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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

One day to live

13 Jan

Oliver’s world is just like our own–except that people get “Deathday letters,” 24 hours’ notice before they pass away. And snarky 15-year-old Oliver has just gotten his. Which renders him, in his own words, “living-challenged,” and with some major choices to make about how he’ll spend this day.

This is the premise of Shaun David Hutchinson’s The Deathday Letter, which fascinated me with its unique blend of testosterone-fueled humor and the poignancy of the ticking clock. As soon as I finished reading it I wanted to pelt the author with questions. Which I proceeded to do, because Shaun and I were in Tenners together, and I don’t hesitate to presume on that connection when it means I can bring you all a good interview.

Q: I somehow managed to miss the “Intro,” where you tell the reader up front that Oliver is really going to die. And so I read the book with a sense of suspense about whether Oliver might manage to get out of this somehow. When I looked back and saw the Intro, I wondered why you included it, rather than keeping the reader guessing? Was it that a humorous book sets up such strong expectations for happy endings, that you felt obligated to warn readers against pouring their expectations into that mold?

A: This is an interesting question. That intro was the first thing I wrote. There was an epilogue too, which I lovingly referred to as my “Outro” until we finally decided to cut it, but the intro was, to me, the most important part of the book. A small portion of it was to keep the reader’s expectations grounded. We’ve become so accustomed to happy endings that I didn’t want anyone to feel duped. But my main reason for putting it out there was to let the reader know that despite being a book about one boy’s death, we wouldn’t be focusing on watching him die. It was my way of letting readers know that they should be paying attention to how Ollie spends his last day rather than trying to figure out whether he’s actually going to die or not.

Take any book. Take the Harry Potter series. We know through all seven books that Harry is going to face Voldemort. We also have the expectation that Harry is going to triumph over his enemy. So as we march toward the end, we spend time trying to figure out how Harry is going to survive. The tension comes from wondering how Harry is going to defeat Voldemort. But what if J.K. Rowling had prefaced Book 7 by telling the reader that Harry was going to die. What if she said that Harry would not, in fact, defeat Voldemort. People would have read the book looking, not for how Harry was going to survive, but how he was going to die. The tension would come from the How of Harry’s death and from watching him reach that inevitable end. With Ollie, he knows he’s going to die, the reader knows he’s going to die, so the story isn’t how one boy escapes certain death, but how he meets it.

Q: Do you wish people actually got Deathday letters? If so, how long a notice do you think is optimal–one day, as in the book? Or one week, one year? Or do you think we’re all better off not knowing when?

A: I think 24 hours is a good number. I thought about this a lot, actually. Too long and it would feel so drawn out. There’s a scene at the end of Deathday where Ollie laments having to keep saying goodbye to people. He’s spent. And that’s only after one day. I couldn’t imagine a whole week or a whole year. But I think a day is good because it gives you just enough time for family to come say their goodbyes, even if they live far away. But since we don’t get Deathday letter, I think we should all live as if we only had 24 hours to live. One of my favorite poems is TO THE VIRGINS, TO MAKE MUCH OF TIME by Robert Herrick. The first line, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” encapsulates the carpe diem philosophy that I wanted to bake into Ollie’s journey. Of course, old Herrick wrote the poem to try to convince some impressionable girls to part with their virtue, but the sentiment is solid.

Q: There have been books about kids who know they’re dying, but they tend to take a darker, more tragic bent–for obvious reasons, since the topic is inherently sad! And The Deathday Letter certainly has its poignant moments. But there’s also a lot of humor that gets quite edgy at times. What made you decide to blend earthy humor with impending doom?

A: A couple of people have commented that they wouldn’t have chosen to spend their last day on such immature pursuits, but Ollie is a normal guy. He’s not your typical hero. He doesn’t read Wuthering Heights or spend his days writing poetry. He’s probably not the kind of guy girls fantasize about ending up with. But he’s the kind of guy who sat behind you in math class. The kind of guy you went to prom with because you couldn’t find anyone better but ended up having a good time despite yourself. I wanted to see how someone so average would respond to something like this. Ollie starts out not sure what to do. Despite the ubiquitousness of Deathday letters in Ollie’s world, he hasn’t spent much time thinking about what he’d do if he got one. He doesn’t have a life plan. He’s just been sailing through life, figuring he’d always have time to do stuff. Until he got his letter that is.

As you say, it’s obvious why most books about people who are dying tend to be dark, but that was never going to be Ollie. He met death with the same slacker mentality that he met everything else in his life. The thing that people don’t like to think about is that we’re all dying. Right now, you’re dying, I’m dying, everyone reading your blog is dying. It might not happen for fifty years, it might happen tomorrow. Knowing the when shouldn’t change how you live your life. Every person has the ability to choose how they attack life. Either we can let it get us down or we can laugh at it. With The Deathday Letter, I chose laughter.

Q: Since you wrote this book, how many people have asked you how you would spend your own Deathday? I won’t ask you to fill out the whole day’s schedule, but what’s one thing you would make sure to do?

A: So many! I kind of expected it though. But if I only had one day to live, one thing I would HAVE to do is get into a fist fight. I know it sounds odd, but I’ve never punched anyone in my life, nor been punched. I’m not a particularly violent person, but I’ve always been morbidly curious as to what it would feel like to be in a real fist fight. Then I would eat a lot of pie.

Shaun David Hutchinson is a writer and a self-described “major geek” who can be reached “via tin cans and string,” or on Twitter where he goes by the name @ShaunieDarko.

This interview was cross-posted from the blog of Jennifer R. Hubbard, author of young-adult novels The Secret Year (Viking, 2010) and Try Not to Breathe (Viking, 2012).

 
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Posted in Books for Young Adults, Fiction for YA, Interviews

 

An Interview with DJ MacHale – Morpheus Road

16 Apr

D.J. MacHale is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pendragon series. He has written, directed and produced many television series and movies for young people including the cult-favorite TV show ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK. His work has been seen on Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, HBO, Showtime, PBS, Discovery Kids and the broadcast networks. D.J. lives with his family in Southern California. Today, he talks to Boylit.com about his new book, Morpheus Road, which is being released on April 20, 2010. Please visit his website at http://djmachalebooks.com/.

About Morpheus Road:  Marshall Seaver is being haunted. In The Light, the first installment of this chillingly compelling trilogy, sixteen-year-old Marshall discovers that something beyond our world is after him. The eerie clues pile up quickly, and when people start dying, it’s clear whatever this is–it’s huge.

