A drum roll please? I am totally psyched to present ANOTHER author interview, this one by Martin Wilson. I absolutely loved Martin’s book “What They Always Tell Us.” In fact, it’s next on my list of books to blog about. My last exam is tomorrow morning so I will be on break as of 10:30 tomorrow! (I know, I know, I shouldn’t run it in the face of you poor high schoolers and middle schoolers who will be trapped in school until later in the month – BUT I’M REALLY EXCITED!!!)
Anyway … tonight enjoy Martin’s interview and be on the lookout for my blog on “What they Always Tell Us” in the next few days.
Carly: Do you have a brother? If so, is the relationship between James and Alex anything like your relationship with your brother?
Martin: I do have a brother. He’s two years older. (I also have an older sister.) Our relationship was similar to James’s and Alex’s in many ways. My older brother was the popular one, the athletic one, the one who always had a girlfriend, whereas I was quieter, more of an outcast, and not very athletic. In high school, we didn’t get along terribly well. Compared to brothers in many other families, maybe we did get along okay. We never had fist fights or anything. But we did argue and compete a lot. We weren’t best friends or anything. Now we get along very well—we became much closer during college, and as the years go by we grow even closer. I think one can’t truly appreciate his or her siblings until one gets a bit older. People ask me if the novel is autobiographical, and my response is that it is emotionally autobiographical. It draws on a lot of the emotions and feelings tied to my experiences with my brother. But the events in the novel are not autobiographical. Alex and James had a much more exciting life than I ever had.
C: Henry is such an endearing character and he certainly adds a lot to the story, but why did you make the initial decision to include him in “What They Always Tell Us?”
M: The first chapter of What They Always Tell Us was initially just a short story about Alex and Henry—two lonely boys who come together over a dreary fall weekend in Alabama. When I decided to use the story as the launching point for a novel, I knew Henry would have to be a presence throughout. At one point I even wanted to include Henry’s point of view, but my editor nixed that idea, and I’m glad she did. The novel is really about two brothers. Henry, though crucial, is a secondary character. That said, Henry is a very important, because he serves to bring the two brothers together in subtle ways.
C: Did you as a teenager, or do you now, run cross country like Alex?
M: No, I actually didn’t. I played tennis—both the summer circuit and for my high school. I took up running after high school. But running is more a part of my life now than tennis is. I still try and run twice a week, more when the weather permits. I get a lot of thinking done when I jog—it’s therapeutic. And I think running cross country was therapeutic for Alex in a big way.
C: Who was your favorite author, or what was your favorite book, as a teenager?
M: I have a few to single out. My grandmother, actually, was a children’s writer and illustrator in the 1930s and 1940s. One of the books she wrote and illustrated was a novel called "The Secret Three," which was based on my father’s childhood. And I read it over and over. I think that’s when I first started thinking that I wanted to become a writer, too. I saw the beauty in spinning a story out of the stuff of real life. I loved "Harriet the Spy," as well. I always carried around a notebook and wrote down random things inside. I think every writer is some sort of “spy,” which is why this novel probably has appealed to so many people who eventually became writers. And the last book is not a YA book, but it did launch my love affair with reading: Ken Follett’s "The Pillars of the Earth." Before this book, reading often felt like a chore—something the English teacher shoved down my throat. My dad, a big reader like my mother, pushed this book on me. I was apprehensive, mainly because it was so long. But once I dipped in I couldn’t put it down. In retrospect, it’s not a literary masterpiece by any stretch. But it is a fantastic read and I’ve been a rabid reader ever since. Any book that does that for a young person is worthy of adulation.
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
M: All of them! But if I had to single one out, I guess I’d say Laurie Halse Anderson. "Speak" is one of my favorite novels.
Martin, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to answer these questions for us! Readers, as always, if you have any questions for any our TBF authors, then leave me a comment or send them to me through facebook!