Geoff Rodkey is the writer of the Chronicles of Egg adventure-comedy series, which bestselling author Rick Riordan described as “Lemony Snicket meets Pirates of the Caribbean, with a sprinkling of Tom Sawyer.”
Geoff is also the Emmy-nominated writer of such hit films as Daddy Day Care, RV, and the Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie, It’s Christmas. His early writing credits include the educational video game Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, the non-educational MTV series Beavis and Butt-head, and Comedy Central’s Politically Incorrect.
The first two Chronicles of Egg books, Deadweather and Sunrise and New Lands, are available now from Putnam/Penguin. The final book in the trilogy, Blue Sea Burning, comes out in April 2014. For more info, visit his site.
Let the conversation begin!
What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
The first things I ever wrote for an audience were humor pieces in my high school newspaper. When a piece was particularly funny, kids would come up to me in the hallway the day the paper came out and tell me how much they’d liked it. That feeling of having created something that other people enjoy was what made me want to write for a living.
Was there ever a time in your writing career where you wanted to seriously give up? If so, how did you find the motivation to continue?
About four years ago, I’d been writing screenplays full-time for over a decade, and I felt creatively and professionally burned out, to the point where I was considering going back to school and learning some kind of useful skill so I could get a real job. But while I’d written in a lot of different media–film, TV, video games, magazines–I’d never tried to write a book, and I figured before I threw in the towel, I should try writing a novel. By the time I was halfway through the first draft, I realized I wasn’t burned out at all on writing itself–I’d just been doing the wrong kind of writing, and what I really wanted to do with my life was write books.
What inspired you to write your first book?
A character popped into my head one day who was a pirate. His name was Crooked Pete, and all the other pirates thought he was cursed, so they wouldn’t let him on board their ships–and the only job he could get was working as a waiter in a pirate-themed restaurant. I thought that was pretty funny, so I started thinking about what kind of universe could accommodate both multiple crews of pirates and a pirate-themed restaurant.
I spent about two years jotting down ideas off and on, and by the time I started to write Deadweather and Sunrise, Crooked Pete had disappeared, and there were no pirate-themed restaurants anywhere in the world that had become the setting for the Chronicles of Egg series. All that remained of the original idea was an island full of pirates and a darkly funny tone.
In my experience, the best ideas are often like this—they start as one thing, then become something completely different as you flesh them out.
What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.
I’m funny. That helps.
And working as a screenwriter for a dozen years taught me story structure, so I have a pretty good sense of how to keep a plot moving.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The first draft of everything is lousy. Good writing comes from rewriting–figuring out what’s good and making it better, while tossing out what’s not good. Critical readers are vital to that process–the only way you can figure out what to keep/toss/improve is by getting honest feedback from people who know what they’re talking about and aren’t afraid to tell you what’s not working. If you don’t have people like that in your life, find them. Writing groups can be helpful; so can certain teachers, if you’re in an academic setting.
In my experience, friends and family members who aren’t writers themselves and/or just tell you what you wrote is fantastic and doesn’t need to be improved are unfortunately not helpful at all. They might gratify your ego, but that’s a lot less useful than getting your ego kicked around by feedback you don’t want to hear but desperately need.
What books are you reading right now?
Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, and Jonas Jonasson’s The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.
What’s your favorite writing quote?
“Just do it.”
No, wait…that’s a Nike ad. It’s applicable, though. I think the hardest part of any writer’s day is just getting started.