Marshall has no idea what’s happening to him, but he’s soon convinced that it has something to do with his best friend Cooper, who’s been missing for over a week. Together with Coop’s sister, Marsh searches for the truth about what happened to his friend, ultimately uncovering something bigger than he could ever have imagined.

Boylit.com will be doing a giveaway of an autographed copy of Morpheus Road beginning on April 20, 2010. The contest will run for two weeks – details to be announced.  Please enjoy the trailer for Morpheus Road at the end of the interview.


1. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us. I understand that you have a background as a writer and producer for children’s television. My children loved Flight 29 Down, which you co-created and produced, and you were also the co-creator and producer of Are You Afraid of the Dark, as well as several other successful children’s shows. You author the very popular Pendragon series, which is Young Adult series with a male main character. Now you have taken a more macabre turn down Morpheus Road. Is Morpheus Road your first venture into the horror/suspense genre? Tell us a little about the story.

I’ve actually worked quite extensively in the genre. “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” was all about being spooky. Between the 91 episodes and twenty some odd books and computer games, board games, articles, etc., I wrote more scary stories than the average bear. I also wrote and directed a movie for Disney called “Tower of Terror”, and created several scary TV shows that never got off the ground. So I’m fairly well versed in the world of horror/suspense, that’s why I wanted to write the Morpheus Road trilogy so much. After having gotten away from that genre for a few years, and written so many books, I thought it would be fun to go back to my roots and write a spooky book. So for me it was like going home. A very creepy home.

2. What inspired you to write in this genre? Do you think there is a large market for it in the Young Adult demographic?

I’ve always loved scary stories. I like the notion of normal people being confronted with totally abnormal challenges. It also allows me to flex my creative muscles by coming up with unique and surprising scares. That’s the fun part. Coming up with the scares. There’s a scene in Morpheus Road: The Light where the main character, Marshall, is home alone and you know something spooky is going to happen. He knows something spooky is going to happen. And it does. But rather than encountering a monster or horrific image, he is drawn to his living room by music box music and finds that the room is completely, impossibly, decorated for Christmas. It twists his head inside out, and then the terror happens from there. I love stuff like that.

As for there being a market in the YA demographic, I hope so! But that’s not why I’m writing the story. For me, it always starts out with an idea that excites and interests me. I write it, and then the story itself determines who it will appeal to. For instance, Flight 29 Down was definitely a “girl” show. Guys watched it, but girls LOVED it. Another book series that will soon come out is called The Monster Princess. I came up with the idea for a little troll who dreams of becoming a princess, and the only place that story could exist was with a picture book which will appeal to very young kids. I found with my Pendragon series that the largest number of readers are boys . . . of all ages. From 9 to grandfathers. So I think my job is to tell the best story I can, and then see who likes it!


3. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience for this novel when you were writing or editing it? What is it about this book and its genre that you think boys in particular will enjoy?

Like I said, I write the story the best way I can and then see who likes it. But for whatever reason, most of my writing appeals to boys, which is kind of cool since everybody is trying to get boys to read. Girls are easier. Boys are tough. But it’s not like I said: “I’m going to write a book for boys!” I just write what I think is fun, and in most cases, guys like it.

And what I think is fun is showing normal guys rising to the occasion. Or sometimes not. That’s what I think so many guys like about my stories. They can see themselves in the story and reacting the way the characters react. That’s key for me. I want the readers to imagine what they might do in hairy situations. I love that stuff, and I’m a guy, so I guess other guys do too!

4. I noticed that you started the book with a prologue. A lot of writing “experts” discourage the use of prologues, but to me it came off like a voice-over at the beginning of a movie setting the stage for the action, which I think will appeal to the tastes of young men. Does your television background influence your writing?

I never listen to experts. I just write what I think works. One of the reasons I have used a prologue, and did it with Morpheus Road: The Light is that I think it’s important to set up the main characters early on. As much as I like action, I think the heart of a story rests with interesting characters that you get to know and care about. Or hate. To do that, it takes a bit of exposition early on. Call it my movie-instinct, but when you want to grab somebody up front with a book that is expected to be exciting, starting out by introducing characters doing “normal” things might turn off the more impatient reader. So a short prologue is my way of saying: “This is the kind of story it’s going to be so relax. Learn about the characters and then the fireworks will start.”


5. Morpheus Road is the first book in a planned series. How many books will be in this series, and what can you tell us about the “rest of the story?”

Morpheus Road is going to be a trilogy. I don’t want to give away anything about where it’s going because there are some big surprises. But I’ll say this much, it’s going to be one of those stories that starts out small and just keeps on building and building in ways you could never imagine.

6. You have a book trailer for Morpheus Road, which we have embedded in the Boylit Blog site. How did the making of the trailer come about? We have a great interest in book trailers here because we think it’s a great way to market to boys.

I think the Morpheus Road trailer is awesome. Publishers are always looking for new ways to get the news out about their books and my good friends at Simon & Schuster started making trailers that are seen before movies in the theaters. When I heard that they wanted to do one for Morpheus Road, my first reaction was: “Great, but boy it better be good if it’s going to be on the big screen!” And they pulled it off. It’s going to be seen in late May in certain theaters before the film “Prince of Persia”. It’s gotten such a great reaction that they’re already throwing ideas around about what the trailer for Morpheus #2 will be!


 

An Interview with Dee Garretson – Wildfire Run

14 Apr

Dee Garretson is the author of Wildfire Run, which is being released on August 31, 2010.  She writes books for middle graders.  Dee has a degree in Landscape Horticulture and worked as a landscape designer and taught landscape horticulture classes for several years before returning to writing.  Please visit her website at http://deegarretson.com/index.html

A draft cover for Wildfire Run, before the title was finalized.

1. The idea for the plot of ‘Wildfire Run’ came to you during the 2008 primary elections for the U.S.presidential race. Please tell us what the story is about and how you developed the idea for it.


Here’s my one sentence blurb for it: When Luke Brockett, the President’s son, is trapped at Camp David during a wildfire by high tech security gone haywire, he and his friends Callie and Theo know they have to find a way out before it is too late.

I developed the idea for the story because I’m one of those people who follow elections and politics obsessively. (I have a degree in international relations from Tufts University.) It’s my version of sports addiction. The fascination is partly with the people and personalities behind the events. Having children of my own, what struck me during the ’08 primaries was the number of young children or grandchildren of the candidates. That led me to think of how some of those children’s lives were going to take a drastic change.

