Friday, May 18, 2012

The Big Interview Post!

Hello Readers,

TBF is in less than 24 hours. I know! I can't believe it either! To celebrate, I present the big interview post! Five interviews by five awesome TBF authors. Are you ready???

James Kennedy

Last year you impersonated Audrey Niffennegger for charity. If you were going to impersonate an author who has attended or is attending TBF, who would you choose and why? What exactly would the impersonation entail?

Backstory: Audrey Niffenegger is the author of "The Time-Traveler's Wife" and other bestsellers. Like me, she lives in Chicago. We don't know each other. We were both invited to participate in a fundraising auction to help out a troubled Chicago-area library. She was auctioning off "an enchanting evening with Audrey Niffenegger," in which about a dozen lucky high bidders got to have a dinner party with her at a swank restaurant downtown.

Not to be outdone, I also auctioned off "an enchanting evening with Audrey Niffenegger (as played by James Kennedy)," at a decidedly less swank restaurant. The result was a ridiculous near-disaster which you can read about here, but there's pictures to show how close I got to the real thing:

As it turns out, Audrey Niffenegger was not amused. I ran into her at my neighborhood bookstore a few months later. It was awkward.

So whom will I impersonate from this year's TBF? I'm tempted to say Laurie Halse Anderson, since she threatened me with a shotgun at ALA 2010, but that seems too obvious. I would say Terry Trueman, but he's getting old and I don't want him to strain himself.

At TBF 2010, I was signing books next to Ellen Hopkins. A humbling experience: I signed for about 20 folks, but her line of admirers stretched out the door. Since I wasn't doing anything anyway, I decided to help Ellen out by signing books for her as "Another Ellen Hopkins".

But Ellen isn't coming to TBF this year. So maybe I'll just irritate Lyga. Yeah, let's say Lyga.

Based on the fan art that you post on your blog, I imagine that you get the coolest fan mail ever. What is the most memorable piece of fan mail that you’ve ever received?
This is a tie. I once received an email out of the blue from M.T. Anderson ("Feed" and "Octavian Nothing") who is hands-down one of my favorite modern authors, children's or otherwise. I didn't know him personally, but somehow he happened across The Order of Odd-Fish, and liked it, and actually took the time to write me an email saying how much he enjoyed my book. (It actually began with the line, "This is a fan letter.") This floored me. We're friends now, but I remember perfectly the thrilling feeling of my stomach dropping away when I read his email—and yes, I admit it, a small, tasteful turd dropping from between my quivering white buttocks. Hey! I'm not made of stone, people!

Anyhow, it's tied between that, and when I received this piece of fan art from Elise Carlson. It's a CAKE depicting the scene in "Odd-Fish" in which a giant fish vomits out a building.

Beautiful, astonishing, disgusting, terrifying, delicious!

Last time you were interviewed for the TBF blog, you told us a little bit about your work-in-progress "The Magnificent Moots." Do you have updates regarding "Moots" that you can share with us?

Yes! I finished "The Magnificent Moots." Then I hated it and threw half of it away. I should be finished with the new version at the beginning of the fall. If I have time, I will read from some of it at TBF!

It is far more insane and elaborate than The Order of Odd-Fish. In my first draft of "Moots" I tried to rein myself in and make the book more accessible. But that's why I ended up being dissatisfied with it. Now I see that the only way forward is to embrace the weirdness.
What books are on your list of “Top 5 Books I Couldn’t Live Without?” 
I have found that Terry Trueman's "Stuck in Neutral" makes excellent kindling.

What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
It is always a treat to hang out with A.S. King. I feel a brotherly, non-creepy affection for her. I swear there is nothing creepy about my fascination with A.S. King at all. 

Susan Beth Pfeffer

You’ve been writing young adult fiction since the 1970s. What is your perception of how the young adult literature world has changed since the 70s?
That's a very sensible question, but I can't give a really educated answer, since I rarely read young adult literature (I rarely read adult literature either- I prefer non-fiction).

All fiction goes through stages. There have been years when young adult novels focused on highly realistic serious problems. Other times fantasy was what people liked reading the most.

But stages come and go. It's like my mother used to say- Keep all your clothes; they'll come back in fashion someday.

What got you interested in writing about the aftermath of the astronomical disaster as the heart of your “Moon” series?
I love writing about famlies going through difficult situations. It's the theme I return to on a regular basis. One of the great things about writing YA books, is I can use a teenager as my main character, and explore the family dynamic from that perspective.

I also love disaster movies, the world coming to an end, or a supervolcano erupting, that kind of thing. I watched one of those movies one day and after the movie ended, I asked myself what would it be like to be a teenager living through a worldwide catastrophe.

