When I asked Mark what inspired him to write the book and how he went about it, here's what he had to say ...
KC: You've spent most of your career creating television for children. What made you decide to turn to books at this point? Was it difficult making the transition from TV to books?
MW: I still enjoy working in television. In fact, I’ve just created a new show, The Big Bubble, for the preschooler network, Nick Jr. However, a long-treasured belief of mine – that a child’s funny bone is the shortest distance between their heart and mind – has always kept me awake at night. My dear friend, Lin Oliver (Co-Founder and Executive Director of SCBWI) urged me to put my passion between the covers of a kid’s book.
I have written a half-hour television episode overnight. The formula is rather clear and the deadline (an air date) makes the work somewhat urgent but relatively effortless. A TV script generally bypasses the internal narrative found in literature. Character, plot and dialogue are on the scripted page. But description of scenes and expression of feelings are left to the director and actors to realize. My experience in TV certainly informed my book writing, but the processes are distinctly different. Also, a television script is subject to constant change, as the various filters (network executives, studio brass, production company heads, lawyers, the director and cast) weigh in. Whereas, other than my editor, nobody imposed upon me mandatory notes. The gift of time and autonomy makes the lonely hours of a novelist almost tolerable. Comparing the two forms, I found that writing a novel was far more challenging and painstaking… and soulfully more rewarding than writing yet another hurry-up episode for television.
KC: What inspired you to write the The McVentures of Me, Morgan McFactoid?
MW: Images. Images that bombard children, day and night. Body images that young people strive to measure up to. With the ubiquitous nature of television, movies, tabloids and social media, I was increasingly concerned that children couldn’t avoid messages that negatively affected their self-esteem. I wanted to write a book about one’s physical looks… as they relate to self-acceptance. I wanted to introduce the notion that, while it’s sometimes difficult to see past one’s appearance, we should focus on a person’s contents, rather than their container. I wanted the reader to contemplate the value and nobility of our inner beauty and “character.”
I was also inspired by the fact that kids love facts, especially eccentric facts. And that’s a fact! I integrated a vast amount of purposeful, not random tidbits that would organically arise from the main character’s immediate predicament and serve to embellish the action.
KC: In Morgan, you've created a middle grade hero who so many of us can relate to: a guy who's smart, dorky, and resourceful, and has a good heart. How did you come up with Morgan's character? How much is based on you, or people you know?
MW: Morgan was/is my inner self. He’s how I observe and comprehend life. Growing up, I was a bit of an outsider. I was bashful, awkward, anxious. I used my sense of humor to navigate the world. Making people laugh was my passport to the “popular table.” As a well-honed survival skill, it also provided me, in later life, with a career in comedy.
KC: Morgan loves his factoids. The book is filled with them. How on earth did you come up with all of them? Do you have a secret McFactoid website somewhere? What's your favorite factoid?
MW: The Internet made my book possible. I suppose I could have camped out in the library for a few years, but I chose to do my fact-finding from the comfort of my keyboard. I needed to research facts that best fit the moment in the novel. Sometimes, I would start with a wonderful factoid and create a place to insert it. Other times, I would simply write the story with an eye towards spots that demanded an appropriate and juicy fact. It was a fun exercise, an unapologetic gimmick that I hoped kids would enjoy. I’m a committed proponent of “edutainment.”
Ask anyone, “How many ridges are there around the edge of a dime?” Not many will guess the correct amount: 118! (I love that one…)
KC: Along with his fondness for factoids, Morgan is also an unbridled inventor. Will we be seeing any more inventions from Morgan in the future? If you were a crazy inventor, what would you invent?
MW: I hope Morgan will invent many more things, meaning I hope the book will sell well enough to warrant a sequel and perhaps a franchise.
What would I invent? I suppose that would be the new book I’m working on right now. It’s a YA that will require the stars to, once again, align so that I may share my fiction, my humor and my messages with those who are willing to dream along with me... starting with the publisher and ending with the consumer.
Thanks so much for sharing your time and thoughts, Mark. Now for the contest ...