2. Can you tell us a little more about Camp David?

Camp David is the presidential vacation retreat located right in the middle of Catoctin National Park in Maryland. It’s supposed to be a place where the presidents and their families can vacation safely and away from media scrutiny. Information about what’s inside is very limited, especially after the events of 9/11. I cobbled together what I could from a variety of sources, so the historical detail in the book is as accurate as I could make it, and the rest, well, it’s fiction.

3. What age group do you think would enjoy Wildfire Run? Is this a book for middle graders?

The book is for middle graders, and probably slightly older readers up to the age of about fourteen.

4. When you were writing this story, did you do any research about what life might be like for a child of a U.S. President?

I had already done quite a bit of research on presidential children, because I was toying with the idea of a nonfiction picture book on the subject. I ended up using that material to write a play which will be on my website in the near future for teachers’ use as a class project. Doing the research gave me an overall feeling of how to handle my main character.


5. Wildfire Run will be released on August 31, 2010, will it be your first published novel?


Yes, it will be my first published novel.

6. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience for this novel when you were writing or editing it? Did you intend for this to be a book for boys?

I did intend it to be a book for boys. I became interested in middle grade fiction targeted to boys when my son was about nine. He was so excited about some of the books he was reading, and he really wanted me to read them as well. I took a serious look at the books he particularly loved that he read over and over, and that’s what made me decide to try my hand at a sort of book he would want to read.

7. What about this book do you think boys in particular might enjoy?
There’s problem solving with cobbled together gadgets. I’m showing my age, but I’ve always described the main character, Luke, as a MacGyver-type kid. There’s a kid-built robot. And Luke gets to drive around in the woods in an old jeep. I think that appeals to any pre-licensed driver!

8. If you had to describe it by comparing it to other books, which would you choose and why?

It’s set up more like an adult thriller/suspense novel, because early on I switch points of view each chapter between several different people, but the later parts are more action oriented from the main character’s perspective. I would hope kids who like Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series would like this book as well.

9. Are you working on another novel? Do you plan to write any other books with male protagonists?

I’m working on a second middle grade book right now for HarperCollins, also with a male protagonist. This one is about kid actors on a sci fi movie set who get trapped in a blizzard. It’s been so much fun to research movie-making for this, plus I’m a huge science fiction fan, so that part is exciting as well.

10. Is there going to be a book trailer for your novel? Are you or the publishers taking any special steps to try to reach boy readers?

I plan to have a book trailer up by early summer. One very exciting step HarperCollins is taking is their new site, Awesome Adventure Books, http://www.awesomeadventurebooks.com/, which targets their action-oriented books with some additional games for kids. It also has special sections for parents and teachers. I’m hoping my book will be on the site when it is released.

11. Which novels by other authors would you recommend to boys?

There are so many I enjoy, it’s hard to limit it. The GREGOR THE OVERLANDER series by Suzanne Collins is fantastic. Most people now know her for her young adult books, HUNGER GAMES in particular, but the earlier middle grade GREGOR series shouldn’t be overlooked. The ARTEMIS FOWL series by Eoin Colfer are both fun and imaginative. Those were my son’s absolute favorites.

12. Besides your author website and your blog, you have another website called “Adventure Books” at www.kidsaventurebooks.com , please tell us about that website and what inspired you to create it.

I’m very interested in why some kids love to read and others don’t, and it seems that many kids who say they don’t like to read may think that only because they haven’t been exposed to the sort of books that would draw them in. I wanted a site parents, teachers and librarians could use with kid-tested high appeal books. It’s not a traditional review site, because I don’t list any books that don’t pass my kid readers and my own somewhat arbitrary parameters. There are many books I’ve recently read that need to be added to it, but I just haven’t had the time. Too many great books in the world!

 

An Interview with Author Rebecca Barnhouse – The Coming of the Dragon

12 Apr


Rebecca Barnhouse is the author of The Coming of the Dragon. She writes books for middle graders and young adults. Rebecca teaches and writes about medieval topics and about children’s literature set in the Middle Ages. Please visit her website at http://www.rebeccabarnhouse.com/

1. I try not to interject myself into these interviews, but I have to comment on the premise of your book, The Coming of the Dragon. As I understand it, the story is not a retelling of the Beowulf story, but it does involve King Beowulf and some elements of the original Beowulf story. When I was a teenager, (which was probably only about 20 or so years after the whole Beowulf/Grendel incident occurred) most of my classmates (all boy school) were very good readers, but the idea of reading an epic poem in something that only vaguely resembled the English we knew was not exactly one that we embraced. However, most of us loved the story and I think that proves that if a story is compelling, we are willing to push through anything to finish it. The story of Beowulf had many of the elements that boys love:  heroes, monsters, and battles. So, with that entirely self-absorbed introduction over, please tell us about The Coming of the Dragon. Is the story involving Grendel mentioned in this book? Where in time, in relation to that event, does this story occur?

How great that you and your classmates loved Beowulf when you were teenagers! “Heroes, monsters, and battles,” as you say—what’s not to love? (Well, besides all those digressions and difficult names and stories within stories that can make it very hard to follow the main action of the poem.)

In The Coming of the Dragon the focus is not on the first half of the poem, in which Beowulf battles Grendel and Grendel’s mother. Instead, I skip forward to the second half of the poem, which takes place after Beowulf has ruled for 50 years. When a thief steals a goblet from a dragon’s hoard, the dragon gets revenge by destroying much of Beowulf’s kingdom. The king takes a small band of warriors with him to fight the dragon—but except for one young warrior, they all abandon the king in his hour of need. That’s the story I’m telling in my novel, so in that sense I am retelling part of the poem. But I’m also inventing a lot of backstory for my protagonist, Rune, whose nickname comes from the from runic letters inscribed on the amulet he wears around his neck. It was there when—as a baby—he washed up on Geatland’s shores. So was a sword, a shield, and a coat of mail. Throughout the novel, Rune struggles to find his courage and his identity.

2. What about this novel do you think young boys would enjoy?

Besides heroes, monsters and battles? How about ancient swords, chain-link mail, and masked helmets? Or a terrifying, fire-breathing dragon? Trust me, this is not your friendly, ride-on-my-back, read-my-thoughts kind of dragon. It has no name and it wants vengeance! If that’s not enough to get boys reading, there is also friendship and a smidgeon of romance—and plenty of action to make them keep turning the pages.

