We interviewed Long Island author Gordon Korman when he visited with us at the Great Neck Library recently. He has written more than 80 books, and we think he is amazing!
What inspired you to write “Restart,” and have you ever been in a similar situation either from a bully or even maybe had amnesia?
I’ve never had amnesia, but I look at my own kids. And I have great kids. But every now and then, like anybody else, they do stuff that’s pretty out there. And my wife and I, we’ll go, What the heck? Where did this come from? And I started to think to myself, what makes us the kind of people we are? Is it nature or nurture? And “Restart” was almost like an experiment to see if it works that way. If you took a guy who was a certain way, and you wiped him completely clean, would he go back to being the same kind of person that he was before? Or would he have a chance to really restart his life?
What are some of the things you do to overcome writer’s block when you are writing a story?
For me, writer’s block is mostly social. I have three kids. They’re 18, 15 and 12, so the perfect ages to ask. They’ve also read my books as they’ve been that age over the years.
I don’t know if you guys know I wrote my first book when I was 12. So who helped me? My mom! But here’s the thing — as I’ve continued to write and get older, I still get advice and help from her. Whenever I write something, the first thing I do is I email it up to my mom. She lives in Canada, where I grew up. So a lot of the time, writer’s block really is just a block, like it’s in your own head. Sometimes just getting someone else’s views on it makes it easier to get around the problem.
How many of your books have made it to the big screen?
None, actually. All the things I’ve done have been done on TV. So I have “Swindle” prior with Nickelodeon. Three of my old Macdonald Hall books were done as TV movies in Canada and will probably be released here shortly. And then it’s a little before your time, but I had a show on Disney Channel in the early 2000s called “The Jersey.”
Which genre of books were you drawn to as a child, and do you have any memory of the ones that had an impact on your love of writing?
I loved old-school middle grade novelists like Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume. But I think the one that was most impactful was — did you ever read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”? So I actually was in fourth grade the year that came out. I remember it was this moment for me, that I never really read a book about me as a kid. That triggered my love of these middle grade books. And I think that . . . my first book was a school assignment. And we had months and months to write whatever we wanted. And I think that I could have written anything. But I wrote a very classic middle grade novel because I loved novels, thanks to Judy Blume.
Does it take you a while to get an idea for a book? Do you like to finish your book early or write under pressure and procrastinate?
Under the deadline. I’m pretty good at delivering stuff early and on time and all that. In terms of how long does it take to get an idea, that’s one of the weird things. It’s that sometimes, the idea, you just get it and it’s there, you know, and this is great. And then sometimes it takes forever. It’s like pulling teeth. But there’s no real difference here. Like they’re still good ideas. It’s not like good ideas are easy and less good ideas are hard.
What makes you inspired to write a novel or story?
I feel like being exposed to a lot of stories inspired me to write. Not necessarily to steal other people’s ideas. But just, you know, you watch a movie, let’s say. And there’ll be a moment, like a certain relationship between two people on screen. And you think to yourself, that’s really cool. And you think of other ways that that could come out. Well, I wonder if he could find a way to fit that into a story. You mentioned the “Swindle” books, right? So, you know the old robbery movies, like the bank job and a jewel heist and “Ocean’s Eleven” and stuff like that? I love those little moments. That sort of excitement of the caper, the heist or something. And “Swindle” was like, could I do that for kids? I think moments in stories, in other books, in movies, in TV shows, inspire me to come up with ideas.
Do you find it hard to keep focused?
I’ve always got a few things going on. Usually as I’m writing a book, there’s the book before it that’s going through revision. And there’s the book after it that I’m trying to set up. So I’ve usually got three things going on at any given time. But I’m not really writing them at the same time. You know what the most disruptive thing is between the three books — this is going to seem really weird to you — is what tense it’s in. It’s really hard to write a book in present tense. I do a revision on a book that’s in the past tense. Then I find I just can’t get myself out of the tense. I think you have to just choose one and make all of them that from now on.