This is our first Pass the Book Baton for 2017! What is Pass the Book Baton? Every Friday we feature a book creator who answers one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) Make sure you check out all all the posts from the Pass the Book Baton series so far.
To start off this year’s series, the baton is passed to Michael Gerard Bauer.
Michael Gerard Bauer is the author of many books for children and young adults. His latest book is a young adult title — The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and me and he has a picture book coming out soon (stay tuned!). You might recognise some of these books:
Last year Wendy Orr asked:
I’m curious whether, like me, you draw on different parts of yourself to create your characters (even if other people might not be able to see that ‘seed’ that started the process). Do you use any techniques to find these beginnings, or does the character appear to grow spontaneously, and you only recognise later the bit that sparked its creation?
I think I do draw on different parts of myself to create characters but I don’t think in most cases that I do it deliberately or consciously. I can certainly see myself, or aspects of myself, in main characters like Joseph in The Running Man, Corey from Just a Dog and Ishmael from the Ishmael series. Even the character of Maggie from The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and Me shares quite a bit in common with me — although I’d have to admit, there’s also a fair bit of me in The Pain! Having said that, I don’t ever see myself as being those characters, despite any similarities that might exist in our personalities and attitudes. I doubt that I could write about, or would want to write about, a central character to whom I couldn’t relate or empathise.
I really don’t apply any techniques to help find character beginnings. My characters seem to emerge and grow from the situations that I imagine them in and that’s more of a spontaneous thing. So with Joseph in The Running Man it started with me imagining a boy living next door to a mysterious and reclusive neighbour and wondering how he would deal with each situation as it arose. As a writer you find out more and more about your character as you develop your story. I think the part of you that is in the character is probably the strongest and most obvious at the start, and as you unearth the story and the character is placed in different situations, they take on different layers and dimensions and so they grow away from that seed of you to become unique identities in themselves.
Ultimately I believe the best thing you can do when developing characters is to stop thinking about them as characters but rather think about them as real people. Try to imagine their life outside the limits of your story for example and how they have become the people they are. When you stop looking at them as your ‘creation’ and give them room and freedom to grow, they tend to take on a life of their own and often reveal themselves to you in surprising ways.
Want to know more about Michael Gerard Bauer and his books? Visit his website: https://michaelgerardbauer.com/
And now Michael passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Gabrielle Wang. Gabrielle is the author of picture books and novels, including two series in the Our Australian Girl series. Her latest novel is The Wishbird.
In general I’d love to know how being an illustrator impacts on your writing. For example, if you are writing a novel, do you find yourself creating illustrations for the characters or scenes even though they might not be included in the published work? Have characters or stories ever started from something you have drawn? Is visual imagery an important part of your writing style?
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
See you next week!