3. What style would you say it is written in? Is there any history to
be learned from this story?

Although the novel—like Beowulf itself—is historical fantasy, the style is realistic. I want readers to experience the heat and wind and acrid smell that Rune feels when a dragon flies directly over his head. The kind of weapons sixth-century Scandinavian tribes used, the architecture of their halls (no castles here!), the kinds of food they ate, the drinking horns they used; that’s the kind of history readers will pick up from this novel. There are also references to Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse literature and culture.


4. Is this novel intended for middle graders? Do you think young
adults would like it, too?

Rune is 16 years old. Originally, the book was intended for a YA audience, although now it’s being marketed for middle grade readers. But I think it’s for anyone who loves fantasy.

5. Your previous novel, The Book of the Maidservant, has a girl
protagonist. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience
for The Coming of the Dragon when you were writing or editing it?
Did you intend for this to be a book for boys?

I wasn’t really thinking about the audience when I wrote the book—instead, I was thinking about how to tell Rune’s story while remaining as true as I could to Beowulf. As a teenager, I loved fantasy novels about both male and female characters (still do, in fact), and never thought of them as being boy books or girl books.

6. Is there a sequel planned for The Coming of the Dragon?

There’s a companion book, called Peaceweaver, in the works. A different character, a girl, tells her version of events, and there’s some overlap with The Coming of the Dragon.

7. If you had to describe this novel by comparing it to other books,
which would you choose and why?

Besides Beowulf, right? The novel is full of the classic fantasy tropes, such as a main character of unknown parentage who has to prove his mettle both to himself and to those who are suspicious of him. In some ways, I’m drawing on all the fantasy novels I read growing up, starting with the works of J. R. R. Tolkien (who makes liberal use of Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon literature himself). Recent novels that might make good comparisons to this one are Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother, which is the first novel in her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, or John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice books.

8. Can you think of any novels by other authors that you would
recommend to boys?

For readers who want more about Beowulf, Gareth Hinds’ graphic novel, Beowulf, is excellent. Other fantasy novels I recommend include Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books, starting with The Thief, and Cinda Williams Chima’s The Warrior Heir and its sequels. A wonderful novel that middle grade boys and girls are going to love, Matthew Kirby’s The Clockwork Three, is coming out in October 2010.

For readers who have the patience for gorgeous, complex language, I highly recommend Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea books, beginning with A Wizard of Earthsea (published in 1967, it features a school for young wizards). For YA readers, I can’t recommend Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock highly enough. Cynthia Voigt’s The Wings of a Falcon, too.


9. When is this novel being released?

October 26, 2010.

10. Rebecca, your bio says that you’re a teacher. What do you think
schools can do to encourage boys to read?

Individual schools don’t have control over this, but the number one thing I wish the country would do is get rid of our focus on testing. Without meaning to, No Child Left Behind has turned “reading” into reading sentences and paragraphs in order to answer multiple choice questions. It has gotten rid of the concept of reading for pleasure (not to mention its pernicious effect on the arts, on science, and on any subject other than reading and math).

Something I think teachers and schools can still do is to recognize other forms of reading than novels, which we sometimes focus on to the exclusion of nonfiction. I’ve known boys who can very happily absorb encyclopedic works about engines and vehicles, but who are left cold at the thought of reading fiction. I know I’m stereotyping here, but I’m also taking examples from my own family. Exciting magazine stories, for example from Flying or Sports Illustrated, are valid reading material, too, and reading about subjects they feel a passion for can help both boys and girls gain confidence in their reading skills.

 

An Interview with Author Cynthia Willis – Buck Fever

08 Apr

Cynthia Willis is the author of Buck Fever. She writes children’s books and instructional materials for elementary classrooms. Please visit her website at http://www.cynthiawillis.com

1. Cynthia, please tell us a little about the plot of Buck Fever.

I’d love to! In Buck Fever, twelve-year-old Joey MacTagert’s dad wants his only son to carry on the family tradition of hunting. However, Joey can’t bring himself to shoot a deer. Joey is more interested in drawing and ice hockey, two activities that his dad barely acknowledges. So, when Joey’s dad calls upon Joey to use his special skill in tracking animals to hunt down the big buck that roams the woods near their home, Joey finds himself in a difficult situation. He knows how to track Old Buck and has actually gained the trust of this deer, but Joey has kept this a secret. When trouble between Joey’s parents escalates, and Joey and his older sister, Philly, find themselves in the middle of tensions that they don’t fully understand, Joey tries to keep the peace by making his dad proud. Joey attempts to conquer his buck fever, which leads to consequences he doesn’t anticipate.

2. The story involves a boy and his dad, and hunting. Do you have hunters in your family? What inspired you to write this novel?

Most people are surprised to learn that I do not have any hunters in my family. The inspiration for Buck Fever came from my experiences with friends and neighbors. I grew up in a city suburb until I was thirteen. I, therefore, knew very little about hunting. When my family moved to a rural area where hunting was a big part of life, I was, at first, appalled by the idea of shooting at animals. Soon enough, though, I realized that some of our neighbors hunted to put food on their dining room tables. I learned that hunting serves many purposes, including keeping the deer population in check so that the animals do not over-populate and die of starvation and disease. I still live in a rural area with a huge deer population and I know many people who hunt. The different points of view and opinions about deer hunting are what inspired me to write Buck Fever.

3. The main character, Joey, doesn’t want to kill the buck. Is the story anti-hunting?

I didn’t write Buck Fever to be anti-hunting on any level. I based Joey on many boys that I have known and that I know–boys raised in families that value hunting, appreciate it as a sport, and enjoy all aspects of it. In many families, hunting is a tradition that has endured over many generations. Sometimes, though, a son or grandson may not feel the love for hunting. This can be a real problem for him. It can create great tension and conflict, which can make for a compelling story.

4. Joey’s father has a drinking problem. Is that an important aspect of the story?

The issues of Joey’s father and, in fact, both of his parents are very important to the story, I think. These issues contribute to Joey’s conflicts and affect his decisions, for better or for worse.

In my opinion, the drinking problem of Sam Hector, the father of Joey’s friend, is a particularly important aspect to the novel because he hunts after he has been drinking. As most people can imagine, this is really irresponsible. When interviewing hunters for Buck Fever, I was always impressed by their responsibility and respect for others, including the animals. However, there are, sometimes, irresponsible hunters. For example, I was once riding my horse through private property where hunters were not allowed. Nonetheless, a very drunk and bleary-eyed fellow shot at me and my horse. He heard movement, saw a four-legged animal and pulled his trigger. Happily, his shot missed us, but I was, of course, infuriated and terrified (as was my horse). I revisited this when writing about Joey’s experiences with Sam Hector.

