I'm happy to be the first stop on The Stowaway Blog Tour. (Other stops include Bilge Munky (12/9), SF Signal (12/10), SciFiDimensions (12/11), and Charlotte's Library (12/12). The Stowaway is a young adult novel written by a father-son team: R.A. and Geno Salvatore. (Chances are you've heard of Geno's father, Bob, and read some of his adult books.)
What inspired you to write The Stowaway?
[Geno] The Stowaway started as a short story I wrote some time in high school, about a person sitting in the hold of a ship rolling marbles at rats and pondering the nature of boredom. I assume it was inspired by history class.
[Bob] And the guy who paid for that history class is darned glad to hear it! In all seriousness, though, the thing that inspired me to jump in and agree to this project was Geno’s passion about the story. I was never thrilled at the prospect of any of my kids entering the writing field. When Wizards of the Coast proposed to me that I write a young adult novel with either Geno or Bryan, with both of whom they had worked before, I put it off and gave a definite “maybe.” Geno agreed to do it, and said he had a story he wanted to tell, so I set him to outlining and writing, and we were more than halfway through the first draft, and picking up steam, before I ever called Wizards and said we’d do it.
Do you have a favorite scene or a favorite quote from the novel?
[Geno] I love the ending, which I won’t detail so as not to spoil it.
[Bob] For me, it’s got to be the flaming chariot scene – redone from The Halfling’s Gem. I just love crazy dwarves.
The Stowaway is your first young adult novel, did your writing approach change with this one?
[Bob] Well, of course my writing approach changed, in that Geno did most of the actual writing. But as far as the philosophical approach to telling the story, it changed very little. Most of all, we told the story through the eyes of a 12-year-old – a very sophisticated and intelligent 12-year-old, but still a kid. There’s no “dumbing down” here, however. Of course there isn’t. I get letters and e-mails from pre-teens all the time – 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds who are deep into the Legend of Drizzt series, and many of their comments are quite insightful.
Can you share what ~a day in the life~ of a successful author is like for my readers? What does a writer do behind-the-scenes?
[Bob] He wears pajamas until noon, on days when he doesn’t have to go to the gym. My life is very normal and pretty low-key. Writing is both a blessing and a curse. I love being able to make my own schedule and write when the mood hits me (as long as it’s hitting me every day, because the deadlines are brutal). At the same time, having that freedom carries with it a tremendous amount of pressure. It’s far too easy to say, “I’ll write that scene tomorrow.” That’s a funny word, “tomorrow,” because you can say it forever without ever getting there.
My schedule involves about an hour of answering e-mail every day, at least one interview, like this one, a week, and writing no less than a thousand words a day. In addition, there will be the ever-nagging processes of adjusting maps, offering cover art suggestions (rarely taken), signing books, and doing appearances. It’s a strange paradox, because you’re really not that busy, but you’re always under pressure, and you always have something you could be doing.
The novel was written collaboratively. What did you find the easiest about writing together? What did you find the hardest? Will there be more collaborations in the future?
[Geno] The collaboration was actually very easy. The story was mine originally, and the characters, and the voice, so we came into this knowing I’d do most of the actual writing. He calls his role in the process that of a hands-on editor; he helped with the pacing of the story, wrote a few scenes he wanted to do, and was generally available any time I needed advice or help. But when I didn’t, he was content to stand aside and watch. There was never any territorial conflict or butting of heads, and even in terms of the story we never really had any disagreements.
[Bob] That said, I don’t know if we’ll be writing together again. Writing is a very personal experience to me, and, I think and hope, to Geno. That was the hardest part. It’s tough enough allowing an editor to make a nip here and a tuck there, but when you’re co-writing, the lack of complete control over the creation is an issue for me. That wasn’t the case here, because, as I said, this was Geno’s story, but as we get going on this, if it continues, it will be up to Geno to tell Geno’s stories.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Has this always been a dream of yours?
[Geno] I spent a long time denying any aspiration to be a writer. I spent my youth as Bryan’s little brother, I did not want to spend my professional life as Bob’s son. But eventually the words find their way through to the page. I cannot not write. So instead I’ll have to separate myself from him by creating work that stands on its own.
[Bob] When I was very young – kindergarten and the early grades – I loved to write and sure, along with astronaut and paleontologist, that was one of my dreams. That all went away as I went through school, when both reading and writing became a chore and not a pleasure. It got so bad that I started college as a math major. Tolkien reminded me of that old love, but still, I have to say that I never really believed this would be my career.
Whose work has influenced (or inspired you) most?
[Geno] I list among my greatest inspirations Hemingway, Douglas Adams, J.L. Carr. My influences are more difficult to quantify; I am of the belief that everyone and everything one experiences has influence on them. So with that in mind my father is probably my greatest influence.
[Bob] Charles Schultz gets a big shout out here. The simple and honest philosophy of his Peanuts’ characters touched me deeply. Then of course there’s Tolkien. I got a slip-case of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a Christmas gift in my freshman year of college, 1977. Two months later, New England got hit with the biggest blizzard of the 20th century and like everyone else, I was trapped in the house for a week. But I wasn’t. I went to Middle Earth with a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Changed my life.
As far as influencing my writing, I think Fritz Lieber’s work played a big part, along with Terry Brooks and Michael Moorcock, all bringing different sensibilities to different parts of the process.
You write fantasy books. What do you love about the genre? Did you grow up reading fantasy? Do you have any favorites among the genre that you~d want to recommend? What series is your favorite? What author?
[Geno] It’s hard to grow up the son of a fantasy author and not read fantasy. I’ve been a fan since I was six, when I first cracked open Brian Jacques’ “Redwall”. That book, and the whole series, would certainly make my recommendation list. My personal favorite book in the genre (well, actually, it’s tangential to the genre… but any fantasy reader can appreciate it) is Terry Brooks’ “Running with the Demon”.
[Bob] My favorite remains the Tolkien works, mostly The Hobbit. I didn’t grow up reading fantasy, as I said earlier, and found the genre, including Dungeons and Dragons, in college. Other favorites include Terry Brooks and Fritz Lieber, Stephen Donaldson and Michael Moorcock.
How do you find time~do you find time~to keep reading? Do you have any favorites of the year?
[Geno] It’s very difficult; I haven’t read a new book in the past six months.
[Bob] Same thing for me. In addition to very real and justified fears that someone else’s work will bleed over into my own, there’s the fact that I can no longer read a book and simply accept what the author is offering to me. I’m reading like an editor, and if there was ever a curse, that’s it. I’m constantly saying, “I would have done it this way,” or “I wouldn’t have taken that character to that place!” I hate it when readers do that to me, and here I am, doing it to other authors!
It’s probably my greatest lament of being a published author. It’s so much harder to read a book now. Of course, there remain the old staples, Tolkien foremost among them, which I can still read. I mean, there is no possible way I could ever bring myself to second-guess anything Tolkien wrote!
If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?
[Geno] Personally, I’d rather be content with what I have now than speculate as to what I’d like to do.
[Bob] Set up my own Gates’ Foundation for green, renewable energy sources. Limitless, you say? Okay, lift the standard of living all around the world to the highest point currently enjoyed, to put globalization on a sustainable and level playing field without crushing the workers of the more developed economies. How’s that for starters?
There is nothing, materially speaking, that I want or care all that much about on a personal level. As long as I have the money to travel once in a while and to keep my family secure, I don’t need for anything.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews