Novelist   Playwright   Screenwriter

Gary Blackwood

 

BOOKS

FICTION   Young Readers
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   The Shakespeare Stealer
    Shakespeare's Scribe
               Shakespeare's Spy
The Year of the Hangman

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

ALA Notable

Smithsonian Notable Books

School Library Journal Best Books

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

Smithsonian Notable Books

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

School Library Journal  Best Books

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Curiosity
Around the World in
100 Days

NYC Public Library 100 Titles for

         Reading and Sharing

Lamplighter Award

Smithsonian Notable Books

Kirkus Best Books for Teens

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The Just-So Woman
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Second Sight
NONFICTION   Young Readers
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Wild Timothy
ALA Recommended for Reluctant Readers
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The Great Race: The Amazing
Round-the-World Auto Race
of 1908
Mysterious Messages: A History
of Codes and Ciphers
FICTION   Adult
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Bucket's List: A Charley Field
Victorian Mystery
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Bucket's Brigade: A Charley Field Victorian Mystery
 
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REVIEWS

The Shakespeare Stealer series:

“Wry humor, cliffhanger chapter endings, and a plucky protagonist make this a fitting introduction to Shakespeare’s world.”                                                                                                                                                             Horn Book Magazine

“This is a fast-moving historical novel that introduces an important era with casual familiarity.”

                                                                                                                                                School Library Journal (starred review)

"Rich language and descriptions of places, along with many details of actions contribute to a setting that goes deeper than costumes and props to genuinely reach back into the reality of another place, another time.”                  Booklist

The Year of the Hangman:

“Packed with action, convincing historical speculation, and compelling portrayals of real-life and fictional characters, this page-turner will appeal to fans of both history and fantasy.”                          School Library Journal (starred  review)

Mysterious Messages: A History of Codes and Ciphers:

 “Readers with Something to Hide will come away . . . with not only some new tools, but a great appreciation of the central role codes and ciphers have played in wars and diplomacy through the years.”                        Kirkus Reviews

Second Sight:

“Blackwood draws almost exclusively upon historical people and events, sets them in the most vivid evocation of the time and place . . . and caps his mesmerizing thriller with a stunning twist."                       Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Present-tense narration keeps the action immediate, and the constant awareness that readers are watching fictional characters and historic events gleefully manipulated by a literary master keeps the audience alert to the possibility that this may not end as the textbooks indicate.”                                                              Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Around the World in 100 Days:

Blackwood retains what’s best from Around the World in 80 Days, by that forefather of steampunk, Jules Verne—the lighthearted humor, race against time, loyal friends and devious foes—while dropping the Eurocentrism; Harry’s mixed-race heritage and adventures in a world on the cusp of social upheaval provide a subtle contemporary subtext. The synthesis makes for a thrilling, thoroughly road-worthy joy ride.                                 Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Blackwood’s steampunkish romp has a touch of humor and a great deal of heart, which brings readers fully onboard as they feverishly turn pages in this race against the clock."                                                                       School Library Journal   

 

Curiosity:

“A thrilling look at the 19th-century age of automata—‘a time of curiosity-seekers’—and the riveting story of a likable Philadelphia boy whose life of the mind helps him transcend his extraordinary, oft-cruel circumstances."                                                                                                                                                           Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The museum and curiosity show setting—as well as the cameo appearances by Edgar Allan Poe and P. T. Barnum—make this historical novel a delight."                                                                                                       VOYA (starred  review)                                 

 

BIO

I guess it’s a good thing I became a writer, because my grasp on reality has always been a bit tenuous.  There are a few things about myself, though, that I can say with some assurance are true.  I grew up in rural Western Pennsylvania and, for the first three years of my education, went to one of the last remaining one-room schools in the state. 

My mother once said that, even before I could read or write, I was telling stories; I can’t vouch for the truth of that.  I do know that I was drawn to books by some mysterious force that seemed to emanate from them; they were always my favorite birthday or Christmas gifts.  The only library available to me was a single set of shelves in that one-room school, but I devoured everything on them.  My favorites were the Doctor Dolittle books; I even engaged in a contest with a classmate to see who could finish the series first.  As I recall, I won, but he might tell it differently.

Around the age of 13, I started sending manuscripts (handwritten by my mom, whose penmanship was way better than mine) to magazines, and at 16 I got my first encouraging letter from an editor—the SF writer Frederik Pohl, who headed up Galaxy Magazine.  My fate was sealed.  Three years later, as a junior at Grove City College, I sold my first story, to a now defunct magazine called Twelve/Fifteen.

It seemed like an auspicious start, and I did indeed publish a few more stories; I also had a play produced.  But I really wanted to write novels.  And so I did—nine of them, in fact, before I finally hit pay dirt with Wild Timothy just as I was turning 41.  Not exactly an advanced age, but after nearly two decades of trying, it felt like it.  I sold two more novels for young readers in fairly short order, and then . . . nothing.  For a stretch of seven years, I concentrated my efforts mainly on magazine pieces and on teaching others how to write and not sell their stuff.  Meanwhile, I was sending the manuscript of The Shakespeare Stealer off to one publisher after another after another, ad nauseam.

Stealer finally did find a home, and its success brought my dying career back to life.  I’ve been at it hammer and tongs ever since and, though I really am getting on in years now, I don’t seem to be slowing down--at least as far as writing is concerned. Along the way, I actually managed to participate in real life, as well: I got married and helped raise three kids and moved about from one end of the States to the other before settling down on the beautiful North Shore of Nova Scotia, where I live as Earth-friendly an existence as possible, powered by solar panels.   I divide my time between directing (and occasionally acting in) plays for the local theatre company, hiking, kayaking, reading, watching old movies, enjoying the company of friends—and, of course, writing.    

