Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In the Hotseat...GEOFF RODKEY!

Today my guest is author/screenwriter Geoff Rodkey. Geoff’s career spans over 20 years, and his movies include RV (my personal favourite) and Daddy Day Care among others. Geoff recently made his first foray into the world of book writing with the first of an exciting trilogy for middle grade, THE CHRONICLES OF EGG (Think Harry Potter with pirates).  trust me, adults will love it too!  (and so will cats!) 

 I’m thrilled to have him on the blog today!

So now…here’s Geoff!

R:  Meow, hello Geoff and welcome!
G:   Thanks, Rocco.

R:  First interview by a cat?
G:  Definitely.

R: Ahem, OkayTell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer?

G: I live in New York City, and although my first book only came out last month, I’ve been writing professionally for almost twenty years. I’ve mostly worked in film and TV, although early on, I wrote for a lot of different media – magazines, online sites, other people’s books, some speechwriting, a video game…basically, anything I could find that would help me avoid getting a real job.

The biggest factor in my wanting to be a writer was probably working on my high school newspaper in Freeport, Illinois. I wrote humor pieces, and when other kids liked them, they occasionally told me so. That praise was addictive—it was sort of the live-human equivalent of the “like” button on Facebook—and I’ve been chasing it one way or another ever since.

R: You are also a screenwriter – how does writing a novel differ from that medium, and which do you prefer?

G: Writing a screenplay is like drawing the blueprint for a house that, more often than not, won’t get built. And if it does get built, not only will other architects probably get hired to redraw your blueprint, but dozens of other people will contribute to the building of the house, and none of them will ask you for your opinion about the choices they make.

If you write a novel, you put up the whole thing—you’re in charge of everything from installing the plumbing to picking out the furniture. In the end, for better or worse, it’s your house.

I’ve found building the house by myself is a lot more satisfying. It might be ugly, and the roof might leak, but at least it’s mine.

R: What, or who, if anything, inspired “The Chronicles of Egg”?

G: I don’t know. It just sort of happened. I was on Cape Cod with my family, and there may have been something about the proximity to the ocean that made a character pop into my head who was a pirate—and he was so unlucky that all the other pirates thought he was cursed, and they wouldn’t let him on their ships, so the only job he could get was as a waiter in a pirate-themed restaurant.

That seemed funny, and it got me to thinking about what kind of world he might live in…and I thought about that world for a couple of years, by which point the original pirate had disappeared, the world had gotten a lot less jokey, and there was a 13-year-old kid in it who finds himself running for his life. And that was the book.

R: Why pirates?

G: Creatively, I don’t know—again, I had an idea for a character who was a pirate, and I just kind of followed it where it led.

Although from a mercenary standpoint, after I realized that the idea lent itself more to a kids’ book than a movie, the fact that it was a pirate-infested world made a certain amount of commercial sense. In the universe of kid books, wizards, vampires, dragons, demigods, and aliens had all been done, so what was left? Pirates.

R: IF TCOE were made into a film, would you want it live action or animated? And if live action, who would you want for the lead roles?

G: I think I’d rather see a live-action movie, because that’s how the characters appear in my head. But a while back, a company that does stop-motion animation showed some interest in the film rights, and that could be a very interesting way to render the world of the book.

I have no idea who should play the characters. The three primary ones are thirteen, so I figure if a movie ever exists, whoever might get those parts is about eight years old right now.

R: Would you write the screenplay for “Egg”, or would you want someone else to do it?

G: I’m kind of torn. If you’d asked me a year ago, right after the manuscript sold, I would have said I definitely wanted to do it. But after a year of working only on books (I just finished a draft of the second book in the series), I’ve realized I’m a lot happier in the book than the film world.

And at the moment, nobody’s bought the film rights, so it’s kind of an academic question—there may never be a screenplay, which would be fine with me.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next? Do you have any screenplays in the works, or any more YA books?

G: The Chronicles of Egg is a trilogy, and I’m still in the middle of that—my first draft of book 2 needs a lot of work, and book 3 is just an outline right now.

Once the trilogy is finished, I’m hoping to either write a new trilogy set in a completely different era, or extend the Chronicles of Egg to three more books, with the same characters in a different setting.  

R: You’ve written some of my favourite movies, including Robin Williams’ RV. Do you have a favourite?

G: I’m actually not that thrilled with any of them. That may sound ungrateful or petulant—but again, the thing about screenplays is that they go through many, many hands on their way to becoming a movie. When you’re writing a script, you’ve got a movie playing in your head. And even in the best case, what winds up on screen isn’t going to be that movie—especially if the script has been rewritten by other people, which was true for all the films I’ve had my name on. And it can be hard to reconcile the movie that was in your head with the real thing. It’s not even a matter of better or worse—it’s just different.

I do have favorite screenplays (I’ve written about 25, of which four have been made), but none of my favorites ever became movies. They’re just blueprints for houses that were never built.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

G: I’m a plotter. I try not to be too much of one, because I do think if you plot things out too carefully, you don’t give your subconscious enough space to create really interesting things. But my background is in screenwriting, in which 90% of the work is plotting and structure, so it’s hard to shake that habit. And I’ve been writing a trilogy, which I think almost demands that you think ahead so you know where you’re going over the course of multiple books.

R: What is a “must have” for you that aids the creative process?

G: A laptop and a flat surface. That’s about it. I spent most of my screenwriting career working in coffee shops (I have three boys, so trying to write in my apartment was like working inside a pinball machine), so I’m not too precious about my work space.

