Short Circus – Book Excerpt – author interview – Stephen Masse

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About the Book:

Twelve-year-old Jem Lockwood has been fatherless for four years and finally gets a Big Brother, but just as the best summer of his life is about to begin, he discovers that Jesse Standish’s rented house is about to be sold. Jem does all in his daring imagination to make Jesse’s house unmarketable, and the neighborhood unfit for prospective buyers. This three-ring circus romps with with Jem’s boyhood friends and older brother Chris, all recognizable kids who share in the rough-and-tumble delight of living in a northern Massachusetts city whose newspaper is delivered by kids on bikes, where kids play in the streets, and the local convenience store is owned by the family of Jesse’s girlfriend, Andrea. Sadly the city’s swimming pond has been sabotaged, and the city has to close it to all recreation after two boys are injured. Jem is sure he knows who did it, and helps carry out a plan to punish the evildoer.
Read the Excerpt!

Chapter One
Whenever we get in the car, Jesse says we’re like a bunch of hunting dogs ready for rabbit. This time Gary and I got the front seat with Jesse. Peter called out “Fingers!” before he closed the door, and Gary screamed and made believe his hand was stuck. Of course we ignored him, because it was like the fifth time Gary did that. On the way home, everybody slept all over everybody else. My head was on Jesse’s shoulder, Gary’s head was on my side, and Peter and Chris were conked out in the back seat. I didn’t sleep too long, but I rested just the same. I like to listen to Jesse sing along with the radio when he drives.
Before I knew it, we were home. I was so happy it was summer and we had all of it to ourselves, and it was only the beginning. When we got out of the red Chevy, I wasn’t even tired anymore. Jesse said he was going out for dinner with Andrea, and he had to go right away.
After Jesse drove off, the four of us kids went to the cemetery field to wrestle around, and we stayed there until sunset. We were about to go home, but Peter and Gary said they had to pee first. Chris and I started to walk ahead. We got all the way to the cemetery gate and turned around, and Peter and Gary were still gone. “What’s taking them?” Chris said.
“Hey Peter! We’re over here!” I shouted.
Peter and Gary both started yelling. “Hey Jem! Chris! Come quick! Hurry up!”
I looked at my brother, and we both ran back to where the trees began. When we got up to Peter and Gary, I could see two other boys we didn’t know. One was sitting on a big rock, and he was squeezing his bare foot with both hands, and blood was dripping all over the place. It was starting to get dark, but I could see he needed to go to the hospital.
“What happened?”
“We just went in the pond for a swim, and somebody put all barbed wire and broken glass in the water,” the second kid said. “I got all tangled on the barbed wire, and it stuck in my legs. Do you have a cell phone?”
“No,” Peter said. “We don’t.”
The kid on the rock was crying. “I was supposed to be home a half an hour ago, but I can’t walk.”
“We’ll get somebody,” Chris said, and he grabbed my arm and we both tore out of the cemetery and almost knocked over a couple of ladies that were jogging. “Sorry,” Chris said, “but there’s a kid who needs an ambulance right now, his foot is cut wicked bad.”
The two ladies stopped and looked at each other, and they both pulled out their cell phones. “Where is he?” one said.
“In there,” I said, pointing through the gate.
We all ran back to the hurt kid, and one of the ladies called 911 while the other one asked the kid what his mother’s phone number was, and called her up. Next thing you know there was an ambulance zipping into the cemetery, then two cars with those boys’ parents.
By the time we got home it was pretty late. Chris and I kept wondering how those kids could get cut in the pond, because we’ve been swimming there for all our lives and never heard of anything like that.

Hi Stephen V. Masse

Welcome to Paperback Writer.
Thank you, and glad to be here.
Q: Would you share with us how you came up with the idea for your book?

Q: Was it a light bulb moment or something that you thought about for a very long time?

A: SHORT CIRCUS evolved from my time spent as a camp counselor and Big Brother, and the tremendous friendships that grew from those times. I thought it would be great to write about the memories and relationships in the form of a novel, especially done from the child’s point of view.

Q: How did you come up with the title?

A: Much of the story was written down as it came to me, and later constructed into a novel. It took several years to come together, and several more years to re-write and edit.

A: Ah, a trade secret! If I tell you, then I’d be giving away a touch of the ending. But I will say that SHORT CIRCUS is a play on words, meant to convey the idea that the best days of childhood are like a circus, but all too short.

Q: How did you find an agent and publisher?
A: I spent half my life searching through the Writer’s Market, writing queries, mailing queries and manuscripts, and having my work rejected. I finally found a publisher in 1988, for my first children’s book, SHADOW STEALER (Dillon Press). Between then and now, the difficulty of being published increased incredibly with the changes in the publishing industry. I decided to begin my own publishing company.

Q: Who reads you work in progress?
A: I hire editors and copy editors, and I also read my work aloud to people.

Q: Who made a difference in the book’s quality?
A: Many people, but mostly my nephew Peter, who in his childhood vigorously refused to read books, but sat through the test reading of SHORT CIRCUS and hounded me to publish it. Also Cosette Hirschfeld, who gave excellent suggestions on the adult relationships and Ron Chait, who gave the final copy-edit.

Q: How long did it take you to complete the first draft?
A: About two years.
Q: How long did it take from start to publication?

A: Sad to say it took more than ten years.

Q: Do you have any advice for new authors?
A: Yes – keep the day job and keep writing!

Thank you, Stephen for stopping by Paperback Writer on your virtual book tour. I wish you continued success through the rest of you tour.
About the Author:
Stephen V. Masse was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He wrote his first novelat age 13, handwritten into a school composition book.
Educated at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he studied creative writing, and was author of a weekly newspaper column, “Out of Control.” His first novel for children, Shadow Stealer, was published by Dillon Press in 1988. Short Circus is his second novel for children.
In addition to children’s books, Masse has written A Jolly Good Fellow, winner of the Silver Medal in the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards, as well as honorable mention in the 2008 New England Book Festival for best books of the holiday season

Stephen V. Masse’s SHORT CIRCUS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR JUNE ‘10 will officially begin on June 1st and end on June 25th. You can visit Stephen’s blog stops at during the month of June to find out more about this great book and talented author!
If you are interested in participating in this tour, please contact Tracee Gleichner at novelnoise(at)live(dot)com.

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