From Sophie: You’re raising a couple of fine young sons. Do they show any signs of wanting to pick up the pen – and do you think a writing gift or inclination is passed down?
Stephen: My boys (aged ten and twelve) are definitely showing signs of wanting to pick up the pen. But I think that has more to do with the fact that they live in a household engaged in a love affair with books. I have this enormous wall of built-in bookcases and the books simply spill out from there, covering every surface, tripping the dog as she tries to come greet me at the end of the day. The most important factor is that my boys have been able to witness their daddy’s struggle and ultimate success. So, they know it’s an attainable goal. I think this is why you see sons and daughters of lawyers becoming lawyers, sons and daughters of doctors becoming doctors, sons and daughters of electricians becoming electricians. It’s not just a matter of following in their parent’s footsteps. There’s a message from the start that tells the kids, “Look, this is something you can do.” My father was a doctor and I knew I’d have support if I chose to go that route, if I set the goal of attending medical school. My father could have provided me with the map that worked for him. But I wasn’t made for medicine. I had to take a harder route, in a sense, because I had no close relationship with anyone who could encourage me to “stay the course.” If anything, my doctor-father encouraged me to “have something to fall back on.”
But my boys are doing some incredibly creative things with story. Since my eldest was about three years old he did this performance thing he called “Imagination,” which was a story he developed in his head and acted out for us at home. It wasn’t long before we realized it didn’t matter if he had an audience or not, the story in his head would continue. At some point he brought his younger brother into the scene and now the two of them spend time every day performing their “Imagination.” The story and the characters have become so evolved that they had to create this giant family tree, with drawings of all the characters and descriptions of how one relates to the other. The plot lines are brilliant and multi-layered. I don’t really think that way. I like a lean, linear story where I can add rich, multi-layered psychological dilemmas. What my boys do is create worlds within worlds and the whole thing becomes this giant, three-dimensional chess game. They have also begun writing their own stories.
Unfortunately, my boys aren’t permitted to read my work. The stuff is just too mature. This is frustrating because they are both so interested in my process. If I ever get any time, we plan on writing a YA piece under a pseudonym, where my boys can really run with the story content and my wife and I can help shape the narrative and writing. It would be a family project. Something like what Robert Rodriquez did with his kids when they wrote “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lavagirl.” I hope I get the opportunity to do this while they’re still young.