33 posts categorized "Interviews" Feed

WBBT: Wednesday

Please join me in wishing our WBBT creator, Colleen Mondor, a very happy birthday today!! Here is today's Winter Blog Blast Tour schedule.

Lisa Ann Sandell at Interactive Reader
Christopher Barzak at Chasing Ray
Julie Halpern at The Ya Ya Yas
Micol Ostow at Shaken & Stirred
Rick Yancey at Hip Writer Mama
Jane Yolen at Fuse Number 8
Shannon Hale at Bookshelves of Doom
Maureen Johnson at Bildungsroman
David Lubar at Writing & Ruminating
Sherman Alexie at Finding Wonderland

Be sure to check out some of these great interviews! Updated at 2 pm to add direct links to each interview.


WBBT: Gabrielle Zevin Interview

Today I'm happy to welcome Gabrielle Zevin on one of two stops that she'll be making for the Winter Blog Blast Tour (you can also catch her at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast). Gabrielle is the author of two of my favorite YA novels: Elsewhere (reviewed here) and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (reviewed here, with Jules and Eisha from 7-Imp).

Elsewhere is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Liz who dies in a sudden accident, and finds herself headed for "Elsewhere". In Elsewhere, people age backwards, until they are seven days old, at which point they are bundled up and sent back to be reborn. It's much more upbeat than it sounds. Liz is a strong, engaging character who goes through some struggles, and learns a great deal about life from her death.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Naomi who, after a sudden fall down the front steps of her school, can't remember the past four years of her life. Not certain she's pleased with the person she's become during adolescence, Naomi embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of her own life.

As you can see from the above, Gabrielle is a master of developing intriguing premises. What makes her books worth coming back for, however, is her knack for humor, and her three-dimensional characterization. I've asked Gabrielle about both of her YA books (she also has an adult title, Margarettown, which I haven't had a chance to read). I think that you'll enjoy her responses.

Q: Your website says that you were a big reader as a kid. Was there an unusual place that you liked to read? (For example, I used to read up in a tree in my yard, and sometimes on the roof when I could get away with it).

I read in the greenhouse at my elementary school in Chappaqua, NY. It was warm, and plants make for excellent reading companions.

Q: Who would you rather hang out with: Liz from Elsewhere or Naomi from Memoirs?

Naomi -- deeply flawed people make for more interesting friends.

Q: Who do you think would be a better boyfriend: Owen from Elsewhere or Will from Memoirs?

Definitely Will. He's smarter and more verbal than Owen.

Q: Both Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac deal with identity, explored in different ways. Liz looks back at her family via the Observation Deck, and gets a perspective on the hole that she's left behind. Naomi looks at herself in the mirror, and looks through her things, to figure out who she's become in the past four years. Do you think that figuring out who we are is a universal compulsion? Or is it more of a teen thing?

I think we "come of age" our whole lives which is why I find it hilarious that we tend to refer to novels about teenagers as "coming of age" novels.

What is Madame Bovary, for example, if not a coming of age novel? There are only two great subjects for books and for life: the first is how to grow up and the second is how to die.

Q: I think you might be a bit young for it, but did you ever watch Pretty in Pink? Because the 7-Imps and I kind of thought that Will reminded us of Duckie from that movie. He's delightfully unconventional.

I watched Pretty in Pink again for you! I hadn't seen it since I was really little. I think Will is both smarter and more ambitious than Ducky. When I was in high school, my dad used to always tell me, "The nerds make the best boyfriends." Will, like Ducky, was that guy you should have dated.

Q: I think that you have a real knack for interesting premises. What comes first for you: the premise or the characters?

The premise comes first. And then I have to forget the premise, as strange as that probably sounds. Once I have the characters, I must write for them or everything in the story will be false. And to further complicate matters, I find that the characters usually change the premise as I go along.

Characters don't tend to care about my initial thoughts for the premise at all.

Q: Is it hard to write about your characters when they're difficult, or making bad decisions? Like when Liz is thinking about going back to Earth early, and when Naomi is thoughtless towards Will regarding the mix tape he gave her. I think that these things give the books tremendous depth, but it just seems like it would be tough to write, because you'd want your protagonists to be smart and nice all the time.

