In Part 2 of the Gittle interview, M.D. Spenser reveals the inspiration for the Shivers series, whether the printed book is dead and his latest writing project. (Part 1.)
What was the inspiration for the Shivers series?
Out of the blue, a publisher called me and asked if I could write a series of scary chapter books for kids. I was astonished, and my first reaction was, “No, I don’t think so.” But then I sat around my house for an hour or two and thought, why not give it a try? So I called back and asked, “Um, can I change my mind about writing that series?” And the answer came back, “Yes. Get me a list of the first six titles right away.”
So I sat in my living room with a piece of paper and a pen and started to think. And in that afternoon, I wrote the titles and three- or four-line plot summaries for the first six books. I also came up with Shivers as the title for the series. Where these ideas came from, I have no idea. As my family can attest, if I sit still for a few minutes, a weird idea will pop into my mind. And I’m not sure they mean that as a compliment.
Do you think the printed book is dead? Why or why not?
Probably not. I still think it’s fun to hold a book, to bookmark it and see how much you’ve read so far, to look at the cover every time you pick it up. I have an e-reader, but I generally prefer printed books. Where the e-reader does help me, though, is when I go on vacation. I can never tell in advance which book will be just right for my holiday. So I used to cram 10 books into my luggage, which made my suitcases extremely heavy. Now, with the e-reader, I can tuck an entire library into my carry-on.
Tell us about your latest writing project.
I’m working on a novel for young adults called “Some Say in Ice.” The main character is 17-year-old British kid – Jamaican mother, Scottish father – named Azibo McKenzie. It’s a thriller, and I don’t want to say more about the plot at this point.
Tell us 3 strange and wonderful things about you.
I have been lucky enough to visit more than 50 countries. I am 32 years older than my youngest sister. And I find writing a difficult process. As the author Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Omit needless words.” — from “The Elements of Style,” by Strunk and White.
M.D. Spenser was born May 1, 1953, in Connecticut. He grew up in Vermont, where his father was an English teacher, and M.D. and his beagle ran wild over the countryside. M.D. attended Harvard and has held a variety of jobs – as a security guard in Boston (dressed in a ridiculous outfit), as a cook in a Mexican restaurant in Colorado, as a music reviewer in Britain and, under another name, as a journalist in the U.S. and Europe. He’s best-known for his Shivers series of 36 scary chapter books for kids, now being released as eBooks. He lives in London with his wife, youngest daughter and pet parrot named Paco. He’s at work on a novel for young adults, titled “Some Say in Ice.”