Guess what, readers?
2 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes. I’m way too exhausted to write any more of an intro, so let me say only this: enjoy this interview with Jon Skovron!
Carly Reads: Music was such a huge part of “Struts & Frets.” I imagine that music must be a huge part of your life, as well. What role does music play in your own life and how did this influence your decision to make music such a huge part of Sammy’s life?
Jon Skovron: Music has always been a huge part of my life. My grandfather played piano and one of my earliest memories is of me sitting next to him on the piano bench watching him play some old Billie Holiday song. At his urging, I started to play trumpet in 4th grade, and moved to guitar in middle school. I was in a bunch of bands in high school, and it's those experiences that I drew heavily from when writing “Struts & Frets.” I still play guitar, although not nearly as often as I would like. Mostly I'm just a big music fan now and probably spend way too much money buying albums. But sometimes I miss that part of my life. The camaraderie of a band, getting loud and crazy on stage in front of a bunch of people. I suppose writing “Struts & Frets” allowed me to reconnect to that missing part for a little while. From the very first line I wrote, that book was always about Sammy's passion for music.
CR: This line appears in the description of “Misfit,” your newest novel due out in August 2011, on your website: “Steeped in mythology, this is an epic tale of a heroine who balances old world with new, science with magic, and the terrifying depths of the underworld with the ordinary halls of high school.” I just completed a course in mythology this semester so I’m interested in knowing, what kind of research, with regards to mythology, did you do in order to write “Misfit?”
JS: I'll be honest, I am OBSESSED with mythology. And not just the Greco-Roman stuff (although that's cool, too). There's a lot of different kinds of mythology from all over the world that appears in “Misfit.” From Haiti, West Africa, India, the Middle East, the British Isles. And then there are the cultural permeations that spring up around modern religions. The Catholic Church has a ton of this strange, unofficial mythology. Things my Polish grandmother used to tell me when I was growing up that I later found out were probably more based on local Polish folklore than any sort of sanctioned Catholic theology. My favorite thing is how all these crazy stories from all these different places overlap, interconnect, and compliment each other.
As far as research goes, I feel it's really important to get your hands on the source material whenever possible. Rather than reading a book that analyzes the Old Testament, read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. In some cases, there is no official source material. For example Haitian Voudou. So then the best thing to do is to talk to people who are a part of its oral tradition, and read as many different perspectives on it as possible. For the parts that feature Voudou, I spoke with several Haitians, both practicing and not, read “Go Tell My Horse” by Zora Neale Hurston, “Serpent and the Rainbow” by Wade Davis, and “American Voudou: Journey into a Hidden World” by Rod Davis, and probably a few others I've forgotten.
CR: You say that you write books for “teens and the troubled at heart.” Did you always know that you wanted to write for this audience?
JS: Um, no. I kinda stumbled around for a long time. In high school, I was going to be a rock star. In college was I was going to be an actor. Then after I graduated, I actually wrote a couple of adult books that never got published. I was really struggling, full of doubt, wondering what I should do next, when my agent suggested I look at Young Adult. This was back in 2005 when YA was just starting to take off. I picked up “Valiant” by Holly Black and “Elsewhere” by Gabrielle Zevin, and I knew I'd found my place.
CR: What was the last book that you read for pleasure?
JS: “The Lover's Dictionary” by David Levithan. This book is a magnificent, poignant snapshot of modern love written in the form of dictionary entries. At times hilarious, at times heartbreaking, it is a perfect distillation of everything I love about David's writing. To get a sense of it, check out the twitter feed at twitter.com/loversdiction.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these interview questions, Jon! Readers (and Jon!), I also LOVED “The Lover’s Dictionary” and David Levithan is a TBF alum, so be sure to stop by your local library or bookseller to pick up Jon’s book and “The Lover’s Dictionary”!