Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fool for Books Giveaway Blog Hop, Featuring Howard Shapiro, author of Stereotypical Freaks and INT giveaway!

Fool for Books Giveaway Hop

April 1st to 7th

No better way to spend April Fools Day!  

Join me in a giveaway hop! I am thrilled to introduce a talented writer, Howard Shapiro, and his very unusual book, The Stereotypical Freaks, which is a graphical novel.

The Stereotypical Freaks
Goodreads book description: Four disparate high school seniors come together to compete in their school's battle of the bands. Sharing a love for playing rock and roll, the members name the band "The Stereotypical Freaks" because they feel stereotyped by their classmates - smart kid, geek, star athlete and quiet weirdo… when in fact they know they are much more than those labels that have been placed on them.

When one member reveals life altering news, winning the competition takes on more of a meaning to each member. Scared and angry, upset and yet still with a lot of resolve they set out to win one for the good guys… will they?

Author Blurb: HOWARD SHAPIRO lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and two sons. The Controller for the Pittsburgh-based Visual Effects firm, Animal Inc., he has also written four children’s books and The Stereotypical Freaks will be his debut Graphic Novel.  His 2008 book, Hockey Player for Life, has been the #1 downloaded children’s hockey e-book on Amazon’s Kindle chart since its arrival as an e-book in November of 2011.  His, Hockey Days book was the only book featured in the December 2007 Sporting News Annual Gift Guide as a Best Buy Gift for Children.  Through a corporate sponsorship program he set up (and maintains), since the 2010-11 season, both of his children’s hockey books have been given to NHL teams (over 2,500 copies to date) for use in their community and educational initiatives.  Since 2006 his annual charity raffle, which he matches dollar for dollar donated, has raised funds for several hockey-related charities including the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Hockey Fights Cancer and the Keith and Lisa Primeau Scholarship Fund.  For more information, please log on to howardshapiro(dot)net.

Author Interview
1. Your book is unusual in storyline and format. Can you tell us the story of how this book came together and why you decided to do a graphical novel?
 Back in April, 2009 I did an elementary school visit (I do about four school and public library visits each year) and when I was packing up the school librarian and I started talking about some of the books that the kids really enjoyed.  He told me how he couldn't order graphic novels fast enough, that regardless of the storyline or theme, the kids took them out constantly.  So, the little light bulb went off above my head!  To that point I had done three picture books and one middle grade novel and I was looking to do a story centered around a battle of the bands.  Plus, I was looking to try something new.  At that point I didn't know much about graphic novels other then I thought they were basically expanded comic books or these hyper violent books like "300" or "Watchmen."

I went to the main branch of our cities (Pittsburgh, PA) library system as I knew they had an extensive GN collection.   Once there, I was blown away by the depth and variety of art and the stories themselves.  I was very inspired at that point but I still did a lot of research and I didn't start writing until late-summer of 2009.   I completed the first draft in early-October in a quasi-script format and then set out to find an illustrator and letterer and almost three years later it was finally done and published!

2. Your characters are wonderful. Did you have a favorite? Did any of them end up surprising you?
Thank you!  I'd have to say my favorite character, by a very slim margin because all of them are like your own kids, is Tom.  In my previous books the main character has been Tom and so he's sort of grown up through my books and the reason for that is that he is me!  The fun part of creating characters is that you can have them do things that in your day to day life that you can't do or basically tell a story through things you have done.  They always say, write what you know and who and what do you know better then your own life experiences!  Plus, I can have him do what I should have done when I was growing up.  Hindsight in this case is tremendous!  So, in each of the books there is a lot of me in Tom and much like me, he tries his best but still can screw up a one car funeral!

The other main characters in the book, Mark, Dan and Jacoby are based on real people.  Mark is based on a childhood friend of mine who sort of dropped me as a friend when we got to junior high after we were the very best of friends all through pre-school through elementary school.  Dan is based on a kid I knew in junior high who was a good person, but who wore his heart on his sleeve to his detriment.  Jacoby is based on a real life kid named John Challis ( )  John was a very heroic kid who died at age eighteen from liver cancer.  He was a very special person and his fight against cancer was a huge inspiration for me... I wanted to write a fictional character that had his wiser-then-his year's knowledge and spirit.

