Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and seventy-seventh is of children’s fiction mystery (for ages 8 to 12) author Michael Carestio. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Michael Carestio has traveled a long and winding road as a writer. He is an advertising copywriter, a weaver of persuasion who has sold everything including sports teams, political candidates, banking, hot dogs, chemicals, and the world’s best eye hospital.
He grew up in South Philadelphia, a straight talking part of the city where fools are not suffered lightly. Michael attended the Catholic Archdiocese school system and graduated the Temple University School of Communications.
Michael’s entry into children’s literature came about on a dare. During an involuntary hiatus in his marketing career (he sold his agency and didn’t protect his employment adequately!) he sulked and wrote nothing for what seemed like forever. While sitting on a South Jersey beach with a friend one steamy August afternoon, a one-legged sea gull landed (gracefully) beside them looking for a handout.
His uncompassionate friend said, “If you can’t write a story about a one-legged sea bird, you might as well hang it up.” So, he responded to her nickel and dime psychological jab and produced ten pages about a talking sea gull who befriended a young boy having a tough time dealing with the death of his soldier father killed in Afghanistan. It is a story about the strength of family.
He thought the idea had merit, and he shopped it to several publishers who rejected it except for one: Magination Press. The children’s literature imprint of the American Psychological Association was looking for a young reader’s book about childhood grief and thought his Tales of Blackjack Jetty might fill the bill with a little rewriting. The APA has a rigid rule against fantasy in kid’s books… the talking seagull had to go. One year and fifty-eight pages later, A Boy’s Journey Through Grief was completed.
And that’s how Michael arrived to where he is today, with a second book in the Black Jack Jetty series. Cousins & Robbers features the same group of kids, set in the same South Jersey shore town, who defend home and family against the bad guys.
Michael is working on a third book in the Black Jack Jetty series, Cousins & Ghosts which wiill be set down the shore around Halloween.
And now from the author himself:
Method Writing: Smart way to go or just lazy.
When I start writing a story, I don’t get into a ‘writing for children’ mode. I try to make few conscious allowances. I just write stories, and if young readers ages 8 to 12 read them, so be it.
I must also confess to a not-so-guilty pleasure, I write to amuse and entertain myself. Unlike many of the authors on Morgen’s site, I have not attended any prestigious writing workshops. My background is communications, speaking with people in a clear and concise way, and I try to bring that discipline to my books.
In the spirit of transparency, I admit I do very little plotting. When I write, I have no idea which character is going to rise or sink to the occasion. The kick for me is seeing a character develop or a situation evolve.
I do start with an idea: a group of young kids defend their family and home against a gang of thieves robbing houses in their sleepy shore town. Kid detective stories are a tried and true genre. They are also fun to write because you can be as reckless as you dare.
If I’m on my game, I will totally immerse myself in the scene. In the dramatic arts, method acting is a technique actors use to create in themselves the thoughts and feelings of their characters, so as to develop lifelike performances. I call my writing technique method writing. If I can get into my character’s heads, they will react honestly and viscerally to what’s going down.
The freedom to go where the story takes you is akin to going on an eternal first date: the anticipation of how the date goes, how it might end is the fun part. This approach is particularly seductive when writing dialogue. Having real time conversations with yourself can be a wild ride. There’s a fair amount of self revelation that occurs. You can go with the flow or try to suppress it which is tough because like their real life counterparts, fictional characters go their own way.
I write visually because I proudly represent the first television generation. I grew up thinking in 30 and 60 minute segments. I love to conjure up a scene down to the dust on the floor if it contributes. I try not to belabor description but it’s important for me to paint the entire picture in my head as I put it on the page. Hopefully, the reader will see it, too.
I have been an observer of people, how they interact or don’t for as long as I can remember. Watching people in all sorts of settings, I play a game with myself about who they are, what they do, and why they do it. This forms the basis of my method writing technique. I become one with the character and off we go.
When I began writing this, I did not have an agenda or any talking points. I have not dived into the writing craft as deeply as many talented authors do. My self- accommodating rationale being that if I discovered my particular brand of mojo, I might lose it. Either this is a very astute evaluation or just flat out lazy, and an excuse not to learn the craft as so many others diligently do.
I’m sure method writing isn’t for everyone, but it’s the most fun for me and hopefully that translates to readers.
I’m sure it does. Thank you, Michael. You can find more about Michael and his writing via…
- Website: http://www.blackjackjetty.com
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/downbeach
- 1st prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card, and an autographed copy of Cousins and Robbers
- 2nd prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card, and an autographed copy of Cousins and Robbers
- 3rd prize: $10 Amazon Gift Card, and an autographed copy of Cousins and Robbers
- And you can find the giveaway on Michael’s Facebook page here – http://tinyurl.com/lbh9alh
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