Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of more than 70 books for young people of all ages. His picture book Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman is the first biography in any format for any age on the two young men who dreamed up the world’s first superhero. The book received multiple starred reviews and made the front page of USA Today for a discovery Marc made during his research. His book on the “secret” behind the creation of Batman comes out in July 2012. Other titles include Vanished: True Stories of the Missing and two books called Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day.
He has written extensively for Nickelodeon and is also a cartoonist whose work has appeared in about 100 international publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Good Housekeeping, the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, and 94 more you’ve never heard of. He’s been invited around the world to speak at schools, libraries, conferences, and even a business lunch or two. On his blog, he reveals the behind-the-scenes stories of his books, from uplifting research moments to unconventional promotional efforts. To purchase his books, visit his Amazon page.
Let the conversation begin!
Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?
If by “classic” you mean a book that continues to be read after I’m gone, then I’d say a classic! (One of the greatest compliments my book Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman got in a review was when Families Online wrote it was “sure to become a classic example of the genre.” So check back with me in 100 years.
Do you begin with character or plot?
With fiction, plot. With nonfiction, sometimes plot but sometimes personality.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
I’m usually working on more than one project at once, but the one I’m pushing hardest on at the moment is a nonfiction picture book called Thirty Minutes Over Oregon. It’s a riveting, little-known WWII story about the only time an enemy plane has bombed a U.S. state (Pearl Harbor wasn’t mainland—and Hawaii wasn’t yet a state). One reason few know about it is because the bombs didn’t kill anybody; warped, right? This historic incident is interesting enough on its own to inspire a book, but what sold it for me was that twenty years later, the Japanese pilot, Nobuo Fujita, nervously accepted an invitation to return to the town he almost hit, Brookings, Oregon—and this set off a thirty-year friendship. Nobuo came back three more times and invited three American high schoolers to Japan, all expenses paid. It’s one of the most poignant stories of reconciliation I’ve come across, and I have gone to great lengths (at least by my standards) to see it get published.
It takes only one yes to make 100 “nos” go away. It’s my career philosophy.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Start young. Seize every possible moment of inspiration. Read your writing aloud; the eye can be fooled but the ear can’t. Read a lot and jot down any idea you get as soon as you get it. Ask someone you trust—not someone who is afraid to be critical—to read your work. Be persistent. Then be persistent again. And again.
What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?
No question: my health.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Do not start a story with a person waking up. Want to guess why?
What’s the first item on your bucket list?
It was skydiving till I did it. One of the next was host Saturday Night Live. Still waiting on that one.
The work is done. How do you recharge?
The work is never done! But if I allow myself a break, I love to go for a run while listening to music. Running and writing go well together—both solitary, both invigorating, both something we all start to learn to do from a young age but can refine with practice.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
At the beginning of my writing career, I wrote some books for the school and library market; they did not allow for creativity nor was I expected to break new ground. Those were fairly easy to write. The hardest was probably Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, which is out in July 2012. It was hard in terms of research (most of the people I had to track down and interview were in their late 70s or older) and the logistics of getting it published.
What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?
A question I’ve never been asked! I’d say a standing desk. But I can see that answer changing regularly. Next week I might say an ice sculpture.
Easier to write before or after you were published?
Getting published, as you would expect, only intensifies your desire to write more—and, if you’re lucky, intensifies your willingness to challenge yourself.
What is your secret talent?
It’s not exactly a talent, and I should probably let it stay a secret, but I am pretty good about catching blueberries in my mouth. Not a lot of career potential in that one.
What’s one rule you’re dying to break?
Good question again! In a way, the way I responded to the editorial feedback for Thirty Minutes Over Oregon (see above) was breaking a rule—that’s not how authors normally (a) respond to rejection or (b) pitch books.
If you could spend a vacation with three authors, who would they be?
Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, Rod Serling. Oh, vacation? Not just a night…hmm…that might change things…