Three Questions for Jeff Szpirglas, author of SHELDON UNGER vs THE DENTURES OF DOOM
Who could not want to read a book with a title like Sheldon Unger vs The Dentures Of Doom? This new middle grade book comes out from Star Crossed Press on October 1st, 2016. You can find more info about Jeff Szpirglas at Twitter and Facebook, and more about Sheldon Unger vs The Dentures Of Doom on Goodreads and the Star Crossed Press book page.
Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?
This framed letter was written to my grandmother by Orson Welles, about two weeks after Citizen Kane’s theatrical release, and printed on way-cool Mercury Theatre stationery.
Who knew my grandmother had any interest in writing? I only learned about it as a grown man forging my own writing path. It turns out that during her formative years in Chicago, my grandmother had the same nanny as Welles himself. She interviewed the nanny for her high school paper. Years later, her interview was excerpted, sans credit, in a big biography on Welles. My grandmother also dabbled in fiction, and this letter is Welles’ polite response to her.
This letter is also coincidentally also the kernel that became Sheldon Unger Vs. The Dentures of Doom. I’d long envisioned a story about a smart-alecky kid like myself, who’d written off his grandmother as a cranky curmudgeon, and then discovers something amazing from her past. A letter from a famous celebrity wasn’t enough to fuel the fire of story for me, but an ancient set of evil, living dentures? That did the trick.
Q. What advice do you have for young writers and/or illustrators?
Go with your guts. My instincts often take me to strange places that may not be commercially viable, but it’s what drives me as a writer. Case in point: I’m now trying to sell a picture book called “Barfbeard.” It’s about a seasick pirate, and there’s more puking in it than a Farrely Brothers movie. It’s a joyous manuscript that will likely scare away every book marketer in America.
Sheldon Unger Vs. The Dentures of Doom is one of those journeys to that sweet spot where comedy and horror oscillate wildly. I wanted to make the horror real and visceral, and the jokes like punches to your ribs. When I was 11 or 12, I discovered horror movies and heavy metal. With Dentures, I wanted to channel the same buzz that I was getting from scary movies and blistering power chords. I wrote the story to satisfy my own creative impulses, but knew that there were other 11 year-olds out there who are probably interested in the same kinds of weird genre-bending fare.
Q. What are you excited about right now?
I’m generally excited by the ideas that hit me at any given moment. The story I’m working out in my head (and in little notebooks during my walks and runs) is about an impossible skull.
I’m also completely absorbed into what my 4 year-old twins are up to. I’ve turned my son into the world’s biggest Star Wars fan, even though I have to skip past all the scary parts for him. But it’s renewed my enthusiasm for that universe, and rediscovering details about even the most minute of characters, like Bossk the bounty hunter, and the inner workings of Boba Fett’s spaceship, Slave I. I can’t wait to get him started on Classic Doctor Who.
For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.