The King of Average, written by Gary Schwartz, won two Golds in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest, placing in Tween (General) and Middle School (Fiction). Schwartz will be attending the book festival in South Dakota this September.
Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?
I’ve written skits and sketches to perform in and kept a journal from the age of thirteen into my forties. During my career in Los Angeles as an actor, I tried my hand at screenplays and scripts but it wasn’t until my fifties that I attempted to write a book.
What’s the target age group for your book?
I’ve always enjoyed entertaining children, but I try to write for adults at the same time. It’s like Rocky and Bullwinkle. I loved the cartoon as a kid, but as I got older I realized it was adult political satire. I watch it today and still enjoy it. That’s my goal to write for kids but aim something at grownups.
What inspired your award-winning book?
To be sure it was The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. It was one of my favorite childhood books and I came up with the idea of trying to be more average than anyone else when I was eleven. That idea made me want to tell the same kind of story with great puns and wordplay.
Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.
“Every cloud has a silver lining.” Spoken by Monsieur Roget, the professional Optimist. I named him Roget, because I got tired of looking up synonyms for optimist in Roget’s Thesaurus.
Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?
I have already released the audio book this year and I will have special CD copies for sale at the festival.
Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?
Me, of course! 🙂 It’s no secret that my story’s hero, James, was me at age 11. Actually, my other career is as a voice actor in movies, TV and video games. (I am the voice of Heavy Weapons Guy and The Demoman in Team Fortress 2, Langus Tuno in Star Wars, The Old Republic, The Pilot and the “Tank” in Left 4 Dead 2 and several other games as well. Here’s a link to my IMDB profile: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0777229/.)
Do you illustrate your own books? If not, how did you find your illustrator?
My illustrator was a friend of a friend. She was a concept artist at Walt Disney Company and I gave her ideas on how I imagined each character. Her name is Nicole Armitage.
Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?
J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank L. Baum, Roald Dahl, Norton Juster and C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I write in bursts. I procrastinate a lot, but when I get going I can sit for ten or more hours at a time. I love when that happens. I re-read a lot and vacillate between hating it and thinking it’s not so bad. I would like to be more disciplined, and am trying to be more scheduled, but to date, I have not been super successful. I hired a writing mentor to keep me accountable. That is how I got to finish my book after five re-writes.
How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?
I use book promotion as a way to procrastinate on my current writing project. It’s actually fun to promote, as that is what an actor essentially does his whole career. Promote yourself and work on your craft. I’m coming late to the writing game, but I want to achieve a level of success, if I can.
Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?
I am glad my first book was so well received and I’m thrilled to know ‘real working authors’ and learn from them. This is a new world for me and so far, the writers I’ve met have been smart, hard-working and really interesting.
Gary Schwartz is an actor, director, and master improvisational acting coach.
He has appeared in numerous film and television projects, including the Oscar-winning feature film Quest for Fire. Schwartz has written for two children’s television series in which he co-starred: Zoobilee Zoo as Bravo Fox and the Disney Channel’s You and Me, Kid. As a voice-over artist, he’s lent his voice to hundreds of film and television projects and is the voice of several well-known video game characters, including Heavy Weapons Guy and Demoman in Team Fortress 2.
The King of Average is his first novel. Learn more at gary-schwartz.com.
This delightful, pun-filled allegory tells the story of a neglected boy who is convinced he has no worth. Inspired to become the King of Average, he undertakes a journey to a fantasy land filled with interesting characters that have strong personalities while also being archetypes. The book is fast-moving and funny, with a touch of sadness. It will appeal to adults as much as young readers, reminding all that average is not easy since everyone is special in his or her own way.
“This book has incredible depth with a delightfully engaging plot, threads of humor throughout, and a resounding underlying message that is truly inspired.” —Literary Classics Book Awards