It isn't particularly hard -- except that every bad decision makes the book longer! I'm not "smart and nice all the time" and so I don't expect my characters to be either. Sometimes, it seems like the worst quality a girl is allowed to have in a YA novel is a charming clumsiness. Or occasionally yells at her brother. Or something else that isn't really a flaw at all.

Q: I loved the concept of people finding their avocation in Elsewhere. You touched on this again in Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (when Naomi muses about how Will is passionate about the yearbook, and Alice her play). And your other interviews suggest that you've found your avocation as a writer. Where does this come from for you as a necessary theme? Do you think that people in general would be happier if they went after their avocations/passions earlier, and with more directness?

You might get the idea from ELSEWHERE that I believe in reincarnation or multiple lives -- well, I don't. I really believe that you only go around once, and we must must must fit all of it in. On the other side of that, I don't necessarily think that work and life are the same things. My dad and mom both worked in computers, but had incredibly creative "after 5 PM" lives.

Q: Another theme that recurs in your two YA books is loss. Liz loses her family (and they her), Owen loses his wife, Will loses his father, and James loses his brother. Naomi loses herself in amnesia, and learns that she's estranged herself from her mother. And yes, despite all this loss, the books are both essentially upbeat. How do you pull that off?

Well, book writing is a cheap sort of therapy for me. This is to say, most of my books have been a sort of elaborate pep talk to myself. I usually start a story because I've been asking some question in my personal life.

With MEMOIRS, my grandmother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and the question I was asking was, Is a person more than his or her memories and experiences? With ELSEWHERE, September 11th had happened and my dog had a lump and I had a series of other personal tragedies, and the question I was asking was, How do we live in the world when it is filled with so much loss? So, I write books to find answers. ELSEWHERE could have gone many ways -- I didn't necessarily think when I started that it would end up as hopefully as it did.

Q: Amnesiac has lots of flashes of humor (Elsewhere may, too, but I don't have quotes, because I only have it on MP3). Does the humor come naturally for you as you're writing, or is that something you add in on revisions?

I'm always looking for the humor in a situation. Life is better with laughter, and so are books.

Q: Any progress on the possible prequel to Elsewhere that you mention on your website? Or was that not serious? Is there anything else that you're working on that you can tell us about?

No progress to report, my dear -- if I should every write a prequel to ELSEWHERE, I think it would be interesting for me to be MUCH, MUCH older when I did it -- I was twenty-five when I wrote ELSEWHERE. Currently, I am in the midst of a book for the grown ups and in the glorious beginning of something for the children.

Thanks so much for your time, Gabrielle! It's been wonderful getting to know you better, after enjoying your YA books so much.

Further reading:

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.


WBBT: Tuesday

Here is today's Winter Blog Blast Tour schedule:

Lisa Ann Sandell at Chasing Ray
Perry Moore at Interactive Reader
Christopher Barzak at Shaken & Stirred
Autumn Cornwell at The Ya Ya Yas
Jon Scieszka at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Gabrielle Zevin at Jen Robinson's Book Page
Judy Blume at Not Your Mother's Book Club
Erik P. Kraft at Bookshelves of Doom
Clare Dunkle at Miss Erin

Do go check out today's interviews, including my interview with the fabulous Gabrielle Zevin. (Updated 1:00 pm to add direct links to the above posts)


WBBT: Monday

Here is today's Winter Blog Blast Tour schedule:

Perry Moore at The Ya Ya Yas (Part One, Part 2)
Nick Abadzis at Chasing Ray
Carrie Jones at Hip Writer Mama
Phyllis Root at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Amy Schlitz at Fuse Number 8
Kerry Madden at lectitans
Tom Sniegoski at Bildungsroman
Connie Willis at Finding Wonderland

Do go check out these amazing interviews! Thanks to Little Willow for direct links to today's interviews (clicking on the author name goes to the direct interview, clicking on the blog name goes to the main page of the blog).


