Interview with Chris Grabenstein

Chris, as I’m sure you know, is an extraordinary author, writing the fun and fabulous Ceepak series, the latest of which is Fun House, released May 1, 2012. But there are a lot of other things about Chris you may or may not know. Such as did you know he used to do improvisational comedy in New York with Bruce Willis? Or that he was once hired by James Patterson to write advertising copy? He’s obviously a very versatile writer, but he’s also an extremely nice guy. Here’s what he has to share with us today:

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Chris: Since the second grade!   But, I have made my living as a writer since 1984.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Chris: I’ll let you know when I get there!

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Chris: I think so.  At least the actual “writing” part.   I started writing skits and plays in high school and college — while also writing for the student newspapers (a daily in college).   I learned early on to enjoy the hovering over the keys and making up a story in my mind.   I still get a kick out of it every day.  As far as the other parts of the author business — I love meeting readers, going to schools, talking with other writers.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Chris: Well, the average income for a member of the Author’s Guild of America is $8,000 a year.  So, yes, my income has lived up to those expectations!

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Chris: Yes.  Now the focus is on selling enough books to STAY published.  The days of publishing houses nurturing careers, being patient, growing an author, etc. seem to be over.  Those sales numbers follow you and you may not get the next deal because you’re not doing well at Barnes and Noble.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Chris: It was four years from when I first started writing books until one was actually published.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Chris: I might’ve tried writing for a younger audience earlier because I’m having so much fun doing it now.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Chris:I think my most important job is writing a good book.  So, that’s what I do first.   Then, after I have done my writing for the day,

Doing strenuous research on CEEPAK #7 down the shore in Beach Haven, NJ. Hint 'O Lime Tostitos are superb.

I might do one or two “business” things — like penning a guest blog, organizing a school visit, working on bookmarks, etc.  As far as submitting and waiting, that’s my agent’s job.  I’m fortunate enough to have 3-4 books being published per year so I stay busy.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Chris: Having my play CURIOSITY CAT published by Samuel French!  Because all through high school and college I was a big drama club/theatre guy.  I think I acted in close to 100 shows.  All of them were published by Samuel French.  So, when I saw my play in that familiar format, that was the coolest thing ever.   The other exciting thing is winning awards.  The heart does race at those banquets…

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Chris: Some of the nasty reactions one of my adult mysteries received  from right wingers who sounded like they wanted to draw and quarter me.  It’s a book, people.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Chris: I was visiting a school and the kids asked me about what it was like to work with Jim Henson, which I did many years ago.  After the presentation, a young girl, probably 10, came up and introduced herself.  Mr. Henson was her grandfather.  And she had never met him.   That really touched me.  And then the girl and I chatted for a while and I let her know what a great man her grandfather was.

PJ: With more books being released each  month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Chris: Fast paced fun reads.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Chris: You have to enjoy the actual process of writing.   Even if you never get published.  Otherwise, you will go mad.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Chris: School visits.   I meet 2-300 kids.   Sell about 75 books.   And then they all want to purchase the rest of the books in the series.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Chris: Deciding what works.   In the adult book world, I’m not sure what, if anything I as an author can do.   Unless the publishing house is behind a book, it will never become a best seller.

At the ROLLING THUNDER launch in Otto Penzler's way cool Mysterious Bookshop!

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Chris: I love ’em all!    Here in New York City, both Partners and Crime and Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop have been very, very good to me!

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Chris: The John Ceepak/Jersey Shore Mysteries








The Christopher Miller Holiday Thrillers



The Haunted Mystery Series





The Riley Mack Series




THE EXPLORERS’ GATE (e-book exclusive)

With the cast and crew at the world premiere of CURIOSITY CAT at the Children's Theatre of Knoxville.

Short Story Collections




PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Chris: Seventh-grade mastermind Riley Mack and his best buds always come to the rescue when family or friends are in trouble, even if it takes some high-octane subterfuge and fifty pounds of dog food. Kids ages 8-12 will root for Riley and his “Gnat Pack”: tech-savvy Jake, dramatic Brianna, big-guy Mongo, and brainy Jamal. They’ll hiss for the bad guys, too—the bully Gavin Brown; his father, Fairview’s crooked police chief; his conniving grandmother, who runs a filthy puppy mill; and Fairview’s gambling-addicted bank manager, who tries to frame Riley’s mom. Throw in one stolen goldendoodle, two bumbling bank robbers, and plenty of duct tape, and the action never flags.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

Chris: Wherever books are sold!   If you need links

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Chris: Make sure you have a dog to take you on long walks so you can dream up what you’re going to write next.  And rescue that dog from an animal shelter!

See? I told you he was something. I hope you rush out and buy his books! What other questions might you want to ask?


3 thoughts on “Interview with Chris Grabenstein

  1. puzzlekeeper says:

    Chris seems happy in his life and he expresses it nicely. That’s all that counts. Keep writing!

  2. Thanks, Puzzlekeeper!

  3. Save query
    Thought-provoking article – I Appreciate the specifics – Does anyone know where I can get ahold of a template TSP-65 form to complete ?

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