Originally from California where he cut his teeth writing screenplays, Garrett now lives in Washington D.C.
AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH GARRETT DANE:
Joining LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author is Garrett Dane, author of K.I.D.S. Stuff: The Mostly, Probably True Adventures of the Kids Imaginary Defense Squad. This book has received the LitPick Five-Star Book Review Award and the Top Choice Book Review Award.
One LitPick reviewer said, “K.I.D.S. Stuff is fantastic because it’s about the unexpected! It’s imaginative, multi-faceted, and well-thought-out.”
***How did you get started writing?
I've been writing since I was in grade school, though the medium has changed quite a few times along the way. I started with poetry, before turning to short stories in high school, and screenplays in college. K.I.D.S. Stuff was actually first a screenplay I wrote with visions of it becoming a Hollywood blockbuster. A couple of times it got close to being made, with a few movie studios expressing interest, but ultimately it joined the long list of great, unproduced screenplays.
Still, I could never get the story to stop running around in my head. That happens sometimes; you dream up characters and they take on a life of their own, refusing to fade from memory, demanding you finish their story. Eventually, I had to give in. After graduating from law school, I turned my attention back to K.I.D.S. Stuff, deciding to make it into a novel. A year of false starts, fraying confidence, and unending doubts later, I had my book.
***Who influenced you?
I grew up reading Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, and, later on, Douglas Adams and Hunter Thompson. I always appreciated a writer who could turn a mundane detail into a beautiful piece of prose - and if they can make it funny, all the better. I've also been very much inspired by the writers and filmmakers behind the films I love. K.I.D.S. Stuff, for instance, was influenced by my love of The Goonies, Monster Squad, Explorers, The Princess Bride, and Ghostbusters.
I would also be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Bruce Coville, author of the My Teacher is an Alien series. I can only hope that someday some kid out there loves reading my books as much as I loved reading his.
***Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I think, at least, I have a favorite attribute for my characters, which is perseverance. And when I say perseverance, I don't just mean fighting on despite difficulties, I mean preserving who you are even when life can sometimes make that challenging. My favorite characters experience sadness, but they don't lose the ability to laugh. They are betrayed, but they don't let that betrayal harden their hearts from trusting again. They lose, but they don't let that shake their confidence. No matter what difficulties they face, they always come back around to being the person they always were.
I think that perseverance is a vital skill for kids to develop. It's easy to stay positive, upbeat, and friendly when everything is going great in your life. Keeping those wonderful qualities even in the face of hardship, that's what makes a hero in my book.
***What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Learn to observe, to interact, and to embrace opportunities to experience new things. People say writers write, and sure, that true, but it's also kind of a worthless advice. Lots of people write - lawyers write briefs, police officers write reports, engineers write technical documents - but would you really want to sit on the couch on a rainy day and read that stuff? No way! You want to read a story, a story with interesting characters leading interesting lives. As a writer, you have to be able to get inside the heads of those characters, some of whom will be completely different then you. Getting to know people, observing how they behave, talking to them, learning what they're thinking, and why - those are the things that will help you create deep, layered characters that people will be drawn to.
And you just have to be willing to experience new things, to push yourself outside your comfort zone. You don't have to have visited awesome alien worlds or fought terrifying creatures to write about those things. But if you've never experienced awe, or terror, or apprehension, or the exhilaration of overcoming your fears? Well, then what do you really have to say?
Writers don't just write; they dive headfirst into the whirlpool that is the human experience. They swim against the current to rescue just a little bit of truth that they can pull out and share with the world. Don't be afraid of getting wet.
***Where is your favorite place to write?
That's really a two-part question. Because before I ever sit down to write, I have to come up with the story, the characters, the little moments that bring a story to life. To do that, I need to give my mind space to wander. I have to get away from computers and cell phones and the overwhelming sensory overload of day-to-day life. Usually, that means going for walks, though sometimes it just means sitting in the quiet and letting the ideas come to me.
Once I have the story bubbling and ready to come out, I have to switch gears and put myself in the opposite environment. I find that if it's too quiet, my mind will continually come up with ways to distract itself, not letting me focus on the writing. - Ooh what's that spot on the wall? Is that a bug? No, just a spot. I wonder how that spot got there. Was it always there? Why do we call it a spot? Seems like a weird word. It's also a dog's name. Why are some names good for dogs, but others just sound wrong... - The chatter in my head is unending. So, when it's time to write, I like to surround myself with people, some place active, and play some music through headphones. All the noise, and music, and movement is enough to distract my brain just enough so I can focus my attention on the page.
***What else would you like to tell us?
I just want to encourage your readers to embrace storytelling. Not just reading, hearing, and watching the stories told by others, but creating your own. Storytelling is an essential part of being human. It's how we learn, how we communicate. It's how we develop social bonds. Developing your storytelling skills is the surest path to success in life.
It also makes you much more fun at parties.
Garrett, thank you very much for stopping by and chatting with us about yourself and your work. It has been great getting to know more about your inspiration and writing process. We love that your characters possess the quality of perseverance. We hope all students (and adults) reading your book will see the importance of that quality in their own lives and be inspired to preserve who they are in the face of difficulties. The advice you shared about experiencing life and embracing storytelling is also very valuable. We can’t wait to hear about what you’re working on next.