Kev’s Author Interviews, Presents…
A Short Bio
Grant Goodman teaches middle school English in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is fueled by Ray Bradbury stories, spicy curry, and 9:30 Club concerts.
Kev: What is your latest book about Grant, and what is its genre?
Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve in…Tiger Trouble! is an action-adventure, sci-fi/fantasy book for anyone between the ages of 9 and 900!
It tells the story of Darcy, who is a 13-year-old secret agent in training. She works for the Bureau of Sneakery and her rival, Serena, is starting to outperform her. Failure is something new to Darcy, and she isn’t taking it well.
The other main character is Ninja Steve, 12 years old. Steve’s older sister is a ninja prodigy, having graduated from college by the age of 16 (with a double major in Ghost Studies and Spin Kicks, of course). The pressure on Steve is enormous, but he’s just a regular ninja, not at all like Nora.
Their paths cross when Darcy is sent on a secret mission to Ninja Steve’s town, and their worlds are forever shaken up when they accidentally unleash an ancient evil.
Kev: Who or what influenced you to write it?
This book comes from every cartoon I watched, every manga I read, and every novel I’ve torn through.
When I was younger, I loved watching Dragonball Z, Spiderman, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Homestar Runner. You’ll find a little bit of all of those in the pages of my book.
I’ve always found a comfortable home in the pages of fantasy and sci-fi literature, too. It started with Dragonlance and now includes Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Pat Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, and Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wave.
My vote for the greatest novel of all time is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, so whenever I need inspiration, I read a few pages and it never fails to get me writing again.
Kev: Did you do any specialised research for your story?
A lot of my research came from my experiences as a martial artist when I was younger. I started doing martial arts at Comprehensive Survival Arts (CSA) when I was 8, earned my black belt at 17, and stayed on as an instructor until I was 19. My time at CSA gave me plenty of martial arts knowledge for my action scenes.
The rest of it comes from all of the reading and writing I’ve done: you learn how to create a meaningful story by absorbing the great work that’s out there:
J.K. Rowling taught me how to make character relationships evolve over time. (If you haven’t gone back and re-read Sorcerer’s Stone, do it, and take a look at the scenes between Ron and Hermione at the very beginning of the series…and then just go ahead and re-read the rest of them.)
Neil Gaiman’s Coraline reminded me that small books can pack in big adventures.
Ray Bradbury taught me that you never have to let your imagination expire; you can retain that childhood spark through your entire life.
There are so, so many tips and tricks to pick up on if you take the time to examine how chapters flow, how characters make key choices, and how characters’ failures keep your readers rooting for them.
Kev: What challenges did you face while writing the story?
The hardest part of this novel was finding the right balance of being serious and being fun. There were some ideas I had that I loved that wound up having to be removed simply because they felt too ridiculous. I really, really wanted to have an entire country of walking, talking food items, but there was no way it was going to work. I eventually took that idea and made it into a tv show that Ninja Steve likes to watch, called “Kung-Food.”
Kev: Who is the protagonist?
My protagonists are Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve.
Kev: What would you say is the protagonist’s greatest weakness or obstacle and why?
Darcy’s greatest weakness is that she is extremely critical of herself. She does not deal well with failure and she does not forgive her own mistakes.
Steve’s big hang-up is the fact that he’s constantly caught in his sister’s shadow. He feels like a lesser ninja because he cannot act at the level that she did. This causes him to feel put-down at school and he doesn’t push himself as hard as he should.
Kev: What would you say is the main antagonist’s greatest strength?
Darcy’s strength is that, unlike Steve, she’s willing to push herself to the breaking point in order to be as close to perfection as possible.
Steve’s greatest assets are his optimism and his kindness. He still manages to muster a happy-go-lucky attitude and he goes out of his way to help people in need.
Kev: Could you provide a short passage from your book to give us a taster?
Here’s a section from one of Ninja Steve’s chapters:
“A true ninja does not name his katana,” said Sensei Raheem, addressing his students as they all stood in the Field of Tall Purple Grass. The grass was tall enough to reach Sensei Raheem’s chest. “Just as you do not name your arms, you do not name your katana.”
Ninja Steve immediately named his arms. His left arm was Dr. Cyborg and his right arm was Valkor the Great. Why wouldn’t you name your arms? That seemed like a cool thing to do.
If you’d like to read more, you can find the first 50-ish pages here, for free!
Kev: Do you use some kind of formula when you write?
My goal is to balance action, humor, and exposition. I think that Avatar: The Last Airbender did an amazing job of that with the majority of its episodes. There was always enough dialogue to color in the corners of the world and its history, a fun chase scene or gag to lighten up the tone, and the perfect amount of martial arts action to get the adrenaline going.
Kev: Preference for writing: Day or Night?
During the school year, I write in the evenings. Being a teacher means that I have to be at work super-early.
During summer vacation, I can write at any time of day. It’s a great time of year for my creativity.
Kev: What is your editing process?
Editing is, without a doubt, the most painful part of the process. In addition to my own re-reads and re-writes, I had a handful of test readers (some students, some adults) give me their feedback.
When I’m editing, my goal is to take the rough stone that I’ve been working with and really carve away all the excess material until it’s detailed enough to work with. For instance, I didn’t want to lose track of the stress Darcy feels because her parents have gone missing. So during the re-write process, I had to scour my chapters and find places where I could make mention of that without it feeling forced.
Kev: Who creates your book covers?
My friend, Jonathan Flores, is my cover artist. I met Jon in college and his art style has always impressed me. He’s the one who introduced me to Avatar: The Last Airbender and so when I wanted to find someone to create the cover, I knew his animation influences would lead him to draw something perfect. He nailed it!
Kev: How do you promote your work?
So far, word-of-mouth from my students and their parents has been my biggest way of promoting the book. I’ll also be doing a book talk signing at my former martial arts studio, which may bring in a few more readers.
Washington, DC (where I live) also has plenty of Little Free Library displays, where people put tiny mailbox-style libraries on their lawns. I’ve been putting copies in those for readers to discover.
Right now, I’m working on getting in touch with blog writers, school librarians, and book-related charities.
Kev: What advice would you offer to new authors?
Make sure your imagination is always well-fed. Never say you’re too old for cartoons. Read all of Fullmetal Alchemist.
Kev: Which two social media platforms do you use the most and why?
I use the News and Updates section on my author site to post links about reading, writing, and creativity.
I’m on twitter, too.
Kev: Do you have a website?
Kev: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Tiger Trouble! is the first novel in the Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve series. The sequel, Robot Rumble! will be out in early 2016!