we live in a creative household. although it is an adventure, it's not always easy, but we share a common understanding of the need for creative expression, projects, and outlets. he's known here as: j, papa, husband, friend, jedi master, and author - thought i'd let his words do all the talking. meet james sperl, author
Why writing / storytelling?
It's the only way to purge the glut of ideas from my tiny brain. If I didn't write, I think my head would eventually explode.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing words and sentences since grade school. But my very first attempt at writing a story that wasn't assigned to me was with a script I wrote at 25. I had no idea what I was doing, only that I could see the plot and the characters engaging in some sort of narrative. So I scribbled it all down.
Where do your story ideas come from?
They could be from almost anywhere. Sometimes it's a newspaper or magazine article, other times it could be as innocuous as a TV commercial. They really do come at me from all angles.
What's the most challenging part of being a writer?
Finding the time to actually do it. As a stay-at-home dad, working in even an hour some days is tricky. Some advice I once read (I forget who said it) on the best way to become a writer was to never get married and never have kids. I did both. I might be screwed.
Who inspires you?
My mentors are constantly shifting--and they are very often NOT writers. My first love has always been film so I tend to gravitate toward those individuals who can take an idea and turn it into something visual. I am blown away by how so many people can focus their attention on a singular goal. A good example, and my current inspiration, however, is Walt Disney. Maybe it's because we just returned from Disney World a few weeks ago, but to walk through those parks and learn about all the grand ideas that man had and made happen after so many years of failure...well, what's not to be inspired by?
If you allowed yourself to dream big with no boundaries /limits, what would that look like?
I can safely say it would look like Willy Wonka's Chocalate Factory around our house, minus the candy. In its place would be nothing but creative elements to foster the slew of ideas you and I have, but don't have the time or money to pursue. We're both creative people and like to dip our toes into many different facets of art and creativity. If it were up to me our home would be so saturated with art supplies and tools, Dick Blick would look like the art and activities section at Wal-Mart. That's how it would look. Oh, and we'd be rich with a big house and lots of cars. (wink, wink)
Your proudest creative accomplishment?
This answer hasn't changed in years, but it's still at the top for me. Performing a classic guitar recital--complete with tux--in an auditorium when 3 and a half years prior to that moment I had never played the instrument nor could I read a note of music. That still pretty much rocks for me.
Are there any authors you admire?
There are several. I became a fan of Cormac McCarthy after reading the "The Road" a few years back. Since then I've tried several of his other books and have just been floored at his ability. The guy possesses a grasp of the English language I think most writers strive for. It just seems to flow from him so effortlessly. His descriptions are nothing short of poetry. I also am a fan of Dan Simmons. While I'm not a big historical fiction buff, I quite like his "The Terror" and "Drood". Both were massive reads, but they pulled you in so well the books didn't feel so daunting to get through. There are other authors with the occasional work that stand out here and there. Currently, I'm reading. "Wool" by Hugh Howey and am quite impressed with it.
What do you love most about storytelling?
The ability to not only create something unique, but to transport another person into this dreamed up world and have them believe, even if only for a little while, that it exists. There's nothing more satisfying to me than when a person tells me they cried when a character dies or they ask for a sequel to a particular story. When that happens, I know I've done my job.
What lies ahead, creatively speaking, for you?
I'm currently dipping my toes into the Young Adult market and writing a trilogy. Titled "Sideland", it will provide a boy's perspective to the awkwardness of being a teenager, juxtaposed against a mind-bending world revelation. It's an idea I've had for some time and it finally feels right to try and get it on paper.
How does living overseas affect you, creatively, or does it?
The one thing I've noticed I do now is try and work in some element of living in Italy into my stories. It could be a brief reference to certain bread types or I might include locations I've visited into the story. What's the old saying? Write what you know? Well, I certainly do that. But being exposed to a different culture has allowed me to 'know' more and only bolsters my confidence to write about such things.
What do you love most about Italy?
Hands down, the pace of life. The Italians seem to really know how to enjoy their day to day existence and don't seem to get caught up in the same trap as many Americans who feel that the more they work, the more money they'll have, therefore, the happier they'll be. It's a totally different mindset. I'm certain there are Italians who would prefer to be stinking rich and not struggle, but, at least from what I've seen, they're not so preoccupied with the Almighty Euro that they are willing to sacrifice their quality of life. They allow themselves vacations and time to relax, and family time is relished. It all works for me.
From James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio:
What is your favorite word? Chocolate
What is your least favorite word? Irreguardless. Why? Because it's not a word, people!
What sound or noise do you love? My kids' laughter.
What sound or noise do you hate? Children shrieking.
What is your favorite curse word? F**k. There's just no substituting for those hard consonant sounds.
What’s something about you that would surprise us? At one time, I was on track to become an airline pilot.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? If I had the math chops, I would love to do ANYTHING that involved space. As our last frontier, I find the mysteries of space and space travel wholly fascinating. Speaking of which, super props to JPL and NASA for their success with Curiosity. I am in absolute awe of those people.