to my writer pal Jim Averbeck, whose debut middle grade novel,
“…macabre twists that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dahl book.” KIRKUS
“In 1956 at the fabulous San Francisco Fairmont Hotel, 11-year-old Jack teams up with the famous movie director Alfred Hitchcock to uncover a plot involving drugged chocolates, mistaken identities, kidnapping, disguises, and close escapes. References to actual Hitchcock films and anecdotes abound throughout, in chapter headings, settings, and focused descriptions reminiscent of camera pan-ins….”–the pacing and length of scenes are right out of a 1950s Hitchcock film: slow and lingering on set pieces and build-up, broken with quick and cinematic action sequences. The back matter introduces many of the author’s favorite Hitchcock films, as well as information about the real man and the real Fairmont Hotel. This is a fantastic introduction to the great filmmaker and to a 1950s sensibility of childhood and Hollywood….School Library Journal
Jim was one of the “Book-dads” who contributed to my WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING–A BOOK blog series last year, and now his new “baby” is out!
To celebrate the occasion, I’ve posed some potentially Psycho questions…
1. Where did the idea of HITCH come from?
Jim: ” It didn’t come from a single place. Like a story, several threads of ideas wove themselves together. One of them was undoubtedly Richard Peck’s advice that
“We don’t write what we know. We write what we can research.”
When I heard this at a conference, I was disheartened. I do not enjoy doing research. Or so I thought.”
“Like many San Franciscans, I came from elsewhere and fell deeply in love with this city. I wanted to know everything about it. One day while I was exploring its history, I realized that I don’t dislike research, I just dislike researching topics that bore me, as I occasionally had to do at school. So, if I were to write a novel, it would have to be about things I loved. San Francisco history was a natural match.”
A bookstore owner had a hand in A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT’S genesis, too. She pointed me to a book about Alfred Hitchcock’s use of the Bay Area in his films. It’s amazing how a good bookseller knows just the right book to recommend. I devoured it. Then one night I happened to go to a show at a hotel in SF that was a location in a Hitchcock film. I imagined that the film maker stood right where I was standing. No space separated us, only time. I decided that I could remove those intervening years to write a story about a boy meeting the famous director.”
2. What was the most difficult scene to write?
Jim: “The most difficult scene was actually something I had to UNWRITE. In early drafts there was a scene where Hitchcock and Jack confront another character, who then vomits up a ton of information that I needed the reader to know. It was as if, even after smoothing out the rest of the story, I had this Gordian Knot right in the center of it- a tangle of information that I couldn’t figure out how to reveal in a less heavy-handed way. Eventually I realized that, even if I untangled the knot, all the information would still be in one place. So I cut the knot up and looked at all the tiny strands I had left. Then I took each little piece and read through the story looking for a place to reveal the information.”
3. Which Hitchcock movie describes your path as an author:
The Birds — Psycho –Vertigo–The Man Who Knew Too Much — Rear Window –Stranger on a Train — Shadow of a Doubt –39 Steps — Notorious or….?
Jim: “Hmmm… Vertigo. Because being a writer is very much like throwing yourself off a bell tower. You take a terrifying leap, experience a thrilling high, and very likely come to a bad end.”
4. HITCH is your first longer work of fiction. How did your process differ from your picture books?
Jim: “Word choice was still important, but I looked at the story more at the chapter level: Does this chapter move the story along or reveal something about the characters? If it were not in the book would the story be affected? How can I pace it better?”
Pantser or Outline?
Jim: “A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT is a mystery novel so it really demanded an outline. I needed to know what the clues were and when they were going to drop. I needed to make note of what the main character knows at every minute. I don’t think it can be done well by the seat of one’s pants.”
5. How do you revise without having to read the whole thing all over again?
Jim: “As a matter of fact, I did have to read the whole thing over and over again, quite often. But I also had an enormous flowchart with different shaped boxes depending on whether something was a clue, or a red herring, or a plot point. At first this chart was an utter mess. It looked like a bowl of spaghetti. But as I revised and revised, I ironed it out to get a story that lived up to the chart’s name and really flowed.”
6. What would you like readers to know about this book?
Jim: “That smart kids will like it very much.”
How can you lovely blog-post readers help launch Jim’s book?
**Share this blog post on Twitter or Facebook. (Notoriously Shameless request, I know.)
**Get yourself a copy of A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT !
**Check out Jim’s website for the GOODREADS GIVEAWAY. (Ends soon.)
** TEACHERS & LIBRARIANS: An accompanying Common Core activity guide will soon be available at jimaverbeck.com.
HAPPY BOOK LAUNCH JIM!