I really wanted to write them as very NOT one note... but I wanted the reader to kind of think of them that way in the initial chapters but in later chapters, wham!, you see a different side of them that you may have not seen coming.  It goes along with the title, "The Stereotypical Freaks" in that we all assign labels to one another when in fact we all have different sides.  I guess I'd say Dan ended up surprising me because throughout the story, he is this kind of 'everything is very black and white in my world person and he has this really sweet conversation with Jacoby towards the end of the book where he comes to realize that the world in general, and specifically his own world, are not always black and white.

3. For our aspiring writers, where do you get your inspiration?
Excellent question and this is one of the things I talk about during my school visits.  My inspiration comes from everywhere, from songs a TV show or movie, as well as just everyday conversations I'll hear.  I tell the kids that if they want to write that they have to keep their eyes and ears open at all times and have a notebook, or in my case, post-its, available at all times!  I am constantly writing down names, ideas or bits of conversation I hear or have heard.  I can't stress that enough, inspiration can from anywhere at anytime!

4. Who has been your biggest cheerleader? 
I really had three very wonderful supporters, not really cheerleaders, but three guys in the graphic novel world who helped me immeasurably.  I listed them on the Acknowledgements page and mentioned that without them, the book would not have existed.  So, again, let me publicly thank Chris Warner, Troy Dye and Terry Nantier.  The thing that meant so much to me was that they took the time, when they didn't have to, to help me navigate the waters when doing a GN.  I would send them some artwork that I had done, I went through about four illustrators before I found Joe Pekar and each time Chris, Troy and Terry would give me their professional opinion on the work.  Their honesty, time and efforts helped me get to the point where I could put my team together and again, they were very gracious with their time in walking me through the process.  I hope one day to be able to help out an aspiring writer like they helped me!

5. What has been the best comment you've gotten from a fan?
One kind of stands out but I hate to choose just one because each and every comment means an incredible amount to me!  The story is so close to my heart that anytime, anyone has anything to say about it, good or bad, I appreciate the comments and thoughts.  It's truly a gift, an amazing gift, when someone tells me that the book touched them or that it brought out an emotional response because that was what I was going for in the writing of it.  I made one million percent sure that each and every day that Joe Pekar worked on the illustrations that each panel had to be imbued with emotion on the character's faces and in their body language.

Still, with all of that being said, I'd have to say that this bit from a reader on goodreads is the best comment I've received to date: "I really believe this is the best book I have read in 2012 and even though it is a graphic novel, I know it should be counted as one of the best books of 2012."

6. Tell us who your favorite author is and why. 
I'm a very big Neil Gaiman fan, I think his writing has so much depth and style... he's a huge influence on me.  His "Death: The High Cost Of Living" and a GN titled "The Big Khan" by a  guy named Neil Kleid were the two books that made me really, really, really want to write a graphic novel!

7. What do you have on the horizon? Any new books that we can be excited about? 
Yes, thank you!! I am writing a sequel to "The Stereotypical Freaks" that I hope to have out at this time next year.  It's going to have a hockey component which takes me back to my writing roots (two of my five books are hockey themed).  The writing is coming along great so far and I am trying to find a new artist and letterer to change things up a bit.

I was recently asked by the John Challis family to write a biography about  John's extraordinary life.  It is a great honor and privilege to do that!  I've not a done a straight biography before so it will be fun to do that and I'm hoping that it will be out by this Christmas!  

Enter to win some terrific prizes: 1 Grand Prize of signed book + T-shirt + bookmark

3 Runner up prizes: $15 Amazon gift card + signed bookmark

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  1. Great author interview........:)

  2. Thank you so much for a chance to win and for being a part of this fun and awesome blog hop!!