The Mafia recently had the pleasure of promoting the launch of The Super Life of Ben Braver by Marcus Emerson. Marcus’s other books have been wildly popular with MG readers (Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja, Recess Warriors and Secret Agent 6th Grader), so Ben Braver is sure to be another hit. 

Marcus agreed to answer a few questions about his writing and we are happy to share his answers with you.

Middle Grade Mafia: Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Marcus Emerson: Everywhere. Movies. TV Shows. My kids. My conversations. I take notes on my phone like crazy about funny thoughts or things that happen. Setting some time to daydream about those thoughts often leads to more thoughts, too.

MGM: What is your writing process?

ME: I spend 2 weeks to a month outlining the story using the 3 act structure by handwriting mountains of notes on each section on an 11×17 sheet of comic paper, including all the little plot points, twists, and any other “cool” ideas. I handwrite this part because it feels more real than looking at it on a computer screen, and I usually have several versions of the story across several 11×17 sheets of paper. From there, I type up a detailed “final” outline based on all my notes.

For example…

– Intro to Totes.

– Totes looks up to Ben like he’s a real superhero.

– It makes Ben uneasy.

Those three sentences can become a page. I outline every scene like this. It seems like a ton of work, but it keeps writer’s block away. After these typed notes, I start on the actual writing, which involves a laptop and noise cancelling headphones blaring big soundtracks like Interstellar or LOST – really anything by Hans Zimmer or Michael Giacchino.

MGM: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding writing?

ME: That I need to finish story in order to make it better. Write through a scene even if you don’t like it because it’s only after you write it out that you can really see what it is you don’t like about it. This especially works with book endings. Finish it so you can make it better. If it’s unfinished, it’s harder to find those solutions.

MGM: How long from when you started writing The Super Life of Ben Braver until it was published.

ME: I was working on the book for two years before it was published! It sounds like a long time, but I wasn’t working on any single part for that long. I spent a couple months developing the outline and making sure I knew every inch of Ben’s story. And then I spent a month or two writing the actual story at 3k words a day. I started drawing while I waited for the first draft to come back from my awesome editor. After a few back and forths, I had a final draft to work from and spent the rest of the time creating and revising art to make sure it looked the best for the format.

MGM:  Your book’s voice is spot on. What were you like when you were a 6th grader?

ME: Ben is very much based on myself when I was in 6th grade. I loved superhero comics, cartoons, and video games. Aaaaaaand I’m still pretty much that same kid today. My office is crammed with junk I loved as a kid – Ninja Turtle toys, Batman statues, X-men posters, comic books, etc.

MGM: Can you share a fun photo?