A Bizymoms' Exclusive Interview with David Michael Slater
1. How did you start the long road to getting published?
Hi, thanks for your interest! I had no real training in writing (wasn’t an English major), but I was inspired to write a play my junior year in college. It would up being produced at a theatre in Flint, MI just after I graduated. That was a thrill, but didn’t give me any real thoughts of being a “writer.” A year later though, while working on a Masters in English (and not feeling it was the right road for me), I first encountered the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges, and, well, that was it. I began writing stories modelled after his work, some of which were published in small magazines no one ever heard of (including me). Fast forward a year. I was doing a Masters in teaching and working on those stories, when it seemed to me one might make a better children’s book. I wrote one, had a lot of fun with it, and so wrote another, which turned out to be Cheese Louise!, my first book. That avenue opened up for me over the next few years, and in the meantime, I began writing novels for teens and adults. My teen series debut, THE BOOK OF NONSENSE, hits stores in Oct. ’08. SELFLESS, for adults, in Dec.
2. How has your psychology studies impacted on your books?
I think most writers are to some degree natural psychologists since it’s their job to portray myriad personalities and motivations, so I think any study in the field can only help. I’d say for me it’s also a factor in my desire to embed layers of meaning in my stories, even in picture books for children. I’ve been gratified to hear feedback from many adults who enjoy the books in part because of these layers, be they psychological or simply humorous.
3. You are an author and I have read that authors would find a million reasons not to write - is this true for you?
Not really. Because I teach full time (7th grade Language Arts), I don’t have time to waste. I find myself grasping at the few moments in the day I can devote to writing. Fortunately, they add up over time. That said, if I have a good chunk of time, I won’t say I don’t wind up checking e-mail or surfing the web a lot!
4. What is the most rewarding aspect of being a dad?
I don’t think I could point to a single aspect. I love being a father more than I can say. I enjoy nothing more than playing ping-pong, or Mario Cart, or going bowling, or reading, or just throwing pillows with my son. Watching him grow and develop is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. He’s almost eight.
5. What are the steps you take towards disciplining your child?
My wife and I have found that the single most important rule (same applies in the classroom) is simply to mean what you say. We fought some battles when our son was three (over common things like cleaning up toys), but it seems we convinced him that we mean what we say. Consequently, he minds what we say. We’ve been blessed with a child of remarkable equanimity and maturity, but the results were obvious to us. We don’t yell, and now we rarely ever have to punish.
6. How important is dialogue between kids and dads?
I can’t think of anything much more important. Our son knows there is nothing he can’t say to us, and that however disappointed we might be in something he tells us, our first desire will always be to understand and help him. I hope he always will.
7. Your books are quirky and funny, what influences you?
Thank you! I guess I’ve always enjoyed word play. My father and grandfather were both punsters. I write my books mainly to entertain myself, and so I’ve been fortunate that kids and adults have found them entertaining too.
8. Your screenplay is also very different and satirical, how did you come by such an idea?
I’ve long had an interest in advertising from a psychological standpoint, specifically the incredible power it has to influence. As a teacher, I’ve seen it steadily infiltrate the one place children should be free of its ploys. Advertising is the opposite of critical thinking, the core mission of the educational system. I tend to think along lines of imagining the logical extension of ideas, and doing that often leads one into the realm of satire.
9. Explain to us about your screenplay.
It’s about a globe-dominating corporation, The Mocha Cola Corp., that uses special “elite” high schools to, well, dominate the globe. The story is set in a not-so-distant future where advertising is everything and everywhere and no one ever questions it. Almost no one.
10. What are your future plans?
Well, I hope to continue writing for children, teens and adults. I guess we’ll have to see if any of work takes me off in any new directions!