'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Author Interview: Marc Tyler Nobleman

Today, Kids Book Review is interviewing American author Marc Tyler Nobleman. Marc has written dozens of non-fiction books, including Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. You can see more of Marc's work on his blog, noblemania.blogspot.com.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? I like when you learn from an “About the Author” blurb that the author had an eclectic range of former jobs: window washer, ice cream taster, parade float operator, matador. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those authors!

I studied literature and history in college with a concentration in film theory. My first job post-college was nonpaying — and not an internship; I wrote three screenplays. Though I didn’t sell any, they were great prep for the discipline of writing, from character to structure. At the same time, I was looking for a “real” job; after a dispiriting summer, I got one — at a publishing company. I was hired in marketing (despite zero background in it) and less than two years later, I was writing my first book for them (not as part of my day job — I was paid separately for it and didn’t do it on company time). I worked for four years on the marketing side (two publishers) and then got laid off.

My then-girlfriend, now-wife encouraged me to stay laid off — meaning to try for a freelance career. That was in 1998 and here we are. Since I write for young people, it is worth mentioning that I’ve had my mind set on being an artist of some kind since I was seven (the writing came into focus in my teens, in part thanks to the foresight of my mom).

What genre do you write in? I don’t limit myself though much of my work has involved narrative nonfiction (the quirkier the better) and humor. I’ve written some fiction, too (short novels, short stories and plays for magazines).

What other genres have you written in? I’ve written books with a scientific bent and even a couple of math books — buyer beware! I rarely had a mind for math. (On the first day of 7th grade, we were given a printed schedule of classes and I was thrilled that math was not on it - until a friend told me that “algebra” is math.)

What do you love about writing for children? I’m sure you hear this from most other authors of children’s books: I love writing period and write some of my books for all ages, despite how they may look at first glance. However, what I love specifically about writing for children is the joy of revealing a story they most likely haven’t heard before. You also can’t beat the honest feedback of children. It’s helpful, heartening, and humbling at once.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? I can remember a couple of early stories but as an author of nonfiction, I can’t accurately claim I remember the FIRST. Earliest I do remember from early elementary school involved a ghost. And one of my first “real” stories (i.e. from late elementary) was about a kid getting locked overnight in a toy store.

Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favourite? Whatever I’m working on at the time is often my favorite, at least for that moment. Overall, my favorite is Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. And I’m equally fond of one in the works for 2012, about Batman.

Tell us about your path to having your books published. The first publisher I worked for had recently begun a line of children’s books. This included a series of picture books about a rabbit named Felix who traveled the world and sent letters back to his friend/owner.

The president wanted an activity book based on this character (who was not mine) and I volunteered, even though I was 23 with no credits to my name. Six months later (ah, the fast pace of publishing) the president called me into his office and asked if I remembered volunteering to write an activity book. I said of course. He said “If you were serious, the job is yours.” I said “Are YOU serious?” I wrote that, and a “sequel” three years later, and used those to try to build some momentum. Now I am writing and pitching my own stories.

What’s a typical writing day? I don’t have as rigid a schedule as some writers. I’m as disciplined but I don’t write the same hours every day, or even every day — blasphemous as some writers say that is. But once I start writing, I am consumed and want to finish without other projects coming between. I spend a lot of time marketing, too, which includes speaking and blogging (which is, of course, writing!).

What advice do you have on writing? Start young. Read a lot, including books on the art of writing. Take notes on turns of a phrase you like, not to reuse but rather to lend inspiration. Don’t let rejection stop you — let it challenge you to keep going.

What books did you read as a child? Where the Wild Things Are. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. David and the Phoenix. The Cricket in Times Square. The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Many more.

What else do you like to do, other than write books? Be with my family and friends. Run (especially at sunset). Listen to music.

What would be your perfect day? The answer to the previous question, plus some writing.

What five words best sum you up? You should ask my wife!

What’s next for Marc Tyler Nobleman? Some writing-driven digital projects and the Batman book, which will be the first-ever on the uncredited co-creator and original writer of one of the most iconic superheroes of all time.