Winter Blog Blast Tour

The schedule is now available for next week's Winter Blog Blast Tour, brainchild of Colleen Mondor from Chasing Ray. The Winter Blog Blast Tour (WBBT) is a series of nearly 50 children's and YA author interviews taking place across some 20 blogs during the same week. As you can see below, it is going to be amazing! Here's the schedule so far, as taken from Chasing Ray. A few other interviews may be added at the last minute, but these should all be good to go. I'll be posting interviews with Gabrielle Zevin and Rick Riordan. I hope you'll all stop by.

MONDAY

Perry Moore at The Ya Ya Yas
Nick Abadzis at Chasing Ray
Carrie Jones at Hip Writer Mama
Phyllis Root at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Amy Schlitz at Fuse Number 8
Kerry Madden at lectitans
Tom Sniegoski at Bildungsroman
Connie Willis at Finding Wonderland

TUESDAY

Lisa Ann Sandell at Chasing Ray
Perry Moore at Interactive Reader
Christopher Barzak at Shaken & Stirred
Autumn Cornwell at The Ya Ya Yas
Jon Scieszka at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Gabrielle Zevin at Jen Robinson's Book Page
Judy Blume at Not Your Mother's Book Club
Erik P. Kraft at Bookshelves of Doom
Clare Dunkle at Miss Erin

WEDNESDAY

Lisa Ann Sandell at Interactive Reader
Christopher Barzak at Chasing Ray
Julie Halpern at The Ya Ya Yas
Micol Ostow at Shaken & Stirred
Rick Yancey at Hip Writer Mama
Jane Yolen at Fuse Number 8
Shannon Hale at Bookshelves of Doom
Maureen Johnson at Bildungsroman
David Lubar at Writing & Ruminating
Sherman Alexie at Finding Wonderland

THURSDAY

David Mack at Chasing Ray
Paul Volponi at The Ya Ya Yas
Elizabeth Knox at Shaken & Stirred
Ellen Emerson White at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy
Jack Gantos at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
David Levithan at Not Your Mother's Book Club
Micol Ostow at Bildungsroman
Laura Amy Schlitz at Miss Erin
Kerry Madden at Hip Writer Mama
Sherman Alexie at Interactive Reader

FRIDAY

Loree Griffin Burns at Chasing Ray
Lily Archer at The Ya Ya Yas
Rick Riordan at Jen Robinson's Book Page
Gabrielle Zevin at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Dia Calhoun at lectitans
Shannon Hale at Miss Erin
Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple at Shaken & Stirred
Alan Gratz at Interactive Reader
Lisa Yee at Hip Writer Mama

SATURDAY

Blake Nelson at The Ya Ya Yas


Readergirlz: Live Chat with Holly Black

I'm posting the following announcement from readergirlz:

"Join readergirlz on our group forum for our hour-long live chat with Ironside and Tithe author Holly Black!

Thursday, August 23rd

Chat Reminder:
1. Look for the title August: Holly Black Live Chat -- which will come up on the forum Beginning at 7 PM Pacific / 10 PM Eastern.

2. Remember to hit the "refresh" button every few seconds to see the newest posts as the posts go by Fast. Otherwise you'll be wondering where everyone is :)

3. The first reader on the chat to post a quote that reflects Tithe or Ironside will get a signed copy of Avielle of Rhia by Dia Calhoun! The second to join and post a quote will get Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey.

SO . . .

Come chat with Holly Black about the joys and frustrations of writing fantasy.

Here's your chance to ask her all those questions you've been saving up and to explore her tantalizing faery world."


Final SBBT Wrap-Up

Here is the final recap of the Summer Blog Blast Tour, with thanks to HipWriterMama and Lectitans for compiling and organizing the links. And of course, huge thanks for Colleen Mondor for conceiving of and organizing the whole thing. You might enjoy reading Colleen's post about the logistics of the enterprise. Here's the recap by author, with direct links to each interview.

