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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Interview with Greg Seeley, author of the Big Bobby Boom Series

Gregg Seeley was born in Vancouver but grew up in several parts of Canada. When you’re the new kid in town, it’s not always easy. Writing from his own experiences as a child moving frequently and coping with bullying, gave him the inspiration and motivation in writing the "Big Bobby Boom!" series. He has become an advocate for the anti-bullying movement. His book “Big Bobby Boom! and the Marble Mayhem” is the first in a series of action packed humor stories for children ages 9 to 12 that highlights the serious issue of bullying.

Your first published book is Big Bobby Boom! and the Marble Mayhem, how did you come up with that wild title?
I was a local carnival and witness a child throw a temper tantrum and I thought he must be huge by the way he's making all that noise, he was no bigger than the taco bell dog. As I was walking home, I stared up at the enormous clock tower in the down town and thought, I wonder what it would be like to climb up there and drop marbles down onto the street. That night came the birth of the original idea for the story.

I understand this book came about from telling bedtime stories to your boys. Was it a story that evolved and changed as you continued to tell it?
Oh absolutely, the story evolved tremendously from the bedtime stories. The characters grew, the town grew, the storyline changed and the entire theme spiraled into a novel. It was my boys who encouraged me to get this published After many nights of laughing their heads off at story time and getting too wound up to sleep, they thought it would be a great idea if other kids had the chance to hear the true hilarity of this. Originally it was called Bad Jimmy but since I couldn't have a protagonist with that kind of name, there had to be an antagonist worthy of the title "Big Bobby Boom!"

How did you work to polish your story?

I never took a writing class per se. I began writing short stories at age eight and always knew I wanted to write books. I used to trade manuscripts with a local critique group in the town where I previously lived before retiring from the military. That was a lot of fun. I polished it from the feedback and the belief that I could write it better than it originally was.

This book is published by Moosehide books. Did you contact any other publishers to produce your book prior to contacting them?
Actually, no they were the first publishing house I wrote to with this particular manuscript and being a first time novelist I was so happy to receive positive feedback from the publisher on this manuscript that I just stuck with them.

Tell me about the process with Moosehide. Did you first send in a query, proposal or full manuscript?
Oh, yes I sent in a query, an outline and a sample chapter. Richard Mousseau rejected it whole-heartedly but left me with a great positive note at the bottom of the letter stating that he really liked the story idea and with a strong re-write he would consider it. So off I went with the determination of a junior rhinoceros and set about to pound out a good story and make it enjoyable. Using some past experiences and wishful thinking of how I wished my childhood dealings with bullies could have been, I put in my own twisted humor and tall tale embellishment.

You say your writing mentor is Richard Mousseau, editor and publisher at Moosehide books. Give me some specifics of how he has helped you.
Richard Mousseau was very patient with my work and as I kept sending him re-writes we would have long conversations on the phone about how to make it better and I would send out better and better work until he was happy with it and found it worthy of publishing. I really had no idea what I was doing when I first started with the whole writing thing but what a tremendous learning process I had.

What was the editing process like for the book?

Re-writes? re-does? I got to the point where I memorized the manuscript word for word and kept pounding away and kept my enthusiasm up with all the encouragement Richard gave until finally . . .It was done!

You have a second book now. Was working on that book easier or harder?
My life Smells like Peanut Butter is the working title for Big Bobby Boom! and the Junkyard Monster. I thought I would try and mix it up a bit. My boys however think I should stick with Big Bobby Boom! and the Junkyard Monster. This one was much easier to write than the first in the sense that I had all the mechanics down for a good story and knew a lot more about character development and fleshing out the story. I tried to write the first draft in the same manner of the Captain Underpants books but all I had was a great skeleton. I immediately started putting meat on the bones of the second one right away and it flowed so much easier. This book is now in the final editing phase.

Are there more Bobby Boom books in the works?

The third installment "Big Bobby Boom! and the Nasty Surprise" is a completed first draft and concludes the series quite nicely and it is full of "Nasty Surprises" for the antagonists. No, this particular novel is not under contract at the moment.

You've done readings of your book at schools. What was it like reading to a new group of kids?
With regards to school readings, I usually set it up myself. I offered a copy of the book to a number of school principals, left my contact information and then badgered them a couple of weeks later. The rewarding part was receiving late night calls from these wonderful people telling me how much they loved the book and how much they would enjoy me having to come into the schools for a reading. Most times they would order a number of books ahead of time and I would speak and entertain the audiences free of charge. Depending on the distance of the school from my home is whether or not I would charge a fee. I loved reading to new audience. Usually the school would file an entire grade into the library or the gym and they would listen to me read a chapter then take questions. The reactions were hilarious and enlightening. They enjoyed the voice characters I would make up and the humor I would bring to the question and answer time. I enjoyed it tremendously!

What surprised you the most about the publishing process?
What surprised me the most about the publishing process? That’s a funny question. You have to have patience, determination and a thick skin to go through with it. It’s not as easy as it looks. The re-writes, the query letters, the sales pitches and the waiting would be enough to drive the average impatient person into seeking another way to express their creativity for sure. I liken it to ice fishing in the bathtub, eventually you will . . . either give up, catch the tap a few times, or find another place to fish. I really wish I had learned the art of sales pitching for the query letters first, but it’s a learn as you go process for me. Some get lucky the first time they write a novel and get snapped up and made famous, while others have to climb the mountain and get there the hard way.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing?

The best advice I received about writing was . . . take up smoking, it’s safer. No that was when I was cut from a pro-football training camp. The best writing advice I ever received was from one of my former teachers. She said and I quote, “You have an over active imagination, I certainly hope you put it to good use some day.”

The best advice I would give new writers is . . . Nothing was ever accomplished by not taking a risk. No matter how awful the first line of the first draft looks . . .Keep going, that’s why you have the delete key. The story will make sense and grow on its own, all it needs is nurturing, faith and your desire to complete it.

If you’d like to learn more about Greg and his writing, here’s some links to do that…

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