Thursday, June 6, 2013

Q&A with authors Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson

James Iver Mattson and Barbara Brauner
Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson are the authors of the new children's book The Glitter Trap, the first in a series called O.M.G., which stands for Oh My Godmother. They have written film scripts together; this novel for middle-grade readers is their first book.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the O.M.G. series?

A: One morning when Barbara was driving over to James’s house to work, she saw an old woman almost get run over by a teenaged driver. (No one was hurt, luckily.) Barbara told James the story and said, “What if that old woman had been somebody’s fairy godmother?” And, just like that, our book series was born.

Q: Why did you decide to write for kids?

A: Until now, we’ve mainly worked as screenwriters, and we’ve always loved children’s and family movies. We were on staff for a while at Disney Feature Animation, and it was one of our favorite jobs; we think we may both be 12-year-olds at heart. So, when we thought about writing a novel together, it was only natural that to make it a kids’ project.  (Interestingly, our one produced film credit is the very R-rated Deliver Us From Eva.)

Q: What are some of your favorite kids' books, and do they also include magic?

A: We both still love the books we cherished as children. Barbara’s list includes The Little House books, Little Women, and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and for James, it’s the Green Knowe books, The Twenty-One Balloons, and the Dr. Dolittle series. So out of that group, only Green Knowe has magic. Barbara’s favorite of the kids’ books she’s read recently is Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me. And Jim loves Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series.

Q: You've also written film scripts. Do you prefer one form of writing to the other?

A: Our dream is to be able to do both – we’d love to adapt our own novels. Screenplays are faster to write, but it’s like making blueprints for other people’s houses: the producers get to pick everything from the paint color to who lives in them. 

Novels are like building a house for ourselves, and it’s wonderful knowing that the words we write go directly to the audience. One of the many things we love about writing novels is how easy it is to convey a character’s thoughts: all you have to do is write “I feel” or “I think.” In a screenplay, that’s much more difficult, especially if you’re trying to avoid the dreaded voiceover.

Q: How is it to work with a writing partner? How do you divide up the work?

A: A lot of writing teams divide things up and then go away to work separately, but we write just about every word together. We’re even writing this together right now. We have very similar sensibilities, and have never had a lot of ego about what we’re working on. (Which, we’re told, is fairly rare with writing partners, who sometimes sound like they’re in bad marriages.)  

Jim types, and we have two monitors set up so we can both see what we’re working on. There’s a lot of talking and throwing out suggestions; it’s hour after hour of “What ifs.” When we manage to make each other laugh, we know we’re on the right track. We’ve got a pretty good work ethic, and write together five or six days a week.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: We’ve got four Oh My Godmother books in the works. The second one, called OMG: The Magic Mistake, will be published next February. The third, which we’re just finishing now, will come out in the fall of 2014, and the fourth in the summer of 2015.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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