Smart Man among Wise Women
|by Fran Joyce, Dec 2013/Jan 2014|
It takes a brave soul to be the token male in a room of 160 chatting, shopping women; it is a smart one who recognizes the opportunity. Author Eric Magliocca is both, as evidenced by his success at the second annual Wise Women “Strong for the Holidays” on November 18.
Engulfed by moms and grandmoms of Upper St Clair 8th graders and high school soccer players, Magliocca – who also teachers at Fort Coach Middle School and coaches the Junior Varsity team – signed copies of his debut novel, The Red Triangle, until every last one was sold. After, we had a chance to chat and I soon realized, maleness aside, he would be a great feature in our next Wise Women issue.
Born and raised in Upper St. Clair, Magliocca developed a love of storytelling early in life and dreamed of being a director and screenwriter. In college, he contemplated pursuing a career in the film industry but ultimately went for the career with some job security. After attending Washington and Jefferson University, he earned a Master’s in Education degree at the University of Pittsburgh.
Now in his fifth year of teaching, Magliocca is simultaneously loved and feared by his students (full disclosure and inside scoop: we know because he teaches the children of our Wise Women editor and those of some event committee members) and he has not lost his love of storytelling. The transition from dreaming of screenwriting to becoming a published novelist was an easy fit with his new life. “I made the decision to become a novelist the moment I started writing The Red Triangle in 2008, right as I left college and entered the teaching world.”
The Red Triangle is an actual area off the coast of California known for large populations of elephant seals and great white sharks. Magliocca set his story, a mystery thriller about love, privilege, infidelity, and murder, in a fictitious town bordering this dangerous uninhabitable area. His characters are flawed and complex and rarely behave as we expect. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book (I bought the Kindle edition on Amazon.com), it’s a roller coaster of events that will leave you breathless at the end of the ride wanting more.
I asked Magliocca some questions about his writing, what inspired his love of storytelling, and what motivates him as an English teacher.
Many of your students and their parents have read The Red Triangle. What was their response?
Overwhelmingly positive, which is such a great feeling. I was most nervous about the criticism at first. I have had a lot of students, colleagues, and parents say that they read the novel in a day or two, which I feel is a good sign.
How do you create your characters?
I tend to create characters based upon the environment in which they are thrust. I suppose the setting comes first and then I decide how the character will deal with his/her surroundings and his/her relationships with other characters.
I have a proclivity for characters that are unpredictable in their handling of their flaws. I do not, and never have, enjoyed reading about stock, static characters. I like characters that surprise you, are unpredictable, and that you might not always enjoy in your own company.
Which is easier to write: character or storyline?
The storyline is always difficult to manage assiduously. I always know my beginning and my ending, but I don’t know how I’m going to get there. I’ve heard a plot-line once described as analogous to a roadmap: You know you are traveling from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, but you just don’t know what’s going to come along that will sidetrack you during your adventure.
Characters are so enjoyable to write. I love when they surprise you because of their complexity. And my favorite type of character to create is a strong, forceful, inscrutable heroin who doesn’t prescribe to gender roles. Micker Mayday is in that vein, and she was my favorite character to bring to life.
What was that like as the only male author/vendor/presenter at the Wise Women event?
Awesome! It was a very thought-provoking evening, and I had a blast. And it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist or to support women’s progress.
Do you market your novel differently to men and women?
I think the novel touches on themes attractive to both genders. If I were marketing the novel for men, obviously, the symbolic nature of sports and competition would be a key aspect to underscore, but even that I find to be gendering because women readers enjoy that too. In fact, I would say positive feedback on the novel has been split between men and women.
How do we get kids to read for pleasure?
I think the reason I became a reader is because my mom forced books on me. She was a tiger mom for sure; if I didn’t read, I wasn’t allowed to play video games, to watch television, or to go outside. She also surrounded me with literature I enjoyed, and had an eye for children’s entertainment. I read the Goosebumps series (some of them several times), and became obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. Those novels opened my imagination, and I’m grateful for them.
How do we get more of the general population to read for pleasure?
I had a discussion about a question similar to this once in class: I asked if the medium of the novel would be dead in fifty years. Answers were split. We live in an age of instant gratification. The current generation can’t get through a Hitchcock movie, for instance, because of the director’s trademark slow building of suspense. …People just move on if they aren’t instantly captured.
From my own personal experience, there is no better form of entertainment than being enraptured by a book to such an extent that you don’t want it to end. The benefits from learning from the characters’ actions and motives ….can make you a better person.
I think the novel has to survive… and a good place to start is with teachers.