5. What do you think boys will like about this story?

I hope they will like everything about it, but then I imagine this will depend upon the individual reader. I have received emails and letters from boys who don’t want to hunt and appreciated Joey’s point of view. I have also heard from boys who love hunting and appreciated the hunting scenes even though Joey struggles in ways that these readers never have. And, I have spoken to many readers who have no opinion on hunting, but enjoyed the story of a boy’s relationship and struggle with his dad, his family, and his friends.

6. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience for this novel when you were writing or editing it? Did you intend to write a book for boys or did you just want to tell a story that turned out to be geared towards boys?

I always think about the prospective audience of a novel when I am writing, but I did not set out to write a novel for boys. I started with the desire to write about the conflicting opinions regarding deer hunting and a family dealing with transitions. As I mapped out the plot and story events, and then revised Buck Fever, it evolved into Joey’s story.

7. Is there any more story left to tell about Joey? Do you have any plans or interest in writing a sequel?

I’ve been asked this question a lot, which is really lovely and sort of surprises me. At this point, I feel like Joey’s story has been resolved. By the end of the novel, he has reached a place of peace with himself, with his dad, with his family, and even with Michael Buckner. However, I could wake up one morning with Joey on my mind and a new plot suited just for him. Never say never, right?

8. I enjoyed the trailer for Buck Fever. Was the trailer your idea or the publisher’s? Tell us a little about how it came about and how it fits in with any plans you have to market this book to boys.

I’m so glad that you liked the trailer for Buck Fever. As most writers know, marketing a book is very important. With this in mind, I was visiting an online message board one night after a day of working on the final revisions for Buck Fever. I came upon a discussion on book trailers. After a few questions and answers, I contacted the person who created an amazing trailer for another author and the process began.

The trailer has been a great way to advertise Buck Fever. I posted it on YouTube.com, TeacherTube.com, Facebook.com (on the fan page for Buck Fever), and on my website, just to name a few places. It also appears on the Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends website. In addition, I blogged about the trailer and posted tweets about it. Blog reviewers have also posted the Buck Fever trailer to their sites.

9. Do you have any other books for boys in the works?

I have just started work on a new novel that is not specifically targeted for boys, but will certainly appeal to boys as well as girls. How is that for a teaser?

10. Which novels by other authors would you recommend to boys?

Some novels that I would recommend for boys include The Outsiders by S.E Hinton, The Percy Jackson and the Olympian series of books by Rick Riordian, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and Holes by Louis Sachar. For older readers: The Book Thief and I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak, and In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith. I loved all of these reads.

 
 

An Interview with Author James Preller

25 Mar

James Preller is the author of Bystander.  He writes books ranging from picture books to Young Adult.  He has written what seems to be about a hundred books, give or take.  Please visit his website at http://jamespreller.com/.

1. Bystander is about bullying, but focuses on the children that stand by and watch, as opposed to those doing the actual bullying. Please tell us a little about the plot.

A seventh-grade boy, Eric Hayes, moves into a new town. He is quickly befriended by a smart, engaging, charismatic boy named Griffin Connelly – who also happens to be a manipulative bully. I wanted to explore how Eric navigates his way through that confusing, ethical maze. And I wanted to make sure that the bully was drawn as a realistic, accurate character consistent with current research – not as the hulking, dim-witted stereotype too often found in books and movies.


2. I have middle grade children, so I am keenly aware of the dynamic you describe in your novel. What motivated you to write this story and examine the role of the bystanders as opposed to the victim or the bully?

I write realistic fiction, and for this book I decided to graduate to a middle school environment. I’ve also focused on friendship in the past. So the bullying theme was sort of a natural outgrowth of those things – but once I settled on it, I had to do a lot of research. And it was the research – the reading, the school visits, and my conversations with experts — that led me to the role of the bystander. From a narrative point of view, that also worked for me, since the bystander is, like a writer, both observer and witness.


3. Is there anything that readers of your book can take from this story in order to better deal with bullies?

There are no easy answers. Quick story: My oldest son is sixteen. I often worried when he didn’t talk about his feelings. He’d clam up. Then I realized, he doesn’t have the vocabulary to even know what he’s feeling. To paraphrase Ron Burgandy in “Anchorman,” he was trapped inside a glass booth of emotion. Language is important, it’s a tool to help us perceive things, name things, understand. It’s common for kids to say something like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was bullying; I was just making fun of her shoes.” Like any good book, hopefully Bystander enriches the way readers understand their world.


4. The main character’s father suffers from schizophrenia. Why did you include that in the story, and how do you think middle graders will deal with that subject?

I wanted Eric Hayes to have some kind of vulnerability, a gazelle with a limp, and I needed the leonine bully to recognize it. His parent’s separation – the absent father – achieved that for me. As for the mental illness, that’s something I know from personal experience. My brother John suffered from it – and the result of that suffering was acutely felt by his two sons. Those boys, my nephews, will carry that pain around with them forever. Bizarrely, on the day after I handed in the manuscript, I learned that my brother had died. As for how readers will react, I have no idea – but I do believe very strongly that it’s better to bring these family problems out into the open, to look at them honestly, rather than to keep them as dark secrets. There’s no shame in being sick.


5. What about this novel do you think young boys would enjoy?

I wanted the book to have the quality of a thriller, a forward push and momentum that made the story fast-paced and unputdownable. As realistic fiction – utterly lacking in dragons, vampires, time travel, and boy wizards – I hope that readers would recognize the characters in this book as an accurate reflection of their world.


6. Did you intend for this to be a book for boys?

I realized that by focusing primarily on boy characters – though one girl, Mary, plays a crucial role – that it would be a book that might have more appeal to boy readers. I don’t know if that keeps girls from reading it or not; girls tend to be a little more open-minded than boys about reading about the opposite sex.


7. You’ve been writing books for boys for a long time. You author the very successful series, Jigsaw Jones, and have written some picture books. You’ve written several middle grade books and one of your most current novels is for Young Adults.  How many books have you written and do you have any other books for middle graders in the works?

Thanks for asking. I have a new middle grade book coming out this summer — best for grades 3-5 — called Justin Fisher Declares War! It’s about a lively, attention-seeking fifth-grade boy who struggles with discipline issues in school. He’s sort of a class clown gone wrong — with hilarious results. Hopefully it’s fast-paced, funny, light and easy to read. I think of it as my rebound book after Bystander.


