New Hampshire

Taking “The Stand”

My mother is a self-described bookworm. Not only that, but she remembers nearly every book she’s ever read, and can rattle off not only the name of the author but also the main character and probably even the date of publication. If I didn’t know any better, I think part of her body is made up entirely of books. (Imagine a thick, leafy book brain. That’s Mom’s.)

She, like me, finds it hard to list a single favorite book. There are so many greats! How could we choose just one? But I distinctly remember asking this when I was a teenager and her answer was: Stephen King’s The Stand. (She has since edited her statement to be her favorite Stephen King book). But even in that category, there are so many greats.

Stephen King. We’ve all seen the movies. He’s scared us all out of our wits. Most of us have read at least one of his fascinating page-turners. But recently, I’ve found a connection with King. I recently followed in the footsteps of Mom’s literary hero. (One of them, anyway).

Two years ago, Stephen King was a visiting author at Exeter High. This spring, I was the visiting author at Exeter High. I stood on the same stage, smooged with the same teachers, walked the same halls. I’m hoping some of his greatness clung to the walls of that school, and somehow magically—in a very King-esque fashion—transferred to me. (I’ve been writing like a mad man ever since.)

Exeter High faculty members and me

with librarian and English teacher, Kristina Peterson — who made it all possible

What struck me most about the experience at Exeter High, though, was the professionalism and generous spirit of the school and its faculty. I was there to talk to their sophomores who’d read The Catcher in the Rye about my Catcher’s Keeper. I presented on the context of my story, its connection to Salinger’s classic, and even read from each of the three voices. The screen onto which my Powerpoint was projected took up the entire length of the stage.

Author visit to High Schools

little me, BIG presentation

I stood to the side at the podium, microphone in hand, and spoke to a collection of American Literature students throughout third period. My presentation was capped off by a Q&A by one of their American Lit teachers, Oprah-couch-style. There were even questions from the audience.

Author Q&A

He “trolled” my Twitter to get the dirt on me.

The entire experience made me feel less like a self-published, rookie author and more like a bestselling, famous one. And with the same Exeter High sweatshirt souvenir that King also has in his closet, maybe I’m on my way.

Stephen King at Exeter

Stephen King with Exeter souvenir

JD Spero at Exeter High

me with Exeter souvenir

After all, Mom now says her favorite book is Catcher’s Keeper. (Right, Mom?)

Regardless, I just downloaded The Stand.

Here is the link to the video of my presentation. Enjoy.

Some awesome questions from the Q&A:

CITR is so widely read and critiqued. Did you ever feel intimidated taking these characters and this world?

Catcher’s Keeper is written in three voices. Was there a voice that came more easily than another?

What did you learn about process with Catcher’s Keeper that helped you with your second novel Forte?

Was there a scene that you knew needed attention but that you dreaded working on? 

One of the things Jerry and his editors struggle in this book is the title. At what point did the title Catcher’s Keeper come to you and what are its implications?

A question from one of my students: Why is she allowed to do this?

Would you consider this a sequel or spiritual successor to The Catcher in the Rye?

I saw on Twitter: “Turns out, it’s not ready for the end. It’s ready for Part II.”

You presented a workshop on self-publishing on last year’s DFW writer’s conference. What is your advice for anyone who would want to self publish?

Did your success with Catcher’s Keeper help you land the deal with your current publisher?

How many hours a day do you spend writing?

When you stick to a writing schedule, does it feel like work?