Today, we are privileged to have an interview author Michael Grossman. Michael has written the junior fiction novel My Favourite Comedian, and recently agreed to answer some questions.
Where do you come from and has this place influenced your writings at all?
I was born and raised In Melbourne. Quite frankly, love the place. I come from a religious Jewish background, which has most certainly influenced my writing. My religion encourages me to reflect on and connect with the issues and hardships faced by others. I really care about the problems faced by the characters in my book and I’m sure that can be attributed, at least partly, to the way I was raised.
This blogger: In an age when people tend not to view religion so favourably in the West, it is wonderful to hear someone speak so positively about their faith.
Your novel is called My Favourite Comedian. What is the genre and what is it about?
It’s a Junior Fiction book. It’s about a 12-year old boy who is struggling with the impending divorce of his parents and body image issues. Then, he befriends an emerging stand-up comedian on a family holiday.
Whilst the book draws on important topical issues, it is essentially a comedy. It is full of very funny moments.
What three things inspired you to write your novel?
Well, first, I’m a primary school teacher by profession. I wrote this book with my students in mind. It features themes that they can relate to, and is written in a style that can take even the most reluctant reader and get them excited. I workshopped the novel on my students for many years and it was based on their universal love for it that I bit the bullet and got it published.
Second, I am extremely interested in characters that go under the radar in real life. Characters that ordinarily wouldn’t get noticed or examined. The chubby kid in class is almost never in the in-crowd by virtue of his/her looks alone. Too often these kids get dismissed as viable friendship material based solely on one superficial factor. The idea that I have the power to introduce such a character to a large readership and show them that the very person they might ordinarily dismiss can be someone you can instantly adore, is very satisfying.
Third, the book allowed me to look at two themes that haven’t been explored that well, in my opinion. There are a lot of resources around dealing with body image from a girl’s perspective. But male body image, especially young males, hasn’t been sufficiently covered. Boys’ body image issues is a very real problem. And divorce is an underappreciated problem for children. I think society believes that since it’s so common, children can deal with it a lot better than they used to. I disagree with this as I think it is a very difficult situation for children to come to terms with, and I was keen to write about it in a very honest way.
Who is the target audience for the book?
Children ranging from 8 – 14 years old. I see this book as a perfect one for parents to read to their children at night time before bed. I’ve heard great stories about how the book has encouraged healthy dialogue about the themes contained in it. The feedback has been so wonderful.
This blogger: As an author, that must be one of the most delightful and heart-warming things to hear from those who have read your book. Well done Michael!
Your main character is called Jake. Why do you think readers will root for him? (Two or three reasons please.)
He’s real. He says what’s on his mind and doesn’t hold anything back. Often, kids have been encouraged to be so resilient that they don’t get the chance to vent. Jake says what other kids feel but choose not to articulate. He is their voice.
Also, Jake is an underdog and an unlikely hero. Unlikely because of his looks, but also because he isn’t a saint. He makes mistakes as we all do.
This blogger: He sounds like a brilliant protagonist. Personally, I love to read books where the protagonist makes mistakes to see how he deals with the consequences.
Which of the characters in My Favourite Comedian is the least like you, and in what ways?
Excellent question! Whilst none of the characters are all that similar to me, they all have aspects of their personalities which I can relate to.
Of all of the characters, I would say Nina, the mother of Jake’s friend, Shakes, is the one I am least like. She is keen to provide her son with a father figure when what he really wants is for life to continue as it is.
On a meta level, what does My Favourite Comedian mean to you?
It’s an achievement that I am truly proud of; especially, as it was 18 years in the making! The book is the culmination of almost 2 decades of living with (and trying to be true to) characters I love and feel such a strong connection to. And then to share them with others who feel the same way!
Truthfully, it doesn’t get better than that! One reader who has since had to deal with his parent’s separation drew on the book for inspiration. His mother told me how much it helped him manage the shock and the book provided him with hope. Stories like these are so humbling.
If you could go back in time and speak with a younger Michael Grossman, what advice would you give him about the writing process?
Back yourself in! Make it happen! For too long I was tentative and felt that the book was not worthy of publication. In truth, I should have published it years ago. If you believe in your work strongly others will too. Guaranteed!
This blogger: Great advice! I completely agree with it.
What do you find harder – writing your book or marketing it?
Marketing is harder. The opportunities to reach a large audience are limited. However, I would say that marketing and promoting a book is more fun than going over the 20th draft of it.
This blogger: (*Laughs*.) You are absolutely right!
What is your writing kryptonite?
Distraction. Work, family and televised sport makes it hard to reserve the adequate time to dedicate to writing. I get distracted way too easily. I am in awe of disciplined writers who can remove all distractions and churn out quality work at a rapid speed.
Have any of your friends and family read your book. If so, how do you feel when they discuss it with you?
Some of my friends and family have read it. The big thrill was sharing it with my eldest kids who are both of age to enjoy it. They adored it, which was very satisfying. I don’t mind constructive criticism so I’m only too happy to discuss the things they think worked and didn’t work. These conversations ultimately make you a better writer.
This blogger: That’s amazing on so many levels. Your novels are only going to get better!
Are you writing another book at present? If so, could you tell us a bit about it please?
Actually, I am trying my hand at picture books. After working on my novel for so many years, I thought it would be a fun sea change.
I just finished a reworking of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. This one’s about what would have happened if Baby Bear had broken into Goldilocks’s house rather than the other way around.
Lastly, outside of writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m pretty sports crazy. I love Australian Rules Football and watch as many games as time allows.
End of Interview
Alas, that brings out interview with author Michael Grossman to an end. I would like to thank Michael for his time and to say that it has been a pleasure getting to know him. I wish him only the best with his picture book, his family, and his love of sports (watching and playing).
You can purchase Michael’s book – My Favourite Comedian – on Amazon. Check it out, particularly if you have (or know someone with) kids who are between 8 – 14 years old. It seems like an inspirational story with a great deal of humour in it.
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