David Gordon is the author and illustrator of the critically acclaimed The Ugly Truckling and The Three Little Riggs. His first book for Simon & Schuster was the adorable Smitten. He has done concept work for Pixar’s Toy Story; Toy Story 2; A Bug’s Life; Monsters, Inc.; and Cars; as well as Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants. He also did character design work on Blue Sky’s Robots. He lives in New York City. Visit him at IllustratorRanch.com.BECOME A FAN
A. The basic premise occurred to me years ago when I myself edited adult magazines and noticed how many of our fan letters came from prisoners, most of whom claimed to be “wrongly incarcerated.” Many asked for lawyers or to have their stories told, though they would have settled for free magazines. I also considered writing an article on the disturbing phenomenon of women who write to prisoners, particularly those locked up for violent crimes, and become enamored with them. These two ideas formed the basic situation in my mind: an ex-porn writer who is offered the chance to interview a famous serial killer in exchange for interviewing and writing about his penpal “girlfriends.” However, I didn’t begin writing it yet because I couldn’t see a way in. It was just an idea. Years went by. Then I had the experience of trying to pitch a vampire novel of my own, when a friend introduced me to an editor at a popular “Urban Supernatural” publisher. I pitched an idea, vampire models: they don’t eat, they go out every night, they stay young forever. (The fashion business is yet another part of my shady past.) The editor liked it, but explained that it needed to be written with a first person female narrator, which they doubted I could do, since I’m male. They also claimed that their readers favored female authors. (I was told: “Men will read women but the women won’t read men,” which I certainly hope isn’t true.) This was why, as a joke, I proposed using my own mother’s name and likeness, which amused her since she is actually an even bigger fan of horror and mystery novels than I am. Anyway, I wrote several chapters in a female voice. I was rejected again. This time, they claimed that I had created such a convincing 18-year-old girl that the novel read like teen fiction and now the vampire-related sex and violence was too disturbing. Along the way, I also mentioned my interest in writing a hard-boiled detective novel in what used be called the “Black Experience” genre but was told that these books needed black authors, again cutting me out. I gave up, but it was then that the character of Harry, my protagonist, began to form in my mind: A pulp writer churning out novels under multiple names and using his family and friends as aliases. Then I had the idea that if his mother died, he might have to end up impersonating her for a photo. This became the first scene of the first draft of the novel. At this point I began to laugh and I knew how to write it and how it could be funny. Once I heard the character’s voice in my head, I could begin.