Since the theme played right into families going through difficult situations, I spent some time working it out, and ended up writing Life As We Knew It.

You’re currently working on a fourth book in the “Moon”series. Can you give a spoiler-free sneak peek at this new novel?
Well, I'm hoping to finish the first draft today, but if not, I'll finish tomorrow.

It takes about 3 years after This World We Live In, and Jon, Miranda's younger brother, is the main character. He's 17 now, and his teenage years have been completely different from Miranda's and Alex's.

You get to find out what became of Miranda, Alex, Matt, Syl, Dad, Lisa, and Gabriel (I think I got them all), but you see them through Jon's eyes.

What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?
I'm terrible at favorites. I never have one favorite anything.

I read a lot of plays as a teenager, and watched a lot of old movies from the 1930s and 1940s on TV. I learned a great deal about structure, characters, and dialogue from both the plays and the movies, although at the time I didn't realize that they were teaching me skills I'd end up using as an author.

What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
I work alone, and I rarely get to meet other writers, so just saying hello to them will be fun for me.

I'm doing my programs with Megan Crewe. We've been exchanging emails, and she sounds wonderful, so I'm definitely looking forward to meeting her!

Megan Crewe

You’ve written in both the paranormal and disaster genres. Do you approach a story differently depending on the genre?
I did approach "The Way We Fall" somewhat differently from "Give Up The Ghost," but I wouldn't say it's because of the genre. I have a sort of general sense of how I want to structure a novel, and the character and story arcs within it, that influences every book I write. Then each book brings its own individual challenges that affect my writing process for that book. Those challenges, for me, haven't been about genre so much as the personalities of my main characters and the tone I want to get across. For example, while "Ghost" is told in a fairly traditional first person narration, where now and then several days or even a few weeks of Cass's life might be skipped to get to the next major part of her story, with "TWWF" I wanted to show the gradual day-by-day decline of Kaelyn's world, so I ended up using a journal format which divided the story into many small "scenes" that are rarely more than a day or two apart. And of course writing in journal format meant I had a whole new set of concerns to keep in mind while working out the story.

It might be different, though, if I was writing a genre more apart from what I'm already familiar with. Pretty much everything I've worked on since I first started writing novels in high school has fallen under the umbrella of speculative fiction, which includes all types of fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, etc. Even though those each have their own tropes and expectations, at heart I think they're similar types of stories, and so can be approached in very similar ways. I'd have to do a lot more thinking before trying to write, say, a contemporary YA with no speculative elements, and probably have to take a lot of factors I'm not used to into consideration.

Paranormal literature is all the rage right now. What is your favorite paranormal book that you’ve read lately?
I'd say my favorite paranormal-ish YA from the last year would be Nova Ren Suma's "Imaginary Girls."  I loved how subtle the supernatural aspects were (to the point that I've seen debates over whether it really was paranormal at all!), the haunting mood, the believable relationships between the main characters, and the fact that it takes off in a different direction from the ground many paranormal novels are already covering, which made it unpredictable and exciting. As a writer, you get to know a lot of the tricks of foreshadowing and set-up, which can ruin your experience as a reader to some extent because you pick up on what's coming so easily. So I always appreciate it when a book can surprise me.

Did you always want to be a writer? What was your journey to becoming a published author like? 
I've always loved writing and stories. When I was so young I didn't know how to print words yet, I used to dictate stories to my mom, who'd write them down for me so I could illustrate them. It wasn't until I got into upper elementary school, though, that it occurred to me that maybe I could actually make a career out of it. Writing had always seemed like something I just did for fun, but when my teachers and friends started getting excited about my stories, I realized I might actually be fairly good at it.

My journey to becoming published was relatively straight-forward. I wrote several novels before I tried to get one published, because I could tell after finishing or revising the earlier ones that they weren't quite up to parr yet. But with GHOST, I felt that this was The One. I queried agents, was offered representation, saw the book go on submission to publishers, and after a rather stressful year of uncertainty, had it sell, to my great joy. :)

What five books are on your list of “Books I Couldn’t Live Without”? 
Well, that would be a rather long list--I always find it hard to narrow down my favorites because there are so many books I love and I don't like to leave any out. Five that would definitely be included on it, that are among my long-time favorites, would be:

"The Witches" by Roald Dahl

"The Changeling" by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

"The Last Unicorn" by Peter S. Beagle

"The Pricess Bride" by William Goldman

"Watership Down" by Richard Adams

Which author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the 7th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival? 
I'd have to say Susan Beth Pfeffer, who I'm lucky enough to be presenting with at the festival. I love "Life As We Knew It," and it was one of the major inspirations for "The Way We Fall," so it'll be amazing to get to chat with her.