8. Book trailers are becoming more and more common, particularly for children’s books. Do any of your books have trailers? What do you think of book trailers as a marketing tool for children’s books?

I saw that you had written about trailers on your blog. Honestly, I lack those video skills. I’m not very adept at the PR aspects of being a writer – I’m kind of grossed out by too much self-promotion, frankly. I mean, I appreciate any efforts my publishers make to promote my books – but to date I haven’t written anything that’s gotten a big marketing push. Thus, no trailers. Same with Twitter. I understand that I’m missing out on all these “cross-pollination opportunities” or whatever, but it’s just not my personality. Mostly, I just want to write the books (crazy, I know), though I do enjoy visiting schools to promote reading and writing.


9. Which novels by other authors would you recommend to boys?

I’m always uncomfortable when it comes to “books for boys,” because those lists tend to fall into extremely narrow stereotypes of what boys supposedly like. You know: body humor, relentless action, sports, etc. I’m not a big reader when it comes to children’s books, so I’ll leave those recommendations to others, except to say that I have great respect for Louis Sachar and Jerry Spinelli. But I do want to sound that warning about so-called “books for boys.” When my 2008 book Along Came Spider came out – which is basically a boys friendship story – one blogger, Karen at Literate Lives, said, “I’ve read a lot of books recently about girls trying to make sense of friendships and themselves, so it was a delightful surprise to find and read a book that deals with boys trying to find where they belong in Along Came Spider.” Now think about that for a moment. It came as a “surprise” that a book would treat a boys friendship with the same attention and depth commonly seen in books about girls. Charlotte Zolotow’s William’s Doll was published in 1972, and in many respects it doesn’t feel like we’ve come very far in our thinking about boys over the past 38 years.

 

An Interview with Author Jessica Lee Anderson

15 Mar

Jessica Lee Anderson is the author of Border Crossing, a Young Adult book with a male protagonist.

Please visit Jessica’s website at http://www.jessicaleeanderson.com.

1. Border Crossing has a very interesting and unique premise and plot. Please tell us a little about the story.

JLA:  My main character, Manz, is on the border physically and mentally. Life is tough for him and everyone he knows—his mother who drinks too much, her truck-driving boyfriend, and his best friend who deals with an abusive father.   Manz wants to find a way out of Rockhill, Texas to escape the heat, the oppression, and his increasing paranoia.

Manz takes a job at a ranch to earn some cash, and he meets Vanessa there.  While he’s drawn to her, he’s unsure about starting a relationship because of his suspicions.  Manz isn’t sure who he can trust, especially when he learns about “Operation Wetback”—a government relocation program from the 1950’s.   While he finds comfort in the voices he hears, his life is spinning out of control and he must discover what is real and what isn’t.

2. The main character in your novel has schizophrenia. One of the reasons that I wanted to talk to you about your novel is because I found that unsettling. I can only imagine what a challenge it must have been for you to write this novel. What inspired you to do so?

JLA:  I was shocked when I learned about Operation Wetback while studying history in college. How had I not learned about this before? Besides anger, the knowledge of this event made me feel insecure and vulnerable even though I’m Anglo.  I thought about it for three years before Manz’s voice and paranoia began to develop.  It was a challenge to write this novel, especially since I wanted to tell it through the first person point of view.  Writing this novel was emotionally taxing at times and took several years to write.

3. Border Crossing was released in 2009. Was it your first published novel?

JLA:  My first published novel is Trudy. Trudy’s parents are old. Really old. Besides dealing with this, Trudy also struggles with math and changing friendships. When her father begins to repeat himself, forget things (including her), and is generally confused, Trudy knows her life will be forever changed. She must find the strength to accept things and be there for her family.

4. With a story like this, inspiration alone isn’t enough to tell it.  Did you have to do a lot of research to be able to tackle the historic and mental health aspects of the novel?

JLA: Part of the reason this novel took so long to write was because of the amount of research involved (reading, interviewing, visiting), plus I revised the manuscript at least a dozen time to make it as accurate as possible.

5. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience for this novel when you were writing or editing it? Did you intend for this to be a book for boys? I would think it could be enjoyed by either sex.

JLA: When I was writing the story, I wanted to target reluctant teen readers, especially boys, though I hoped it could be enjoyed by either sex or by adults too.

6. What about this book do you think boys in particular might enjoy?

JLA: I’ve gotten some feedback from a few male readers that the tension and quick pacing kept their interest.

7. What age group do you think would enjoy Border Crossing?

JLA:  Ages 12 and up.

8. If you had to describe it by comparing it to other books, which would you choose and why?

JLA: I’d say elements of Terry Trueman’s Inside Out and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine.

9. Are you working on another novel? Do you plan to write any other books with male protagonists?

JLA:  Calli will be released by Milkweed Editions in 2011, and the protagonist is female like my first novel.  I would love to write a future novel with a male protagonist though.

10. Who inspires you as an author?

JLA:  Other authors!  I’m a voracious reader, and each story I read challenges me to continue growing as a writer.  My writing buddies, P.J. Hoover and Jo Whittemore, also keep me inspired by offering their wisdom and support.  (The three of us are in a group together called The Texas Sweethearts.)

11. Can you think of any novels by other authors that you would recommend to boys?

JLA: I often suggest novels by Terry Trueman and Pete Hautman to reluctant male readers.

12. I like to keep these interviews focused on the novels since this blog is about literature for boys and encouraging boys to read. However, I do like to talk a little about the author, as well. You’re educational background suggests that you always knew you wanted to be a writer. Is that the case? Did you ever consider doing anything else?

JLA:  I’ve always loved to write even though I sometimes bombed a few school writing assignments. I didn’t let that stop me though, and continued making up tales, learning, and dreaming big.  I’d thought about becoming a nurse if I didn’t become a writer or teacher (until I had to dissect a pig in high school).

Thanks for letting me stop by!
~

 
 

An Interview with Author Laura Manivong

03 Mar

Laura Manivong is the author of Escaping the Tiger which will be available on March 9, 2010. The trailer for Escaping the Tiger may be found at the end of the interview.

Please visit Laura’s website at http://lauramanivong.wordpress.com/

1. What is Escaping the Tiger about?

Caught in the crossroads of history, can a boy keep his hope—and his sister—alive?

