Despite its many negatives, social media can be very useful. I found this out the day I sent Richard Chizmar a tweet asking to interview him. I was skeptical of receiving a response from the popular American author of Gwendy’s Button Box who has co-written with Stephen King. Imagine my surprise when he replied only two minutes later!
Interview: El Barham
How and when did you start writing creatively?
I started writing stories when I was very young. Maybe eight or nine years old. I would sit at my desk in my bedroom and write them longhand in a notebook. Usually monster or war stories. Then I would illustrate them.
Are there any books or people who inspired you to write?When I was younger, comic books and scary movies and the old Alfred Hitchcock anthologies inspired me to write my own stories. When I got a little older, writers like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury made me want to grow up to be an author.
Who are your favourite authors and what are your favourite books?
My all time favorites are IT by Stephen King, BOY’S LIFE by Robert McCammon and LORD OF THE FLIES.
What’s the reason you write?
I’ve always been drawn to writing as a way to help make sense of the world around me and as a way of simply entertaining myself.
What inspires your work?
I find inspiration everyone around me. Whether it’s a person, a place, a particular moment in time…if it intrigues me, makes me think, or have a strong emotional reaction, I like to write about it.
Have you had any formal training in Creative Writing and is it useful?
The only formal training I’ve had is a single writing class in college. Great instructor who taught me a lot. Other than that, I’ve learned on the job — by reading everything I can get my hands on and writing as often as possible.
Did you always want to be an author and if not, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I was a kid. By the time I hit my teenage years, I wanted to write and create my own worlds. This has all been a dream come true for me.
What is your writing process?
I’m pretty busy helping to run Cemetery Dance Publications and being a dad to two boys, so my writing schedule fluctuates from day to day. When I’m deep into a story, though, I try to knock out as much as I can in the morning and early afternoon. Those late night writing marathons are a thing of the past for me.
Presumably you’ve never caused mass destruction with a button box, but do you write from experience?
I write a lot of stories based on real life experience — not the Button Box, thank God! — but other tales regarding everything from loss and regret to misadventure and cancer.
How do you create such vibrant and compelling characters?
When it comes to characters, I simply try to crawl into their skin and see the world from their eyes. If I can do that, I can understand how they think and talk and act.
And finally, what advice do you have for young writers?
Best advice I can give is to read a lot and write a lot. And embrace rejection and failure as part of the process. Consider it you earning your way.
Big thanks to Richard Chizmar – find out more at: richardchizmar.com