On Monday, I promised you an interview, and now I’m here to deliver! I am pleased to present the first interview of the 2012 season … an interview with Cyn Balog.
Carly Reads: Your books deal with the paranormal, which is a very popular subject at the moment, but your novels include less popular forms of the paranormal, namely fairies, sandmen, and ancient astrology cults. How did you stumble upon these subjects in the first place? What made you interested in writing about them, and did you research the subjects? Cyn Balog: I come up with the subject matter all different ways. With “Fairy Tale,” I was lying in bed just thinking about all the books that feature a girl learning she is a fairy princess. How lucky she would be! She'd be the envy of all her friends. I realized that by turning it on its head, making the GUY learn he was a fairy prince, it was much more interesting. Imagine HIM discussing that in the locker room with his buddies after football practice! For “Sleepless,” I was driving home, listening to a child's song about a sandman (my daughter was in the car with me), when I got the image of a sandman sitting outside a girl's bedroom, waiting to put her to sleep but secretly in love with her. For “Starstruck,” I was watching the news about the H1N1 virus and part of the story was about how the word "influenza" was based on the ancient belief that stars influenced our behavior and could make us ill. So yeah, my ideas come from all over the place, and I think that's the case for anyone... Ideas are all over.... but it's the job of a writer to recognize them, or to twist them around and work with them until they'll make good material for a novel. I've found that I'm getting better at that as I go along!
CR: Your story of bullying is one of the many included in the new anthology “Dear Bully.” What do you think the importance of books like “Dear Bully” is? And what advice do you have for teens who are struggling with bullying? CB: When I read “Dear Bully” for the first time, I was struck by the fact that bullying is not something that happens to a select few. It pretty much happens to everyone at one time or another. Still, being bullied can make you feel so alone. Those people who said high school is the greatest four years of a person's life are nuts. I had a bad case of body dysmorphic disorder and obsessed constantly about my appearance, where I was checking myself in the mirror every two seconds and thinking everyone was looking at me, analyzing my flaws. I was bullied as often as the next kid, but I chose to believe those baseless comments, to internalize what my bullies said and hate myself for it, which made it so much worse. I distinctly remember as a teen, thinking that if this was the best it was going to get, I should probably just pack it in right then. I'm glad I didn't listen because things get waaaaaay easier when you are older. For one, I stopped seeing my every flaw as life-ending and learned to like myself a lot more.
CR: Are you currently working on any new projects (new books!) that you can tell us about? CB: Yes, my new book, coming out in 2012, is called “Touched” (Delacorte) and it's about a boy who can remember his future, all iterations of it, so every time he changes something small, it can have disastrous results. I also have a book called “Dead River,” which is coming out most likely in 2013, and am in the process of trying to sell a dystopian series while writing another paranormal novel about a girl who is hired as a caretaker at a strange mansion, that I hope will come out in 2014.
CR: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager? CB: I was obsessed with everything Stephen King. I loved “Pet Semetary” and “Misery.” I also loved everything Judy Blume.
CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival? CB: Actually, when I was growing up, another one of my favorite books ever, that inspired me to write my first novel (I was 14) was called “The Year Without Michael.” When I read “Life as we Knew It,” I loved it (even though I don't think I slept for days as I was planning my basement fall-out shelter), and was so surprised to find out that the author of that book was the same author that I'd read as a teen, Susan Beth Pfeffer. It will be like a dream for me to finally meet one of the greatest influences for me and my writing! I also adore all of Laurie Halse Anderson's books, and there are many other authors that will be appearing that I admire... Jenny Han, Beth Fantaskey.... oh, the list just goes on and on! I think I will probably be so starstruck when I get there that I will probably throw up on one, or several, of them.
Cyn, I am so psyched for you to meet Susan Beth Pfeffer. I think that is the coolest story ever. Thanks so much for taking the time answer these questions for us, Cyn! We can’t wait to meet you in May.