Usually adults ask me what I do for a living (I'm a writer) and do I really get paid for that (yes). But here are some actual questions that I get asked a lot from students I've encountered! (In no particular order).
1. Where do you get your ideas? Ideas are like driving at night across Alligator Alley in Florida. A lot of bugs will hit your windshield, but every once in a while a real whopper will smash into you and you have to stop because you can’t see clearly anymore. A great idea will literally make you stop in your tracks. They come from all around; my ideas are based on real events, people and places that I come across on the internet, radio, TV, reading, or in conversation.
2. Did you always want to be a writer? No. I came to writing late in my life, quite by accident. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cartoonist. Most of my life I was a visual storyteller (film, artist, illustrator). The only connection is that, as a language artist, I now paint with words.
3. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? At the end of the day, writers write. Period. You’re either going to find the time and the means to do it, or you’re not. I always say that if you can live your life without writing, do it. If you can’t and you write even if you’re told you’ll never be published, then you’re a writer. It doesn't matter how good you are.
4. Are you rich? No. Do you have a limo? Um, what did I just say?
5. How old are you? Old enough.
6. Did you grow up like Marcus in Chess Rumble? No. But I did know kids like him. I was introverted, had brothers and I’ve spent time in those schools. Plus, I once lost a chess match in six moves.
7. Are you a chess master? The way I see it, you don’t have to know how to slay a dragon write a fantasy novel. I can play the game, but I don’t pretend to be very good at it. I think like CM and play like Marcus. That’s why I understood both characters. Or at least that’s what I say when some little kid beats me.
8. If I was to read one interview with you that would really help me with my report, which one should I read? This one.
9. How do you write? One word at a time. Five days a week. Between the hours of 9am and 3pm. I work and work, then let it go. I don't think about it overnight. I don't overthink the story, I just let the words come out unfiltered. You have to give yourself permission to write badly and not worry if it makes sense or not. All that can be fixed later. But you have to keep regular hours at your computer, otherwise how is your muse gonna find you?
10. What is your favorite part of the writing process? Probably the second half of the first draft when I’ve finally figured some things out and it’s just pouring from my brain unfiltered. At that point the characters are leading me and I have no idea what they will do or where the story will take me. My job is to get out of the way and report it as it happens.
11. What were you like as a kid? Shy, quiet, liked to draw a lot, liked to shoot hoops a lot, liked to body surf a lot. I was a skateboarder and liked to explore underground and build skate ramps.
12. Who are your favorite Authors / books? (Teen books): Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Jerry Spinelli -Milkweed, Norman Juster - Phantom Tollbooth. John Green – Looking for Alaska, Melvin Burgess - Smack. (Graphic Novels): Marjane Satrapi- Persepolis, Craig Thompson – Blankets. (Kids) R.O. Blechman – The Juggler of our Lady, Tomi Ungerer – The Hat, Mark Alan Stamaty- Who Needs Donuts. (Adult stuff): John Fante - Ask the Dust, Joseph Heller - Catch-22, J.D.Salinger – Nine Stories, Richard Bach- Illusions, Chester Himes – If He Hollers.
13. Do you read a lot? I go in spurts, though I always seem to have 9 or 10 books vying for my attention.
14. What does your office look like? This. It's the reason I bought this house.
15. When will they make Chess Rumble/Ghetto Cowboy/ Yummy into a movie? Can I star in it? Uh, maybe someday, though any movie that gets made is a bit of a miracle. I wouldn't get my hopes up about the starring in it part.
16. Do you do school visits? Yes! See my School Visit page for details.
17. Will you sign my book? Yes! Email me and I’ll tell you how.
18. Did you like going to school? Where I came to love learning was in college. But you have to make it through high school to get there. Just do your best, it’ll pay off.
19. How long does it take you to write a book? It varies. Knockout Games was the quickest from idea to coming out: about a year (I wrote the first draft in 3 weeks). Surf Mules took three years to write and two years to get to the shelves. Yummy took about 12 years to make it from an idea to book but mostly because it started as a movie project first. When I finally figured out it needed to be a graphic novel, the writing was extremely quick, maybe a couple of months.
20. Is there a G. Neri archives? Yes!
21. What do you do when you are not writing? Mostly spend time with my family. I watch a lot of movies and basketball games, go to the beach, canoe the rivers looking for gators, and yes, read.
22. Are you happy? Yes. Mos def.