The Writing Life of: Gary Schwartz
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Gary Schwartz.
Gary Schwartz began his professional career as a mime at age 13, performing up and down the Hudson River with Pete Seeger and the great folk entertainers of the 1960s.
In the 1980s he appeared in numerous film and television projects including the Oscar-winning feature film Quest for Fire. Schwartz has lent his voice to hundreds of film and TV projects and is the voice of several well-known video game characters, including Heavy Weapons Guy and Demoman in Team Fortress 2.
Schwartz has written for two children’s television series in which he co-starred: Zoobilee Zoo, where he played Bravo Fox; and the Disney Channel’s You and Me, Kid.
Schwartz studied with and became the protégé of Viola Spolin, the creator of Theater Games, the basis for improvisational theater in America. He is a passionate, dynamic improv coach and facilitator devoted to carrying on Spolin’s techniques.
1) Do you remember the moment you decided that you would like to become a writer?
I don’t remember wanting to be a writer, per se. I wanted to act and perform. I wrote material for myself and my partner, and wrote scripts and screenplays to fill the time an actor has while not acting.
It’s more recent that I became serious about writing books. It’s a way of traveling through my imagination and I like that.
2) How did you go about following your dream?
It was a series of accidents. My dream of being an actor was squashed by my parents and upbringing. “Nobody goes out and becomes an actor for a living. Get real.” That was my programming.
So I became a bartender, who performed on the side. After a serious car accident I realized a normal job was not for me. Still not convinced I had a chance at show business, I wrote to a mime teacher in Boulder Colo. I went to study with him and learn about the Kabbalah. Yes, he was a spiritual Mime. I was ready to live a life of a poor mime on a mountain top. When I got to Colorado, he had booked himself a European tour and left my money with the post office.
I went to LA to be a bartender, but fell in with other mimes and one thing led to another. In retrospect, I followed my dream.
While auditioning for a comedy show, I was not dismissed properly by the producers and stood there while they batted around sketch ideas. I tossed in a few and became a writer on that show for the Playboy Channel as well as a performer. Everything was sort of accidental.
3) Is there a particular author that inspires you?
The first author to make me cry was Nikos Kazantzakis’ "Zorba the Greek". I finished the book in 8th grade under my desk while in class and broke down. I wanted to be that kind of a writer inspired by people who lived life richly and fully.
Then, of course Norton Juster, Roald Dahl, S.J. Perelman all tickled me and entertained me. I’m more of a Roald Dahl and Woody Allen fan for writers.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any strange writing habits?
I wish I was more disciplined. I don’t write every day, — yet. I do my best writing in the early morning. If I get on a tear, I can look up to see it be 8pm or later and my body is stiff. That’s a good day of writing. I like getting caught up in it.
5) Do you write Longhand, Type writer, Computer?
6) From all your books, do you have a favourite character?
Zorba. Of my personal book writing, I love to be each character. That’s my acting training, I guess.
7) Do you plot your books completely before hand or do you let your imagination flow whilst in the writing process?
"King of Average", had a good beginning and I let the book unfold in the writing. That’s the hard way. I had to outline the book after the fact. Painful.
In my second book I’m working on at the moment, "The Benji Loper Caper", I had a good idea as in King and this time wrote the outline as a movie script to make the action work. That was fun and gave me a structure for the book. I still like writing the flow out way, because you never know when a character will take you by the hand and change the story.
Concerning your latest book:
Author – Gary Schwartz
Publisher – Updrift
Release Date – 6th October 2015
Format – ebook, paperback, hardcover
James isn’t the world’s greatest kid, but he’s not the worst, either: he’s average! When he decides to become the most average kid who ever lived, James is transported to another world where he meets Mayor Culpa, a well-dressed talking Scapegoat who recruits him to become the new King of Average.
He’s joined on his quest by a professional Optimist and his grouchy companion, an equally professional Pessimist. Together, they set out on a journey of self-discovery that leads them all the way from the Sea of Doubt to Mount Impossible, the highest peak in the Unattainable Mountains. When James stumbles into a Shangri-la called Epiphany, he uncovers the secret of who he really is.
Follow James on his hilarious, adventure-packed journey to find self-worth in this heartfelt middle grade novel.
Have a read of our five star review of ‘The King of Average‘
8) How long did it take to get from the ideas stage, to the date of publication?
9) Did you suffer from writer’s block at any stage? How did you overcome it?
Oh, yes. I wrote the first 20 pages back in the 80’s and then told everyone what a great story I had. I would then tell the story rather than write it.
Finally, in 2008, when I was challenged by a friend to push past the 20 odd pages, I ended up with 360 pages. I read it and was horrified at the bad writing. I put the thing away for several years.
I have to make myself accountable to others and then I seem to get going. If I am asked to show my work to someone who’s on my case, I do it. In the end I enjoy it. But I’m not the greatest self-starter.
10) How did you come up with the name(s)for your lead character(s)?
It’s my homage to Norton Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth. James (the most common name) Mayor Culpa (the verbal pun on Mea Culpa) the scapegoat was first. Kiljoy, the Pessimist reminded me of Gilroy was here. Monsieur Roget the Optimist was the only one I had trouble naming. What pun do you use for an Optimist. Sonny? Anyway, I wanted to make him French and my Thesaurus was my friend at this point, so I named him after Roget’s Thesaurus.
11) If your book was made in to a film, who would you love to play the lead character(s)?
12) Did you get anyone in particular to read your work before sending it to the publisher i.e family member, friend etc?
Yes, from the first bad manuscript, I sent it to family and friends. The non-reply told me I needed to make it work as a piece of writing. Then writer friends, more family and other friends along the way.
Then I hired a mentor – Susan Hughes, a children’s book author and teacher from Nova Scotia. She really took me in hand and gave me the most help. Writing, good writing is hard work.