May 31, 2013
On Saturday, May 4th, I had the honor of interviewing the talented (and hilarious!) author Dan Gutman. I asked him some questions of my own about his latest series, The Genius Files, and the Woozens that attended Book Club had some great questions of their own. If you had to miss our first-ever Book Club interview, not to worry! I decided to post a transcript of the event. Check it out! <3 JennyWooz
Jenny: Mr. Gutman, you’ve written so many amazing books over the years, including the Baseball Card Adventures series and the My Weird School series – really, too many to name! What are you working on now?
Dan Gutman: Well, as you know, the third book of The Genius Files came out in January. This is still a new series for me, following two thirteen-year-old genius siblings, Coke and Pepsi McDonald, on their wild adventures as they get chased around the country by various crazy villains! These books are a lot of fun to write, as I get to come up with insane tricks and traps for the McDonald siblings to outsmart.
Jenny: The new series is certainly thrilling! I couldn’t put them down… How did you come up with the names “Coke” and “Pepsi”? I’m assuming you’re in your right mind when you write XD
Dan Gutman: Don’t be so sure! The thing is, I have a really short attention span and often when I read a book, I forget the names of the characters. I figure a lot of kids are like that too, so I wanted to use names that would be really memorable. And what could be more memorable than Coke and Pepsi? Fortunately, I have not been sued yet!
Jenny: LOL, that is very fortunate! Woozens, if you had to choose, would you choose to be called “Coke” or “Pepsi”? (If I had to pick, I think I’d be “Sprite”!) Well, on that note, I have a couple of questions from Woozens! dalmatianspots asks: When you write a book, where does your inspiration come from?
Dan Gutman: They’re beamed to me from outer space. But seriously, I get my ideas from all different places: reading newspapers, watching TV, listening to the radio, listening to my own kids talk, and my own childhood. Sometimes I just make crazy stuff up. I try to come up with a “big idea.” Like, I try to take an ordinary kid and put that kid into an extraordinary situation. A kid runs for president of the United States. A kid gets the chance to take one foul shot for a million dollars. A kid finds the most valuable baseball card in the world and discovers he has the power to travel through time with it. These are the kinds of stories I think kids can fantasize about.
Jenny: Inspiration is such a tricky thing! Along those same lines, tia1712 wants to know: How did you first think of the book? Are characters or the plot first?
Dan Gutman: I never had the chance to take a cross-country trip when I was a kid, so The Genius Files let me do that. I haven’t visited all those places, but I did go to some of them. For a long time, I have had the name “Pepsi McDonald” rattling around in my brain. Finally, I had the chance to use it. But generally, the plot comes first. Sometimes I don’t even name the characters until the book is finished.
Jenny: You write a lot of book series. Is that because you find that you have too many ideas for new adventures, or do you like to revisit your characters to see how they grow and change?
Dan Gutman: It’s because I’m trying to put my kids through college! But actually, The Genius Files is the first series I’ve written which was planned from the start to be a series. With My Weird School and my Baseball Card adventures, I just wrote the first book and then the publisher came to me and asked me to write sequels to them. It’s nice not having to start all over again from scratch every time you write a new book. But I also like to write books that are NOT a part of a series. I like to write all kinds of books.
Jenny: Cool! One last question from me before I get to the Woozens’: If you had to face one of the McDonald twins’ adventures, which trap would you most want to attempt? They pull some pretty astounding stunts!
Dan Gutman: In the second Genius Files book, the twins are trapped inside the top of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and are forced to listen to heavy metal music until their heads explode. But they poke a hole in the glass pyramid, climb out, and slide down the outside wall to safety. I think it would be cool to do that.
Jenny: Always the spirit of adventure! I think a cross-country road trip would be hard enough to organize without insane villains chasing you. Now, I have a lot of questions for you from curious Woozens! AngelAmyChilds is a big fan, and she asks: How does it feel to be an author of such an incredible book?
Dan Gutman: What really feels good is to find out that so many kids and especially kids who don’t usually like to read get turned on to reading from my books. I didn’t get into this profession to save the world or anything, but it’s great to know that I can write some silly words on a page and change somebody’s life for the better. It’s very rewarding.
Jenny: Another fan, cEdYgWaPO wants to know: Will the Genius Files series be turned into a movie? Would you want it to be?
Dan Gutman: Warner Brothers has purchased the rights to turn it into a movie. But I’m not going to get excited about that until it happens. I have had this with other books I’ve written, and the movie always seems to fall through at the last minute. But keep your fingers crossed.
Jenny: Definitely! Here are two related questions about your early career: abbeysmith asks: How did you get into writing?
Dan Gutman: I never took a writing class in my life. I went to college and got a degree in psychology. I even went to graduate school for two years. But I didn’t want to be a psychologist and I didn’t know what to do with my life. So I thought “What do I LIKE to do?” I always liked writing letters to my friends, so I decided to try writing–first for grownups and only much later for kids.
Jenny: And Taylorswiftyxo wants to know: How did you feel when you wrote your very first book?
Dan Gutman: Great! It took me five years to get one published. It was a non-fiction book called I Didn’t Know You Could Do That With A Computer!
Jenny: Haha it’s true, computers are very useful things! FireClaws has a very interesting question: What is your favorite book that you wrote? Please say why 😀
Dan Gutman: Johnny Hangtime. You probably never heard of it because it hasn’t been very successful. It’s a story about a kid who is a Hollywood stuntman. He’s always jumping out of windows, and having himself set on fire. Very exciting! It would make a great movie too.
Jenny: Speaking of favorite books, miaflowerpower3 asks: What was your favourite book when you were younger?
Dan Gutman: I actually didn’t have one. When I was a kid, I didn’t like to read. I thought it was boring. I think I spent my childhood waiting around for Woozworld to be invented.
Jenny: Aww! Well, I’m glad kids everywhere have your exciting books to read now. We also have a couple of non-book-related questions! Milfuelle says: Hi Mr Dan Gutman! I have a question for you. What do you do in your spare time?
Dan Gutman: Go bowling. Actually, that’s not a joke. I do like to bowl. But I also like to ride my bike, play ping-pong, throw frisbees, go to the movies, watch TV, hang out with my family, and travel.
Jenny: Sounds good! SnowGirls wants to know your favorite color, and VampireMarciline asks about your favorite food. These Woozens ask difficult questions! XD
Dan Gutman: I’m partly color blind. But my favorite color is blue. I especially like ethnic foods, like Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, and so on.
Jenny: Well, thanks so much for coming to chat with us about your books. As you can see, you have some big fans here in Woozworld (including me! lol) On that note, I have one last question before we let you go: When can we expect the 4th installment of the Genius Files??
Dan Gutman: In January. But you can read a chapter of it on my web site (www.dangutman.com) now.
Jenny: I can’t wait! Once again, thanks for coming, Mr. Gutman. Hopefully we’ll see you back here soon, and until then, we have some great reading material!