Author Feature: Jeff Szpirglas

Author Feature: Jeff Szpirglas

Matt loves Monster Zap cards. No, no, Matt LOVES Monster Zap cards. He has Monster Zap toys, reads Monster Zap books and wears Monster Zap underwear. Matt and his friends like to trade the cards at school, as the schoolyard is so empty and dirty, there isn’t much else for them to do at recess. But when kids start fighting over Monster Zap and the cards are banned, Matt realizes that the school has big problems, maybe even bigger problems than the fights the cards caused. With the help of their teacher, and a superhero in disguise, Matt and his classmates set out to save Monster Zap and end up doing a lot more than that.


What was the hardest scene to write in your new book?

The part that required the most rewriting involved the actual rules around the cards. Initially, I decided that the rules were not important to explain, and that most readers could infer based on the Pokemon style cards out there. Still, it was necessary to explain the basic rules of the Monster Zap cards in the story. It gave me a newfound appreciation for Pokemon and the points system those cards use.

What comes first for you, the plot or the characters?

Wild Cards by Jeff SzpirglasI’m like Brian De Palma. I tend to construct a story, although my story is based around the motivations of the characters. Sometimes I’ll start with a character and build a story around him or her (this happened with Something’s Fishy, co-written with my wife, Danielle Saint-Onge). In the case of Wild Cards, the story began with the premise of a school banning cards, and the story developed from there.

What part of a book is your favorite to write?

I actually enjoy the fine-tuning during editing, when I can turn off the part of my brain worried about tying up plot threads. It gives me a chance to find the rhythm and music of the story, the way people speak, and the nuance of the text.

What are 5 words that best describe your writing process?

Mess. Tangential. About-Face. Refining. Celebration.

Which author, living or dead, would you want to have coffee with?

I’d love to talk shop with Roald Dahl. But I’d also probably be really incensed by the man’s politics. A safer choice? Richard Matheson, who did not write for children, but he’s another huge influence.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever googled for book research?

I began writing gross non-fiction books, and was routinely searching for information about experiments involving vomit and urine.

What’s the most interesting job you’ve had besides writing?

That depends on what you consider interesting. Teaching grade 2 is never dull. I’ve done everything from shoveling manure to working at CTV Television.

How do you select character names?

It’s a careful process, particularly in these Echoes books, to have stories reflecting the diversity of students. So I try very hard to be inclusive of names from different cultures and backgrounds that I see in the schools around me.

What do you do to combat writers block?

Generally, a walk helps. And cranking up the heavy metal. If I don’t come away with any good ideas, at least I’ve had some exercise, and a chance to rock out to Iron Maiden.


Wild Cards is on shelves now.

Jeff Szpirglas has written several award-nominated nonfiction books and two terrifying novels for middle-grade readers, Evil Eye and Dentures of Doom. With his wife, Danielle Saint-Onge, he is the co-author of the Orca Echoes Something’s Fishy and Messy Miranda. He’s worked at CTV Television and was an editor at Chirp, chickaDEE and Owl magazines. He has twin children and two cats (the cats are not twins). In his spare time, he teaches second grade.

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