Twelve-year old Vonlai knows that soldiers who guard the Mekong River shoot at anything that moves, but in oppressive Communist Laos, there’s nothing left for him, his spirited sister, Dalah, and his desperate parents. Their only hope is a refugee camp in Thailand—on the other side of the river.
When they reach the camp, their struggles are far from over. Na Pho is a forgotten place where life consists of squalid huts, stifling heat, and rationed food. Still, Vonlai tries to carry on as if everything is normal. He pays attention in school, a dusty barrack overcrowded with kids too hungry to learn. And, to forget his empty stomach, he plays soccer in a field full of rocks. But when someone inside the camp threatens his family, Vonlai calls on a forbidden skill to protect their future—a future he’s sure is full of promise, if only they can make it out of Na Pho alive.

2. The story is inspired by the experiences of your husband’s family. What in their experience inspired you to write this novel?

I’ve always been amazed by their happy-go-lucky approach to life, despite the hardships that could break a person’s spirit. My day-to-day annoyances were suddenly trivial once the details of their history started coming to light. It’s that hopeful attitude that I infused into my main character as a reminder to myself, and hopefully readers, that a tiny bit of opportunity can lead to great things, as long as you choose to not let the little things drag you down.

3. How did you fill the gap between fact and fiction to create a compelling story? What inspired the part of the story that didn’t come from your husband’s experiences?

Parts of the story that didn’t come from my husband’s experiences came from others in the Laotian community. The refugee camps were more dangerous in the time period before my husband’s family was there, and I drew on those episodes to keep the level of danger always lurking around my characters.

4. You’ve been a TV writer/producer for 17 years. Is anything in your job experience useful to you in writing fiction?

Sure. I write advertising copy almost everyday. You have 30 seconds to get a message across. And in that message, you consider your audience, you consider word choice— who has time for a bunch of adverbs (sound familiar?) when you have half a minute? You want to generate interest off the top, you want to keep the audience engaged, and in commercials that are more conceptual, you want to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. Not that different from writing a novel for young readers, except that you need about 50,000 more words.

5. Escaping the Tiger is being released on March 9, 2010. Is it your first published book?

In 2006, Scholastic/ Children’s Press published a work-for hire project, a Rookie Reader titled One Smart Fish.

6. Escaping the Tiger could certainly be categorized as a boylit book. What do you think makes the story appealing to boys?

Maybe it’s the “boys will be boys” approach. Even on the opposite side of the world from American readers, in a different culture, centered around an experience that most readers will luckily never have, boys still play rough, get in trouble, make locker-room style jokes, deal with bullies, fight with their siblings, and like a good, fast, physical sport—in this case, soccer.

7. At 224 pages, Escaping the Tiger is within the page range that reluctant readers favor. Was any thought given to targeting this novel to reluctant readers or did the story just develop that way organically?

Not so much in the writing of the novel, but when it came to the marketing of it, I wanted to make sure the jacket copy was reflective of details that might appeal to boys who don’t want to read a lofty novel with a message about life. That’s why the first sentence on the inside flap mentions getting shot at, and a subsequent sentence highlights the soccer theme. And in the book trailer I produced, you hear gunfire in the opening scene, and there’s a big ol’ knife hacking into wood, danger, and more soccer images.

8. Which authors have inspired you as a writer?

Linda Sue Park, John Green, Marcus Zusak, Shannon Hale, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Ellen Wittlinger

 

Q&A with Kurtis Scaletta

28 Feb

Kurtis Scaletta is the author of Mudville, Mamba Point, and Wake, Me.  He has agreed to subject himself to my rudimentary interviewing skills for the sake of the cause.  Visit his website at http://kurtisscaletta.com

Mudville, by Kurtis Scaletta
Mudville, by Kurtis Scaletta

1. Your book Mudville is already available for purchase and you have two more novels coming out.   Mamba Point will be out in July and Wake Me is scheduled to come out in 2011.  Each of them is completely different from the others.  Can you give us a brief description of them?

Here are the Twitter-length synopses of all three books.

MUDVILLE is about a baseball game that’s been in a rain delay for 22 years, and the kids who make up the game when the rain finally stops.

MAMBA POINT is about a kid who moves to Liberia & discovers he has a magical connection to mambas, one of the deadliest snakes in the world.

WAKE, ME is about a town overrun by a giant luminous fungus and two teens who believe that the fungus portends the town’s doom.

2.  Do the novels have a common element despite their apparent dissimilarity?

One thread that runs through all my books is a sense of magic about nature that is blurred with science. I like to tread a line between improbable and impossible. Another thread is family. Brothers and parents figure into all three books. So even though these three books seem to fall into different genres — sports, animals, scary stories — they’re pretty similar in some ways.

3.  Where did the inspiration come from for each novel?

Mudville and Wake, ME are both driven by a premise.  A town where it’s always raining, or a massive fungus taking over a town. Mamba Point really began with a setting. I wanted to write about my time in Africa and didn’t know what story to tell. I had a pretty sketchy idea of it going in, but really found my inspiration in a book about African folklore. The magical connection to wild animals really resonated to me. I already had the title, so it was easy to think, OK, this can be a boy and his snake story.

4.  How would you describe your literary style?

I guess it’s matter of fact and lightly humorous. I write in the first person. I have to stay in a kid’s head to keep my prose kid friendly instead of getting pedantic, which is my true nature.

5.  Mudville, Mamba Point, and Wake, Me each have young male protagonists.  Did you set out to write books for boys?

I try to write the kinds of books I liked as a boy, so I guess it follows that I am writing for boys. I don’t strategize that way, though. I don’t think, “here’s a market I’m writing for,” I’m just writing books that feel right to me and sometimes they turn out to be boyish books. In some ways I’m against the grain of what people call boy books — no breathless action, no gross-out humor. But boys are a varied lot and so are their books.

6.  Did you give any thought to the prospective audiences for these books when you were writing or editing them?

I know where the boundaries are for middle grade and sometimes have to pull back from darker material. And sometimes I remove words and phrases that a kid wouldn’t use — my editor helps me spot these. But for the content, I let my gut tell me what to write about.

7.  Have you written any other novels?  If so, do any of them have girl protagonists?

Yes, I have three manuscripts in a drawer that have girl protagonists. Two of the three have strong supporting boy characters, though. I haven’t given up completely on any of them, and there’s one in particular I would like to revive about a girl who wants a pet rabbit and a neighbor boy who goes through a ridiculous series of steps to get her one.

