Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Gordon Korman shares his advice for emerging writers

Gordon Korman, author of more than 80 books for middle grade and YA readers, answers eight questions submitted by eight writers.
Gordon Korman is the author of over 80 children's and young adult books. (gordonkorman.com)

It's an understatement to say that Gordon Korman is a prolific novelist — at 54, he's published over 80 books for middle grade and YA readers. His most recent book is WhatsHisFace, the story of a shy 12-year-old kid named Cooper Vega who feels pretty invisible at his new school. But soon Cooper gains a companion even more invisible than he is — a 16th-century British ghost named Roddy.

Below, Korman takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A, answering questions from eight fellow writers.

1. Kenneth Oppel asks, "Even after so many books, do you still feel like you're doing it wrong?"

Absolutely. I doubt myself on every new book. It's when I start to feel like I've got it all figured out that I know it's time to get nervous.

2. Eden Robinson asks, "What was the most unexpected inspiration you've ever had?"

Probably WhatsHisFace, which was inspired by my kids as they struggled with their malfunctioning phones. Is it a bad technology, a software glitch, a virus? I suddenly thought: What if it's a ghost?

3. Tracey Lindberg asks, "What questions would show up on your FAQ (frequently annoying questions) list?"

When are you going to write a real book? — meaning one for adults.

4. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "If you were to have a dinner party, which two characters from everything you've created, would you like to have sit at your dining room table and chat with?"

Noah Youkilis, the 206-IQ kid from Ungifted and Supergifted and Roddy Northrop, the 16th-century ghost from WhatsHisFace, who turns out to be the real author of Romeo and Juliet.

5. Paul Yee asks, "Do you think it's harder to write funny stories than serious ones?"

I wouldn't say harder, but it's definitely more pressure to produce regular comic payoffs.

6. Esta Spalding asks, "What was your favourite book as a child? Has that book influenced the way you write as an adult? If so, how?"

I was a huge fan of The Great Brain and The Mad Scientists Club. Both initiated me into the tradition of middle-grade novels about funny, audacious, creative, scheming kids.

7. Adam Sternbergh asks, "Do you plot your novels in advance and, if so, how?"

Definitely a plotter, not a pantser*. I usually start with beginning and ending, plus two or three big set-piece-style scenes in the middle.

8. Louise Penny asks, "What advice to you give emerging authors?"

Don't try to figure the odds of what will sell, or try to predict the next great trend. Ignore all the noise and do the best job you can on the book you're writing now.


*From Korman: A "pantser" is someone who flies by the seat of his/her pants as opposed to planning everything out.

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