What do you get when you combine a self-styled Santa Claus, an eleven-year-old boy runaway and an attempted kidnapping that goes awry? That's the premise of Stephen V. Masse’s delightful new book, A Jolly Good Fellow, published by Good Harbor Press.
We have Stephen here with us to find out more…
Thank you for this interview, Stephen. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I’ve been writing for about 40 years. I wrote my first novel at 13, an embarrassing little tome about a teenager who saves a girl and himself from nuclear war by going down into a metro tunnel. It was hand written into a composition book. Then as a freshman in college, I wrote Downwind From Fire, about a nineteenth century woodsman whose wife becomes ill and needs to travel to Boston for medical care. Both “novels” will remain in my archives, to be dealt with or disposed of by my future biographer.
Do you write full-time?
Are you kidding? I’ve got a mortgage, two cars, Massachusetts mandated health insurance for the self-employed, and assorted bills which require a day job. So I write when I get the time, which means at least one or two major masterpieces that would have uplifted all humanity will have been sacrificed for a few bags of groceries.
At what point in your life did you make up your mind you were going to become a published author?
When I was about thirteen.
Was there anyone in your life that you can give credit to helping pave the way?
Absolutely! My father and mother were both fantastic providers of rich life experiences to us as children. Both read stories from day one, and I recall a time at 3 or 4 years old when my brother and I play acted “Hansel and Gretel” with my mother. My father used to make up stories to tell me.
When I was a little older, my brother Bob used to make up stories about ridiculous people, and get me rolling on the ground with laughter.
In the eighth grade at a Catholic school, Sister Mary Eleanor Galvin, SP was our English teacher. She assigned a lot of writing, but the most memorable assignment was a punishment: to sit at our desks and write out the entire poem, “Evangeline” by Longfellow. (This took over a week of English periods) I was the only one in the class who actually enjoyed the task, because it taught me the patience to sit for long hours writing, it was a short-cut to learning the craft of putting complex vocabulary together, and made me feel like a famous author for a while.
Other people who have encouraged me through the years have been the late Father Frederick Bailey, S. J., my aunt Mary Ann Valenti, my siblings Bob, Paul, Mary and John.
What was your favorite book to read as a child?
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
What is your favorite book at the present?
Tied between The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
If you could trade places with one author who you have admired over the years, who would it be and why?
Absolutely Mark Twain, although I would hope never to suffer the losses and tragedies he had.
Can you tell us a little about your latest book, A Jolly Good Fellow?
The original manuscript of A Jolly Good Fellow was written in six weeks during the fall and winter of 1976. First called Wake Me Up, it was a straight kidnapping story. Over thirty years and probably twenty complete revisions, it has been to every publisher in the United States and a few in Canada, England and Australia. But something was keeping it from success, and thankfully an old high school friend and writer, John Michael Williams, read it and provided expert editorial help from cover to cover.
The secret in the final rewrite was to get both main characters to participate more or less equally.
How do you deal with rejection?
It’s part of the cost of doing business, so just relax and remember every name of every miscreant who rejected your work so you can one-up them some day when they call begging for your newest best seller. But really, literary rejection is great practice for the dating scene.
Do you have an agent? What were your experiences finding her/him?
All bad experiences with agents, both legitimate and hacks, and I do not recommend them for the majority of writers until you have writing income well over $50,000 per year.
Do you blog? If so, what can you tell my readers about the advantages of blogging as a useful tool in book promotion?
At this time I don’t have time to devote to blogging, but hopefully that will change in the future.
Do you have a website? Do you manage it yourself or do you have someone run it for you?
My website is www.stephenvmasse.com, and mostly I manage it, though I have a brilliant student, Michael, keep an eye on things to keep it up to date and polished.
How do you deal with a bad review?
I don’t worry too much about bad reviews because there are always going to be people who don’t like certain books. As for myself, if I don’t like a book I don’t spend a lot of energy on giving a bad review – takes too much time and isn’t always productive.
What’s next for you?
I’m hoping to get enough time this year to finish my next book, to be titled Short Circus, a book about a 12-year-old boy’s life and times with his Big Brother.
Thank you for this interview, Stephen! Do you have any final words you’d like to share with my readers?
If you are a writer, keep trying to get published or publish yourself. Learn as much about marketing as you can, and keep pushing. You may always have to keep the day job, but if you make enough each year for a nice vacation, then you’ve accomplished a lot – and if you can entice people to read your book, that’s even better!
If you’re not a writer but love to read, then you’re already my friend! Please read A Jolly Good Fellow, it’s the only book that comes with a money-back guarantee!