Charles Benoit

Your newest book will be debuting at the Teen Book Festival this May. What can you tell us about that new novel? 

It's a classic tale of boy meets girl, girl introduces boy to life of art theft, and it's quite exciting. But don't take my word for it - here's what Publishers Weekly had to say: "Benoit’s fast pacing, spot-on dialogue, and plot twists keep readers guessing about Grace (“Trust me.... You’ve got no idea what I’m thinking”), rooting for Sawyer, and pondering questions about freedom, choice, and integrity in human connections." Cool, huh? I don't even know them.

Before you wrote your first young adult novel, “You,” you wrote mysteries for adults. Now that you’ve written two books for teens and are currently working on your third, do you ever see yourself going back to writing for adults?
I don't see a big difference. I don't "dumb-down" my writing for teens or "spice-up" my writing for adults. I write the best darn story I can tell, and right now I like telling stories that involve teens and crime. Perhaps the biggest difference is that when I'm writing adult novels and I need a character to get from point A to point B at 3am, they just go. With teens as protagonists, I have a lot more restrictive realities to work within. But just like the real-life teen who needs to get from point A to point B at 3am (and you know who you are), I find a way to get it done.

What is your favorite part about being an author? Your least favorite part? 

No doubt about it, The Best part is meeting readers. And it's even better when they've read one of my books. Writing a book takes hundreds (if not thousands) of hours, and most of that is spent alone. Spending time with people who value and appreciate what you do makes it worth all the effort. And they don't even have to like my books--if they've read them and can argue about them--tell me what they liked and what they hated--I want to meet them. That's the best. The worst? You know that frustrating feeling you get when you've got a tiny part of a song stuck in your head but you can't think of the name or who sang it or how the rest of the song goes? Imagine having that feeling every day for months. That's what it's like when you're writing--you know the story is in there and you're this close to getting it out...and it slips away. That's my least favorite part.

What was your favorite book when you were a teenager? 

"A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I loved that book, and every book in the series. I still have the copy I had when I was a teen. I dug it out a few months back and sat down to re-read it. I got half-way through the first chapter. Let's just say my tastes have changed.

What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival? 

This is a trick question since you know I want to meet them all. But I agreed to answer so I will give you 3 (from my list of 30) who I want to chat with: Barry Lyga (his Fan Boy Goth Girl book is coming up soon on in my to-read pile), Brent Crawford (because Carter is a great character and I want to steal him), and Susan Beth Pfeffer (for her books, natch, but also because she says she had a brother who lived in Greece, NY and I want to see if I knew him).

Julia DeVillers

One of your books was made into a Disney movie and you made a cameo appearance. How much input did you have into the book to movie process?
I knew that the book would be changed, so my main hope amounted to “Please stay true to the positive message.” (And they did.) It turned out they were very receptive and kept me in the loop, which I appreciated.

And yes, I went to the set and had a cameo in the movie. Super fun, slightly embarrassing. The movie-Dad was trying to spice up his pizza place by inventing unique pizzas and he debuted his new creation: chicken feet pizza. And the prop was real chicken-legs embedded in a pizza (the crew was dying laughing at how wrong it was). It smelled rancid and I made a disgusted face. So my cameo is me looking like I’m going to throw up. (I thought the hair people did a nice job on my hair, at least.)

What is writing with your twin sister like? Who writes what? Do you alternate chapters, or do you both work on the same passages together?
We both also write our own individual books, and when we decided to write together I knew we'd either be completely in sync--the whole spooky identical twin thing-- or kill each other. We're both alive and just finished book #5 (yesterday!) so, there you go.

The series is told from the point of view of two characters, identical twin sisters with different personalities. We alternate writing chapters, then go over each other’s. Her changes always make my chapters sharper.

What was the last book that you read?
"Chicken Soup With Rice," out loud to my kids. Maurice Sendak passed away today [May 8], and that was my favorite of his books. RIP.

Which author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the 7th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
Well, not Jennifer Roy because we've been together 24/7 the past few weeks finishing our book together, so we're sick of each other. Not really! :)

I haven’t met Susan Beth Pfeffer yet. I recently unearthed our childhood copy of "Kid Power" in my mom's basement, a book that inspired Jen and me to start our own babysitting business. It was successful, too! More recently, her "Moon" series freaked me the heck out. I need to meet this person who could write such different books that affected me in obviously different ways.

Thanks to all the awesome authors who contributed to this post. We will see you TOMORROW!!!

1 comment:

  1. Susan was a popular author to meet!! These interviews are great, Carly!