be Ron Weasley,who also reminds me a lot of me.
JACK: Which is your favorite Harry Potter book?
ANTHONY: They’re all so good, but if I had to choose one … Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s exciting, it introduces Remus and Sirius (my favorite character and your father’s favorite!), and Buckbeak is just really cool.
JACK: What was the most exciting part of your favorite Harry Potter book?
ANTHONY: Oh, the whole scene in the Shrieking Shack where Harry, Ron and Hermione are facing off with Sirius and Lupin, and we find out Scabbers is not really a rat, and then Snape shows up … the first time I read the book I couldn’t put it down through that whole sequence.
JOEY (age 7): Have you read any books about the Titanic?
ANTHONY: I have! I read Walter Lord’s A NIGHT TO REMEMBER when I was in high school. I haven’t read any recently though. It’s an incredible story, though, isn’t it?
JOEY: Have you ever written a humongous paragraph?
ANTHONY: I think the longest paragraph I’ve ever written was one full page long when I typed it up. That’s probably not really “humongous,” since there are some writers who write paragraphs that go on for 10 pages!
JOEY: What’s your favorite book?
XAVIER: What is your favorite book?
ANTHONY: I don’t have just one favorite book, so it’s a good thing you both asked me this question. And, since it’s the same question I ask at the end of every interview I do, it’s the perfect final question for this post too! So here’s my two favorite books, and what I would say to recommend them to someone who hasn’t read them yet:
Dracula by Bram Stoker. I’ve read this book every couple of years since high school. It wasn’t the first vampire novel ever written, but it is the most famous. What I love about the book is that while Dracula is the title character, he’s not the narrator. In fact, you very rarely get a look into what Dracula is thinking. He’s frightening because of the way the other characters talk about him.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I read this one every year around Christmas. Even when I’ve been having a bad day or week or year, the story of Scrooge reminds me that anyone can change and be a better person, if they want to be. It’s just that some of us (like Scrooge) need someone else to remind them why being a better person is important. And the narrator tells the story as though he were a favorite uncle telling the story to kids in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve, which reminds me just a little bit of me!
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I want to thank all of my real and adopted siblings for letting their kids take part in this: my sister Lorraine Bostjancic, Margaret and Scott Witt, Jon and Cindy Cornue, Jim and Liz Leahey, Tom and Hilda Werder, Frances and Grant Price, Nina O’Reilly, Judy Kiddoo, and Romykay Hajkowski. I’m hoping to do this again in about 6 months and get the rest of the nieces and nephews who missed this one to take part. I think all of the kids (and the not-so-kids like Danny, Laura, and Jake) asked some great questions, making me a proud uncle!