8.  What are you working on now?

I’m still working on the first draft of WAKE, ME — I have a whole complete manuscript, but it’s not in good enough shape to share with my editor. So I’m working on that, and I have some other logs on the fire. I’m far enough along in WAKE, ME to wonder, OK, what’s next?

9. Which authors have inspired you as a writer?

Probably my two biggest inspirations are Daniel Pinkwater and Betsy Byars. I read everything by both of them when I was a kid. I can still be inspired by a great book. M.T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing books and Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me both inspired me in a different ways — to set high expectations for young readers, to take chances on weird narratives. Or James Preller’s Six Innings, which had a neat but simple concept. As writers we’re so worried about elevator speeches and the wow factor, but a book like that reminds you that not every book needs an outlandish premise. “These kids play a baseball game” is enough if you can create believable characters and make the reader care about them.

10.  Are there any sequels in the works for Mudville, Mambo Point, or Wake, Me?

Nope, I don’t think any of those books need a sequel. I did cut out a back story in Mudville during editing that I’d like to revisit, but it would be a prequel.

11.  If you had to compare your novels to other books, which would you choose?

It’s easiest with Mudville because there’s a guy named John H. Ritter who’s mixed that magical realism with baseball and done a bang-up job of it. But my next two books are tougher to compare to anything else that’s out there. I hope that means I’m moving in a good direction.

12.  Please tell us about your infatuation with puppets and, if you have a “day job” and it’s not being a puppeteer, what is it?

Yes, I love puppets, and I actually was a professional puppeteer, for a short time and long ago. It all goes back to loving the Muppets as a kid. I still like them and never outgrew them. I think every writer should pick up a puppet once in a while. It’s a fun way to experiment with characters and voices. But my day job is in instructional technology. I almost never get to use puppets.

13.  What do you think our schools can do to improve literacy in young boys?

Schools can only do so much. I think men have to read and share books with boys, and Scieszka’s Guys Read is a great program for that. At a bigger level, guys have to take an interest in kids books and kids reading. They have to become teachers and librarians and editors and agents. There’s great guys in all those fields, but they’re a small percentage. I like what Shaun Hutchinson said on his blog about just giving a boy a book, too. It’s a small thing, but just hand a boy a book and say here, I thought you’d like this.

14.  How can authors make their books more interesting to boys?  Are there specific characteristics of a novel that appeals to boys?

I  think boys are too diverse a group to say anything generic about their tastes. Sure, there’s a lot of love for adventure stories and humor. Those have always been popular with kids and always will be. But it bothers me a bit that boy books are presumed to be either a breathless all-action story or a zany comic novel. I think that communicates something to boys about how we see them — it’s like giving barbie dolls to girls. We aim to give them what they want, but we inadvertently tell them what they want, if that makes sense. We tell them what they should want. I’d like to see a broader idea of what makes a boy book. Rick Riordian and Jeff Kinney are terrific, no doubt about it, but there’s lots of other stuff boys might like and read.

As for writers — Carl, you know me from the Verla Kay boards so you know how I hate rules and dictums. I would just say to follow your nose. If you think you have a good story, you probably do. And if you read a lot in English you can probably write in English. But if I had to make a rule, I’d say to take boys seriously. They aren’t to be trifled with.  I’ve read some manuscripts that were poorly researched, or kind of patronizing — boys aren’t dumb. They’ll see right through that, and so will agents and editors.

Thanks a lot for these questions, they’ve made me think a lot about things…

Best,

– Kurtis

 

Ten Questions for Author Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

25 Feb


Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen is the Author of The Compound, an ALA 2009 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, and several picture books.  Stephanie has been gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.  Visit her website at http://www.rockforadoll.com.

1. What is The Compound about?

TC is about fifteen –year-old Eli, who for the past six years has lived with his wealthy immediate family in an underground compound after a nuclear explosion. His identical twin brother was left on the outside.

2. What is the recommended age group for The Compound?

12+   I know a lot of English teachers are using it in their 8th and 9th grade classes.

3. The story has been described as “compelling.”  Many readers have said that they couldn’t put it down until they finished it.  What do you think it is about the story that makes it so compelling?

It is quite fast-paced . I purposely ended my chapters with moments that a reader could not easily ignore or just put down for the night.

4. Most of your published books are picture books.  What inspired you to write a dystopian book with a male main character?

My first picture book came out in 1998, which was also the year I wrote my first novel. I actually wrote nine novels in the following eight years, but TC is the first that I got right. And I’m a big sci-fi, dystopian, apocalyptic movie and book person, so I think TC is way more “me” than my picture books.

5.   Were you at all worried that reluctant readers would skip the prologue?

I’m a major reader, and I would never even think about skipping a prologue. Some very major things are explained in the prologue of TC, and it is a page-turner, so I really hope readers read the prologue.

6. The Compound is an ALA 2009 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.  What do you think makes the story appealing to reluctant readers?

The fast pace, the psychotic dad, the dynamic with Eli and his family… Also the mystery Eli has to solve, and on which everything depends. There are a lot of eye-opening moments in the book that I think appeal to the reluctant reader. And this has been affirmed by a lot of English teachers who say it’s been one of the first books that even their most reluctant readers have enjoyed reading.

7. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience for this book when you were writing it?

Originally, Eli was sixteen. But my editor thought that was kind of a cut-off point for younger readers, so we made him a year younger. I didn’t know that so many younger readers would like it so well, but in Missouri the book is a finalist for the state reading awards in both the middle grade  and young adult categories.

8. Which authors have inspired you as a writer?

Growing up I read a lot of Judy Blume, the Narnia books, all the Oz books, and pretty much anything I could find in the Scholastic book order. I read my first Stephen King book when I was fifteen and I was hooked. He’s my absolute favorite. Besides being a master of plot, his characters could walk off the page and I learn so much about writing just by reading him. I recommend his marvelous book about writing “On Writing” to any writer.

9. Do you have any other books in the works that might appeal to boys?

My next YA The Gardener comes out in May. The main character is also a fifteen-year-old boy and it’s a tinge more sci-fi than TC. My barometer is my cousin’s fourteen-year-old son. He loved TC, but thinks The Gardener is better.

10. If you had to describe The Compound by comparing it to two or more other books/stories, which would you choose?

I’ve seen people recommend it to people who liked books like Neal Shusterman’s Unwind or Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Know It. It’s different than those, but probably would appeal to the same group of readers.


Thank you, Stephanie!