Monday, July 8, 2019

Gregory Funaro Interview - Watch Hollow

Photo Content from Gregory Funaro

Gregory Funaro grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island, and wrote his first story, The Ghost in the Window, in the fourth grade. He considers this to be his finest work, but unfortunately it has been lost to time. His first book for Disney-Hyperion, ALISTAIR GRIM'S ODDITORIUM (2015), was a New York Times best seller and an Amazon Best Book of the Month. His other works for children have received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and ALA Booklist. Check out WATCH HOLLOW, the first book in his series for HarperCollins, as well as its sequel, THE ALCHEMIST'S SHADOW, coming in 2020. Greg also teaches drama at East Carolina University, and is busy working on his next novel.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Wow, great question to start off with. I suppose storytelling is important because it’s a fundamental part of human communication. It’s how we share ideas—how we learn, how we reflect—and how we bond and grow via the human experience without leaving the safety of our imaginations.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
There wasn’t one particular moment when I said, “Aha! This is what I want to do!” It was more like little seeds planted throughout my childhood—especially feedback I got on my writing in English classes during junior high and high school. Only after a career path in theatre did I start writing in my spare time. I began with screenplays in my 20s, and then wrote my first thriller in my late 30s. I never sold it, but it landed me an agent who sold two other thrillers. After the birth of my daughter, I switched to middle grade, a genre that is much more my style. I really haven’t matured much since 13 or so.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
Probably the entire summer of 1979—the music, good times at the beach, my first rock concert (KISS), lots of great movies, including my first R-rated one (Halloween), art classes at the high school, and just many positive experiences all around.

What made you decide to write books for children?
As I mentioned earlier, I started off writing thrillers, but after my daughter was born, living in that world just felt sort of wrong. Plus, I wanted to write something that she could read when she got a little older—or at least something she could point to in her school library and say, “Hey, my dad wrote that!”

What was the most memorable toy you played with from when you were little?

Probably a tie between my Thundershift 500 and my Atari 2600. I was also a total Planet of the Apes and Star Wars nerd, so all those toys got completely destroyed from over-playing. I wish I’d saved them…

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
Art. I was good at it.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I didn’t like school very much, especially junior high and high school, and was lazy in subjects that didn’t interest me—in part because I was smart enough to get by doing the least amount of work. Except in math. And chemistry. It’s a miracle I got through those subjects at all. As for extracurricular activities and hobbies, if something didn’t come easy, I just abandoned it. I regret being like that. I was also very self-conscious and cared too much about what others thought, and made a lot of stupid choices as a result. Only much later in life did I realize how foolish I’d been and tried to change my ways on all fronts. So, I think those lessons were not necessarily learned at school but from school—and retroactively at that. I wish I could do a lot of things over again…

In your new book; WATCH HOLLOW, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it.
Watch Hollow is a modern-day, Gothic flavored horror story about a widower and his two-children who move into an eerie old house to fix its (unbeknown to them) magical clock. It doesn’t take long, however, for the children to realize that something very strange is going on in their new home, and they ultimately join forces with a host of magical clock animals who are being threatened by a monster from the surrounding woods.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
What a great question! Perhaps I’d have Lucy from Watch Hollow meet Anne from Anne of Green Gables. They’d have much in common, of course, but could still learn from each other—all while getting into lots of trouble.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Love fiercely.

  • I hate vegetables.
  • I listen to disco when I’m alone in my Jeep.
  • I sleep with a T-shirt over my eyes.
  • I’m a good cook.
  • I’m legally blind in my left eye.
  • I do a spot-on Godfather imitation.
  • I’ve always wanted to live in a lighthouse on a cliff. And be a ninja.
  • I play bass guitar but I suck.
  • I’m horrible at sports.
  • I’m good at nunchucks.
What part of Lucy and Oliver did you enjoy writing the most?
I think I enjoyed developing their relationship the most, and making that a fundamental mechanism of the plot—meaning, many things happen in the story as a direct result of how Lucy and Oliver feel about each other. In addition, I had never told a story before from alternating points of view, so it was a lot of fun developing the children’s personalities and having them experience the same events but from different perspectives. It was also lots of fun having them privy to different information at different times, and moving the plot forward based on the choices they make.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
I enjoyed growing up in the 1970s, but if I had to choose another decade, maybe the 50s or 60s— provided I could time everything to avoid the draft…

What is your greatest adventure?

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
Watership Down. It helped me escape during a very difficult time in my childhood.

Any Camp stories you would like to share?
Sigh… I never went to camp. But I did enjoy the movie Meatballs as a kid. And Friday the 13th.

If animals could talk, which would be the rudest?
Well, animals do talk in Watch Hollow! And perhaps the rudest one is Meridian the cat—but that’s more because she’s sort of a snob.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
The birth of my daughter. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me and totally changed who I am.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Learn how to survive in the wilderness (in the event of a zombie apocalypse).

Deep within the enchanted woods in the town of Watch Hollow stands the once-grand Blackford House, whose halls hold a magical secret: a giant cuckoo clock that does much more than tell time. But when the clock’s gears cease to turn, an evil presence lurking among the trees begins to come out of the shadows.


When Lucy and Oliver Tinker arrive in Watch Hollow, they have no idea that anything is wrong. A mysterious stranger has made their father an offer that’s too good for him to refuse. All Mr. Tinker needs to do is fix the clock at Blackford House and fistfuls of gold coins are his to keep.

It doesn’t take long, however, for the children to realize that there is more to Blackford House than meets the eye. And before they can entirely understand the strange world they’ve stumbled into, Lucy and Oliver must join forces with a host of magical clock animals to defeat the Garr—a vicious monster that not only wants Blackford House for itself, but also seeks to destroy everything the Tinkers hold dear.


“Filled with clever, magical, and instantly likable characters, Funaro’s excellent, fast-paced, and twisty mystery—packed with suspense, facts, magic, and an incredible, deeply thought-out world—will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.” ―Booklist (starred review)

“A well-wound tale of good versus evil.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“The magically sentient house, creeping woods, and resident monster establish the story’s shivery Gothic feel, which will more than satisfy readers in search of a pleasantly scary read.” ―Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“There is magic, there is good and evil, and there is love all woven into a suspenseful and entertaining mystery. A well-crafted story that should be a hit with readers who enjoy a a good scare.” ―School Library Journal (starred review)

You can purchase Watch Hollow at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you GREGORY FUNARO for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will received a Signed Copy of Watch Hollow by Gregory Funaro.