R: Is there anything in particular that inspires you.

G: Artists who work steadily over time, and keep trying to produce good work regardless of the commercial outcome. There’s a band I used to listen to in college called Drivin’ n’ Cryin’—I own like half a dozen of their albums, but in twenty years, I’d never seen them live until last year. They played a show at the Mercury Lounge in New York City for maybe a hundred paying customers, and it was phenomenal. The fact that those guys were still showing up and burning the place down even though the financial returns had dwindled to the point where they were manning their own T-shirt booth after the show was a real inspiration to me.

R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

G: I have three school-age kids, so when I’m not writing or sleeping, I’m usually either hauling somebody off to a soccer game or pestering them to do their homework. I do try to get out and see live music now and then, and I like to go to various NYC museums, especially the Met. But I’m not sure either of those things qualifies as a hobby.

R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

G: I did a long interview last year with a journalist named Jeff Pearlman that goes into more detail about my career. You can check it out here: http://www.jeffpearlman.com/the-quaz-qa-geoff-rodkey/ .

I also have a Wikipedia page that somebody created. I’m not sure who. The information on it is mostly accurate, although it’s a little outdated. I’d update it myself, but the Wikipedia editing conventions are a little daunting, and I haven’t gotten my act together to master them.

R: What one thing would your readers be surprised to know about you?

G: For people who are only familiar with my movies, the surprise might be that I’m capable of writing complete sentences.

R: Do you have any advice for other writers just starting out?

G: Writing is rewriting, and the first draft of anything usually stinks.

R: do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share? How did you feel when Josh told you he’d sold your book.

G: I probably had it easier than most people when it came to finding an agent, not only because I’d had some success as a screenwriter, but because I’d been living in New York City for 15 years—both of which put me within a degree or two of separation from a lot of literary agents. I was introduced to Josh through a mutual friend who’s a film producer, and Josh not only read the manuscript faster than most of the other agents, but was among the most enthusiastic. He also felt like the best fit creatively—his notes were all very sound, and I incorporated them into the draft that he submitted.

The strongest emotion I felt when he sold the book was probably relief. My film career hadn’t been going too well for several years, and until I wrote the book, I’d been considering getting out of writing entirely. In that respect, selling the trilogy was like a stay of execution. More positively, though, writing books has also given me a new lease on life—I feel more creatively energized now than I did for all but the first few years of my screenwriting career.

Just for Fun:

Your favorite:
The Princess Bride
It’s impossible to pick just one. Tolstoy? J.K. Rowling? Charles Mann? P.G. Wodehouse?  
The Great Gatsby
Tv show
The Simpsons
Pirate or Peasant
Robin Leach or Robin Williams?
Robin Williams
Sunrise or Sunset:
Cat or Dog (Careful, now!)
I am, to my great chagrin, allergic to both. So…fish? (R: OH NO! but ROCCO understands…if you weren’t allergic, I’m sure you’d love ME!)

Thank you for a great interview, Geoff!
Folks:  If you haven’t done so already, go out and get this book!  Here are links to purchase, and also to learn more about Geoff and his work:


B&N Link:

Website Link: Geoff Rodkey - Chronicles of Egg

Geoff has generously offered to give away a SIGNED copy of THE CHRONICLES OF EGG  to one lucky winner! To enter, just leave a comment in this blog with your email address.  The winner will be chosen at random from random.org. For extra entries you can:

Follow moi on twitter at @RoccoBlogger
Friend me on Facebook
Friend the Human on FB
Friend Geoff's Author Page on Facebook: Geoff's FB Author Page HERE
Tweet or FB or Blog about this contest (gets you 3 extra entries - be sure to mention in your comment!)

Get crackin!

Next week:
We welcome the lovely and talented Tate Hallaway! and In July: our KNTR/CASTLE fundraiser! PLus more talented authors...of course!



  1. I truly got a great deal out of this interview,Rocco...one of your best.
    Geoff's book is definately on my list for my grandson...OK, that may be an excuse;I like more and more YA!.Seriously, as Geoff knows,people love to put themselves into the books characters,kids most often,(except in the case of gals who want to be the lead in romance novels), and finding books with male protagonists are not common,(albeit The Wimpy Kid!)There is nothing wrong with writing to an audience,Geoff; not only do your kids have to eat, but one writes to be read,right? If you don't write what people will read, why do it?
    I had recently read about screenplay writing, it seems heartbreaking in how they take and change your work after all the effort.
    I just wrote a short play and that was harder than an article, story,poem or lyric, all of which have been known to come out of me. I,too, find that I write well just sitting at a computer.
    Stay writing ,Geoff! I put mine on hold for too many years after a little inroad many moons ago. Now,I have grandkids that I pester to do homework or shuffle off to activities, but I'm back, clacking away and getting published.
    I pray you do well with "Egg".

  2. P.S. you know Toni is a 'friend' and I follow you,Rocco. If we're not 'friended', you will be in a minute! (I am surprised that Oranges and Bella have not mentioned my negligence).I'll 'share' this on fb, too.I am expecting a gaggle of grandgirls, but I will try to get over to Goeff's Author page ASAP, as I am truly interested in his work. Thanks.

  3. Oooh! A new to me author! Thanks guys for the interview and giveaway!

    I friend you on facebook.

    I also shared the interview / contest on FB.

    I do have a ? though... what do you mean "Friend the Human on FB"?


    1. It would be to friend the one who fills my foodbowl...Toni LoTempio Meow!