Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Not So Odd Interview with James Kennedy

Hello Readers!
I have an especially funny interview for you today.  Have you guys checked out James Kennedy? Let me tell you, he is going to quickly join the ranks of our TBF funny guys (Terry Trueman, Todd Strasser, Jack Ferraiolo, Kenneth Oppel, among others).  
And check out his interview here!
C: So, how is your relationship with Neil Gaiman holding up after your challenge at the ALA conference?  (And allow me to note that YouTube videos from the conference have proven to be both very entertaining and ideal procrastination tools as I attempt to study for final exams.) Readers, check out the YouTube video here.
JK: I like to imagine Neil Gaiman is feverishly working on an exquisite revenge. In fact, he has almost certainly forgotten all about it.
C: I’m not yet halfway through “The Order of Odd Fish,” but I can already tell that it is going to be unlike anything else I’ve ever read.  Where did your inspiration for “Odd Fish” come from? 

JK: I wanted to write a kind of urban Narnia, but funnier -- something with the anarchic humor of Roald Dahl, Douglas Adams, or Evelyn Waugh. I wanted to write a story that makes use of all the freedom you get from fantasy, but without falling into any of the standard conventions of the genre (dragons, magic, ersatz medievalism, etc.) If there were going to be monsters, I wanted to invent my own weird ones instead of pulling from the standard toolbox of orcs and trolls. If there were going to be mythologies, I wanted to make up my own myths, not do warmed-over retellings of existing legends. I wanted it to be alien yet welcoming, humorous but disturbing, raucous but emotionally satisfying. I wanted to disorient the reader and hopefully alienate them a little. I don't mind if the reader throws my book across the room at some point. I think that anything that's truly original feels wrong the first time you read it. I strived for that kind of wrongness.  Some of my inspiration comes from irritation at other books. For some reason, in a lot of fantasy books, characters are always spending a long time walking from place to place across the countryside. (Tolkien got away with it only because he's a genius.) I decided, no walking in “Odd-Fish.” I also wanted to reverse or subvert many of the cliches of fantasy. Instead of the shopworn idea of a "chosen one" who's destined to save the world, which at this point I find almost unendurable, the heroine of “Odd-Fish” is fated to destroy the world -- she discovers that she's the hidden villain of the book. Frankly, I also don't like struggles of "good vs. evil" -- that idea has a lot of dubious baggage for me, and feels aesthetically exhausted. Much of the energy of “Odd-Fish” comes from subverting, reversing, or problematizing those categories. Also, I wanted to write a book with three-foot-tall foppish talking cockroaches.

C: Do you currently have any new projects in the works that you can tell us about?
JK: I'm working on a science-fiction comedy called “The Magnificent Moots.” It's about an interplanetary Olympics. I want it to be like a combination of Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game,” Douglas Adams’ “The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and the movie “The Royal Tennenbaums.” And the 1970s television special “Battle of the Network Stars.” Paul Hornschemeier, who did the paperback cover of “The Order of Odd-Fish,” is going to do illustrations for “Moots” – I want the book to be partially in graphic-novel form. You can see some of his preliminary illustrations here, plus a link to audio of me reading the first chapter of “Moots” aloud, right here.
C: What was the last book that you read for pleasure?
JK: “A High Wind in Jamaica” by Richard Hughes. It's a good companion read with “The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea” by Yukio Mishima. Unsettling, beautiful, strangely funny. Both have a refreshingly unsentimental, breezily brutal take on childhood. 
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual TBF?
JK: Terry Trueman still owes me $134.43 from when I met him at the LitWorks festival in suburban Chicago. Whenever I gently remind him about it, he acts all hurt. "Fine, I'll pay you back," he huffs, "since all you care about is money." And then, after a half hour of whining and bellyaching about it, he still doesn't pay me back! This is par for the course for Trueman, who is well-known in YA circles as a shameless leech. At restaurants, he cleverly times his visits to the restroom so that he's not there when the check comes. At bars, he disappears when it's his turn to buy a round. Short of cash? Terry Trueman will nevertheless find something to "borrow" from you. Jon Scieszka went shoeless for all of ALA 2006 because Trueman "needed them for something." Terry Trueman then promptly disappeared, only to be found hours later by the night janitor, hiding in a closet, petting and cooing at Jon Scieszka's shoes as though they were human infants! Some speculate that Terry Trueman did not actually win the Printz Honor for his debut “Stuck in Neutral," but merely pilfered the medal from a tipsy and disoriented Sharon Creech. Knowing Creech, I'd say there's probably something to it.
Well, readers, there you have it. Your laugh for the day, and I’m sure James will keep us laughing all day long at TBF 2010. Thanks for the great answers, James. We’re looking forward to meeting you in only 5 days!

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