(Not the real Hamlet; just a spoof!)

 
 
 

PLAYS

The Goose Girl
To avoid an arranged marriage, Princess Jorinda swaps identities with her scheming maid-in-waiting.  Based on the Grimm Bros. tale.  Winner of the Marilyn Hall Award.

For Young Audiences

The Shakespeare Stealer
In Elizabethan England, a young orphan who knows an early system of shorthand is hired to steal the script of Hamlet as it's performed at the Globe Theatre.  Adapted from the novel.
The Steadfast Plastic Soldier
An odd array of action figures are deserted by their owner, who has discovered video games.  Based  on the Hans Christian Andersen tale.

For Adults

The Count of One

A burned-out hypnotherapist takes on a new patient who, when he's age-regressed, recalls a previous life as John Wilkes Booth.  Based on a true story.  Winner of Festival of Firsts, Carmel, CA.

Dark Horse
Missouri, 1837.  A slave girl is on trial for drowning her master's child, but is unable to testify in her own defense.  Winner of the Missouri Scriptworks and Ferndale Rep Playwriting Competitions.
Fateville
In rural Arkansas, c. 1900, a dirt-poor couple take to murdering travelers in order to provide a better life for their daughter.  Winner of Dayton FutureFest.
Two Hours in a Madhouse: An Evening With the Notorious Nellie Bly
A one-woman show based on the life and writing of the pioneering reporter and world traveler.
Ethan Frome
A faithful but very theatrical adapation of the classic Edith Wharton novel.
My plays on New Play Exchange

SCREENPLAYS

My IMDb Page
My Scripts on
Inktip
 
 

NEWS

Since I have three novels in the pipeline

(a dirty word here in Canada, where

we're struggling to prevent the construction

of one) and am playing the well-known (for authors, anyway) Waiting Game, and since the market for full-length plays seems to have pretty much dried up, I'm bending my efforts mainly toward screenplays these days.   I've had some pretty serious interest from a producer, who wants me to do some revisions on a couple of existing scripts--something I abhor doing with novel manuscripts but am much more open to with shorter work.  First, though, I need to finish the script I'm working on; I'm a tunnel vision kind of guy--I can't even multi-task with simple tasks.  

It's a project, set in the 1920s, for which I assembled research material some 30 years ago, but never followed through on (gosh, it's hard to avoid ending sentences with a preposition, sometimes).   Now that I have the Internet as a research tool, though, it's become infinitely easier to find all those nitty-gritty background details.  Still, it's slow going, because it's based on a true story and I have to balance the desire to be faithful to the known facts with the need to make it as  dramatically interesting as possible.

In the meantime, I have managed to find a publisher for my TYA  (Theatre for Young Audiences) play The Dancing Princesses.  I submitted the script almost a year ago, and am just now getting a reply (in the affirmative, for a change!)  As I said, it's a Waiting Game.  If I were a little younger,

I wouldn't mind waiting so much.

February 9, 2020 (!)
 
November 26, 2019

I used to think, silly me, that it was the job of us writers to write books and it was the publisher’s job to promote them.  It’s taken a while to get my head around the new reality: that it’s now the author’s responsibility to see that our work gets noticed.  It’s taking me even longer to figure out how to go about doing that.   I started by creating this website, and now I’m busily querying book bloggers in an attempt to get reviewed—but, since every other author out there is doing the same thing, those reviewers are swamped with requests.   Of course, you can always pay a review service to write rave reviews of your work, but that seems to me like cheating.

On Saturday, I had a Bookless Book Launch for Bucket’s Brigade (it’s available only as an e-book) and got a very good turnout, especially considering how small our village is.  What’s more, nearly everyone in attendance seemed to be awake throughout.  I offered a bribe—I mean a freebie--to anyone who would review either Bucket’s Brigade or Bucket’s List on Amazon: a new, unpublished story featuring the books’ protagonist, Charley Field. 

 

The same goes for anyone reading this item; just let me know on the Contact Me page when you’ve posted a review, and I’ll send you the story, "The Case of the Belgravia Beast."  

September 2, 2020

I'm not even going to mention the C_____19 word.  Let's just pretend--for a few moments, anyway--that it doesn't exist.

It's been a trying year so far--as in,  I keep trying and trying to find an agent and/ or a publisher for my three much-ignored mss.: a middle reader novel, an all-ages novel, and an adult novel. 

Actually, I did have an agent--very briefly.  They sold one novel for me, only because it fit neatly into a particular category.  They didn't seem to know what to make of the rest of my work, so we parted ways.

For a time it looked as though I might hook up with another agent; they asked me to do some revisions of my all-ages book, which I did (even though--as I've said elsewhere--I abhor doing revisions, I had to admit that these improved the book considerably)  And then the agent found another calling or fell off the edge of the  earth, or something.  Well, I could hardly blame them, considering the sorry state publishing seems to be in (New York State--just kidding), and considering the fact that I myself went off in a whole new direction. 

But, even though I'm concentrating solely on screenplays now, I'm still plugging away with the three book projects.  After all, my best selling book, The Shakespeare Stealer, was turned down approximately 40 times before it found a home.

Never say die.  Especially when there's a pandemic going around.

Contact Me

© 2019 Gary Blackwood
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