It’s time for super post number two! Let’s get started right away with my interview with Charles R. Smith, Jr.
CR: You’ve written children’s books, poetry books, photography books, and, of course, a YA novel. How does your writing process differ depending on what type of book you’re creating?
CS: Ultimately, writing is problem solving so I just focus on what works best for what I want to say about a particular subject. When it comes to biographies, I feel that since I’m a poet, I should take advantage of that and use poetry to form the narrative. For my picture books, sometimes I may focus more on the visual and let the photos dictate what I write. As for the novel, I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it. And I did.
CR: What made you decide that you wanted to write a novel for teens?
CS: Most authors will say that you have all your life up until your first novel to write it. For me, I wrote what I knew so I focused on one of the biggest transitions in a teenage boy’s life: going from junior high to high school. Where did your inspiration for “Chameleon” come from? The idea mostly came from my upbringing in Compton and Carson, California, same as Shawn in the book. I personally dealt with some of the things that Shawn dealt with like the gang situation and alcoholism, but Shawn had far more fun than I did since I wasn’t allowed to venture out past our block and my friends lived further away.
CR: Although I feel like I should be asking you a more “teen” related question, I really do feel as though readers of all ages would love your photography book, “My People,” which won the 2010 Coretta Scott Kind Award for Illustration. It’s a beautiful book of photography set to a Langston Hughes poem. What was the process of creating “My People” like?
CS: It was a challenge because the poem only has 33 words total and a standard picture book is just 32 pages. That meant about one word per page! But since no words are wasted, I decided to strip the images down to the basics; facial expressions. The “people” Langston speaks of are his fellow black people, so I photographed a variety of black faces, old and young, dark and light, wearing black against a black background using black and white film. That way, when the light hit each face, that would be the only thing you see. Simple as the words.
CR: What five books are on your list of “Books I Couldn’t Live Without”?
CS: That’s a very tough one because I’ve read so many great books. But there are a few that stand out. They are “Tao Te Ching,” “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole, and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual TBF?
I’ve been at numerous events with Ellen Hopkins so I’m always happy to see her, but I do look forward to meeting Carl Deuker. He writes about sports as do I and as you can see, the guys are outnumbered.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these interview questions for us, Charles. We can’t wait to meet you in person in only 5 days!
Okay, readers! Here are some more “Would You Rather” survey results …
Would you rather fly to China or drive across the United States?
Dark blue = fly to China
Light blue = drive across the United States
Would you rather sleep in a tent or stay in a hotel?
Dark green = sleep in a tent
Light green = stay in a hotel
Would you rather have the superpower of invisibility or super strength?
Dark red = invisibility
Light red = super strength
Okay readers, that’s all for now! Stop back tomorrow for the third super post …