Well interestingly enough, I'm still an engineer by day, the director of innovation where I work. I've never exactly been "normal". I've never thought like a typical person, most likely due to my ADHD. But I've learned to embrace it over these years. I've always been very good with numbers, so engineering came somewhat naturally for me. But I had a very creative side as well, I see the world differently than most, and combining the two has been a lot of fun. By writing the books and doing the plays, that really fills the creative side of me.
When did you actually start writing your first book? How long did it take to write your first draft?
An actual book? In 2006, but couldn't find a good graphic artist. It took a long time to get the feel correct for my covers. I had a vision of what I wanted to see and didn't want to move forward till I had it figured out.
Who encouraged you along the way to complete your writing and publish it?
Myself. I saw a lot of positive feedback from the kids and parents for the plays I made and I knew that publish on demand was becoming more mainstream, so I decided to jump in. Hardest part was finding someone who could capture my thoughts for the front cover...
Prior to writing these children’s plays, what was your publishing and writing background? Whytips did you decide to take on re-writing Shakespeare?
I had no experience with publishing and frankly, if you asked my English teacher in high school, she would say I should have no experience with writing either! If I feel something can be done, I just go out and do it, with or without experience. I took on Shakespeare, not because I'm an expert in anyway, I still have a lot of difficulty understanding the dialogue, but it had more to do with the way the kids reacted with it when we performed, and how fun it was to engage the kids in such great art and language.
Your books are self-published. What made you decide to go that route?
Self-publishing through CreateSpace (at that time, BookSurge) was easy and inexpensive. My marketing mind already knew that people were searching for kids and Shakespeare, and there really wasn't much in the way of fun books in that space.
What has frustrated you the most in the process of putting together the books?
In the beginning, it was just finding a graphic designer who could render the thoughts in my mind appropriately for my audience. But the books and the process are pretty straightforward. Probably the most frustrating, is trying to find an agent. My books don't exactly fall into any typical category, but the amount of positive feedback that I get from parents and kids tell me that I have to keep moving. Just check out all the positive reviews on Amazon! Perhaps one day I’ll connect with the appropriate agent and they can help me reach more kids.
What are some of the promotions that you’ve done for the book that have been the most successful?
I typically give away a lot of books. But I'm unique, because if someone likes one of my books, they usually purchase others. So it's worth the investment to mail it out. For a promotion perspective, I'm currently doing a Shakespeare Insult-a-thon, where two Shakespeare insults go head-to-head and people vote which is better. It should be a lot of fun, and I've had schools do it in the past with great success. You should check it out AND post an insult at InsultLikeShakespeare.com.
I have never used either, perhaps next year maybe the first time.
Have you seen any of your plays produced by others? If so, what was the experience like?
Yes and it’s always amazing!!! I’ve been able to see a couple, but they are being produced all around the world. From Scotland in an actual castle to Singapore to Malaysia to all over the United States. It’s amazing how the kids have taken to the plays and how much the love Shakespeare and performing afterwards. It’s the MAIN REASON I continue to write plays!
Do you still direct and produce the plays?
I don’t anymore, BUT, I will again here shortly. As my kid gets older and I get more and more of an itch to get back on stage, it will be inevitable. I have performed them at schools and community centers. I’ve seen homeschools perform “backyard theater” as well. It doesn’t matter where, as long as the kids are having fun!
What advice would you give someone who wants to write children’s stories?
Go out and just tell stories to kids, see how they respond. See if they engage with some of the characters you create, listen to their feedback while you're telling them your characters. They are your audience, the better you engage them the better they respond to you, the better your story will be. Don't spend a lot of time writing as much as telling stories until you get the right story, then write it down.
What is the best writing advice you’ve been given?
By my wife: 15 minutes a day. Just spent 15 minutes a day working on your book. Believe it or not, sooner or later, you will have created something pretty impressive. The thought of just writing a book seems overwhelming, but the thought of just spending 15 minutes a day, is very manageable. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
How much time daily do you have for writing?
Hah! Not 15 minutes unfortunately. But I'm lucky, I have co-authors. It’s definitely a joint venture, as none of my co-authors write alone, I heavily edit much of what they write to make sure it flows consistently with what I envision the books to be.
What message would you like parents and children to take away from your stories?
Just have fun with Shakespeare. The whole point is to just engage the kids and get them to like the plays, once you do that, the kids will have so much fun and many will end up looking up the actual Shakespeare text on their own. All I do is open the door, the kids will walk through it and have fun. That's the whole point of my books and the biggest message I tell parents and teachers. Just. Have. Fun.
What plans do you have for other plays?
I have a Shakespeare comedy, and a tragedy coming out towards the end of the year. Also, we will be producing jungle book by Rudyard Kipling. And I have a high school rendition for high school performances, coming out in the summer.
That's all for today's interview. If you're intrigued by his take on Shakespeare, here's some links to find out more details: PlayingWithPlays.com and InsultLikeShakespeare.com