The Serious Questions
It turns out that writing was in my blood -- both my parents were authors. They never pushed me to be a writer, though they provided endless support when I decided to go that route. I tried my hand at playwriting and screenwriting but eventually put away creative writing altogether for a few years while launching my career in sportswriting. I picked it up again about six years ago. Being a sportswriter and journalist gave me an eye for detail. A pitch thrown in baseball isn’t simply a pitch. Was it a fastball? Curveball? Was it a perfect strike down the middle or a questionable call by the umpire? That’s just one pitch! So I try to apply some of that to my writing.
Tell us about your current work in progress.
I just finished the first book in my “Strange Country Day” series, which will be published by Month9Books later this year. It’s the tale of a group of 7th graders at a private school who discover they can suddenly throw footballs like pros and leap 10 feet in the air to make catches and eventually discover something … strange is going on. I’m currently working on my newest draft of the second book.
What do you do to cure writer’s block?
Three words: Take. A. Walk. My high school writing mentor always advised us to walk away from our work to give us space and I took that literally. My best ideas come while I’m strolling to the subway in New York City, with my head down mostly staring at the sidewalk.
Are you a plotter or a pantster?
I’m definitely a pantster (it’s the first time I’ve heard that phrase and it’s a perfect description!). I usually have a vision in my head for the general plot like a movie script, then I take one of those aforementioned walks when I find myself needing to fill in a gap.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I don’t have any at the moment, but I would love some suggestions (tweet some to me @charlescurtis82!).
What is your favorite book? What about favorite book to movie adaptation?
Michael Chabon’s “The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” along with most of his other work. As for favorite movie adaptation: I know it’s cliché, but Francis Ford Coppola turned The Godfather from gripping novel to Shakespearean drama.
Tell us about working in radio – it sounds like such a cool thing to do!
It’s a lot of fun! For the last two years, I’ve appeared every Sunday night on SportsTalk NY, a local Long Island radio show, to talk about the NFL. I’ve also done some work for Canadian morning shows and for a station in Syracuse. From the first nerve-wracking minute I appeared on the air, I’ve had to learn how to entertain and inform with just my voice. I don’t have my words in print to lean on, of course.
Tell us about your journey to publication. What was it like?
I think most authors would say the journey was surreal. For me, it definitely was. I’d worked on “Strange Country Day” for years and when I finished, I thought, “If it never sees the light of day, I’ll deal with it … or self-publish.” But then my agent called to say Month9Books was interested and suddenly the floor fell out below me. Readers are actually going to pick it up and consume it? Will they love my characters? Does my plot leave them wanting more? Now, I’m beyond thrilled and can’t wait to hear from readers.
What is the best piece of writing advice you NEVER followed?
Write an outline! It’s advice I SHOULD follow. Now that I’m writing an entire series and not just one novel, I think my pantsting days are coming to a close.
Where did the idea for STRANGE COUNTRY DAY come from? Tell us about it!
I was sitting in the back of my parents’ Buick, on our way to Long Island, about five or six years ago. My mom was in the passenger’s seat and turned around to say the words that would alter my life: “I had a book idea for you: Vampires playing football.”
My first thought was, “Vampires are so mid-2000s.” That was at the height of “Vampire Diaries” and “Twilight,” so I was ready to reject it. But I suddenly saw a vision in my head: A vampire flying up to catch a football. So if the receiver wasn’t a vampire, why would he have the ability to leap up 10 feet in the air and catch a ball? Out went the creatures of the night and in their place were … well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
The Random Questions
I love anything combining chocolate and peanut butter, but I live for vanilla.
Dinos or dragons?
Can I say neither and throw in a vote for Jedis?
What psychic power would you want?
Give me some good old fashioned Professor X telepathy.
Favorite Disney character?
Genie. A tour de force performance by Robin Williams.
Something with a beach one day and adventure/nature the next. So, Hawaii!
Tomatoes: Fruit or veggie?
A fruit that tastes like a veggie.
Morning Person or Night owl?
Morning person. When you spent your teenage years waking up at 6:30AM for school, you have to be.
Favorite Book Ever:
I mentioned “Kavalier & Clay” above, but I’ll give you a favorite recent read: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. I just finished his “Armada,” too. Fantastic.
Favorite Movie Ever:
Nothing puts a smile on my face like “Singin in the Rain.”
Music Earworm of the Moment:
I spent a lot of writing time recently listening to the entire “Uptown Special” album by Mark Ronson. There’s much more to it than “Uptown Funk.”
Charles Curtis is a sports writer and journalist based in New York City. He has reported and written for publications including NJ.com, The Daily, ESPN.com, ESPN the Magazine, Bleacher Report, TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in New York City with his wife and son. He can be reached on Twitter at @charlescurtis82