The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News | To Write for Kids, It Helps to Be One at Heart

2022-07-30 07:48:00 By : Mr. steve shen

Greg Mone’s books for kids and young adults often involve characters in disguise, as spies and pirates, using science to stay invisible, to soar in the air or dive to great depths. One could say Mr. Mone follows the same pattern.

He lives in West Tisbury with his wife and three kids and can often be found standing quietly on the sidelines of soccer and hockey games, coaching lacrosse or surfing the waves off Squibnocket. Then last week he was at Comic-Con in San Diego promoting his new book He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Dolph Lundgren, who played the villain in Rocky IV, was on the panel with him.

“William Shatner showed up as a surprise guest,” Mr. Mone said. “There were like 3,500 people in the audience.”

He admitted it was quite cool, but then reality came crashing in.

“I had a book signing after the panel and very few people showed up,” he said. “I’m sitting at a table, like, ‘Hey, anyone want to buy a book?’ It was classic. You get rejected so much as a writer that you can’t let the highs get too high or the lows too low. It’s just on to the next thing.”

Over the years Mr. Mone, 46, has become very adept at moving on to the next thing. The author of 16 books, his catalogue includes adventure books, science books, superhero books and collaborations that recast bestselling books such as Quiet and The Boys in the Boat through a young adult lens.

This spring has been especially busy. He-Man arrived in bookstores in May and Atlantis the Brink of War in April. In November, a third book by Mr. Mone, a biography of Skeletor (He-Man’s arch nemesis), will be published.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., Mr. Mone will give a talk at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore about his books and writing process, which mostly takes place in his writing room at his home in West Tisbury — more of an upstairs playroom filled with his children’s toys, a Ping-Pong table, bookshelves, a dog bed for Toby the goldendoodle, a stand-up desk.

Mr. Mone said he juggles his various projects, toggling from kids’ books to adult-themed novels, along with technical writing for start-up companies, by working on fiction in the morning and nonfiction in the afternoon.

“I write fiction in these very intense three-hour chunks and then I’m done,” he said. “I can’t do any more fiction that day. But then I can very easily switch over to a nonfiction project.”

He said he was always a big reader as a kid growing up in Long Island but never thought he would be a writer. He attended Harvard College and took a variety of courses and pondered a career in banking until an intense finance internship dissuaded him from that path. It was a course he took his senior year that changed his trajectory forever.

“It was called The Literature of Social Reflection taught by Robert Coles,” he said. “He would just get up there and talk about a book and why he loved it. And it totally lit me up. His passion for novels made me start reading in a different way.”

After graduation, Mr. Mone moved to Ireland to work as a paralegal by day and an excavator of Irish writing by night.

“I made it a point, I’m going to read Ulysses, I’m going read the whole thing,” he recalled.

Later he headed to NYU for a masters program in science writing and while at school published his first novel, a book about a guy who thinks he is the reincarnation of Albert Einstein, called Wages of Genius. Mr. Mone visibly cringes when speaking the title out loud and said he hadn’t found his voice yet for that book and was instead trying to recreate the books he had loved in Mr. Coles’s class.

For his next book, his nieces and nephews came to the rescue.

“I didn’t have kids yet, but I used to do all these treasure hunts for my nieces and nephews for their birthdays and I’d write stories for them, like at Christmas,” he said. “And they said, ‘You should write us a pirate story.’ And I was at such a dead-end spot that I was like, ‘Yeah, a pirate adventure, sure, why not?’”

That idea became Fish and Mr. Mone never looked back, preferring to look in every other direction, pursuing all manner of subjects and projects that interested him. He began carving out a career that included writing for Popular Science and Science American, and working with Bill Nye the Science Guy on several books.

Gesturing to bookshelves filled with his favorite books and a haphazardly arranged collection of his own work, mixed in with the detritus of family life, he said the key to writing books for kids is not trying to write for a 10 year old but becoming 10 years old again.

“You go back into an earlier version of yourself when you’re writing these things,” he said.

Being a father helps, he said, and being around kids in general.

“Once you start writing kids books you get invited to schools to talk in front of big assemblies and then you go into the classrooms and work with the students,” he said. “It’s just an amazing experience. You really get to see what makes them laugh and what keeps them interested.”

Mr. Mone added that living on Vineyard also inspires his writing. He and his family moved here in 2015 and being in and around water so much helped germinate the idea for his Atlantis books, he said.

But more important, it is the spirit of the place, he said, and the struggle to make a living here, that drives him.

“I think what helps me most, professionally, is the hustle,” he said. “The people who live here year-round, how hard they hustle to make it work, that a teacher is also working at a restaurant all summer, this person has a business over here and they have started up another businesses over there. Everyone you run into is hustling. And so as a writer and freelancer for so long, it feels really natural here. It feels like I fit in.”

And with that, Greg Mone gets back to work. After all, his next book is about a relatively large subject: how the Earth works.

Bunch of Grapes Bookstore hosts Greg Mone on Saturday, July 30 at 10 a.m.

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