Holly Black at The YA YA YAs
Holly Black at Shaken & Stirred
Holly Black at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

David Brin at Chasing Ray

Eddie Campbell at Chasing Ray

Cecil Castellucci at Shaken & Stirred
Cecil Castellucci at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Svetlana Chmakova at Finding Wonderland

Chris Crutcher at Bookshelves of Doom
Chris Crutcher at Finding Wonderland

Christopher Golden at Bildungsroman

Brent Hartinger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Brent Hartinger at Interactive Reader

Sonya Hartnett at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Justina Chen Headley at HipWriterMama
Justina Chen Headley at Big A, little a
Justina Chen Headley at Finding Wonderland

Tom & Dorothy Hoobler at Chasing Ray

Kazu Kibuishi at Finding Wonderland
Kazu Kibuishi at lectitans

Justine Larbalestier at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Justine Larbalestier at Big A, little a
Justine Larbalestier at HipWriterMama

Carolyn Mackler at The YA YA YAs

Bennett Madison at Shaken & Stirred
Bennett Madison at Bookshelves of Doom

Hilary McKay at Bookshelves of Doom

Kirsten Miller at Jen Robinson's Book Page
Kirsten Miller at Miss Erin
Kirsten Miller at A Fuse #8 Production: Part One and Part Two

Mitali Perkins at Big A, little a
Mitali Perkins at HipWriterMama
Mitali Perkins at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Julie Anne Peters at A Fuse #8 Production: Part One & Part Two
Julie Anne Peters at Finding Wonderland

Dana Reinhardt at lectitans
Dana Reinhardt at Interactive Reader
Dana Reinhardt at Bildungsroman

Laura Ruby at Writing and Ruminating
Laura Ruby at Miss Erin
Laura Ruby at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Laura Ruby at The YA YA YAs

Jordan Sonnenblick at Bildungsroman
Jordan Sonnenblick at Writing and Ruminating
Jordan Sonnenblick at Jen Robinson's Book Page

Shaun Tan at A Fuse #8 Production

Tim Tharp at Chasing Ray

Ysabeau Wilce at Finding Wonderland
Ysabeau Wilce at Bildungsroman
Ysabeau Wilce at Shaken & Stirred

Gene Yang at Finding Wonderland

Sara Zarr at Interactive Reader
Sara Zarr at Big A, little a
Sara Zarr at Writing and Ruminating

By all reckoning, the SBBT was a success. Lots of great interviews, lots of great exposure for a wonderful and diverse set of authors. Thanks so much to everyone who participated, to the people who read the interviews, and especially those of you who took time to comment. I hope that everyone found new and interesting book recommendations. As for the team of bloggers who brought you the SBBT, we're not done yet. We'll be back with other exciting projects. Stay tuned!


SBBT: Day 7 Schedule

Today have the final interview of the Summer Blog Blast Tour, in which Readergirlz diva Justina Chen Headley wraps things up at Finding Wonderland. Overall, we've had more than fifty author interviews, with a variety of authors, covering a variety of genres. It's been thought-provoking and inspiring. Huge round of applause for Colleen Mondor and the other bloggers, and for all of the wonderful authors who showed their faith in the Kidlitosphere by participating. Thanks for visiting with the SBBT team. I'm sure that we'll be back in the future with more to say.

Saturday, June 23
Justina Chen Headley finishes out the week at Finding Wonderland


SBBT: Day 6 Schedule

The Summer Blog Blast Tour is nearing it's close, at our sixth out of seven days of fabulous author interviews, but still going strong. Today we have ten more interviews, including a first appearance by Tim Tharp. I can't wait to go read more books by our participating authors, can you?

Friday, June 22
Tim Tharp at Chasing Ray
Justina Chen Headley at Big A, little a
Ysabeau Wilce at Shaken & Stirred
Dana Reinhardt at Bildungsroman
Julie Ann Peters at Finding Wonderland
Cecil Castellucci at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Bennett Madison at Bookshelves of Doom
Holly Black at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Justine Larbalestier at Hip Writer Mama
Kirsten Miller at A Fuse #8 Production (Part Two)


SBBT: Jordan Sonnenblick Interview

I'm pleased to welcome Jordan Sonneblick today as part of the Summer Blog Blast Tour. Jordan is the author of Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie (review) and Notes from the Midnight Driver (review). Both are laugh-out-loud funny books, despite being based on serious underlying topics. Drums, Girls is about a 13-year-old boy whose pesky younger brother is diagnosed with cancer. Midnight Driver is about a 16-year-old boy who steps out of line and is sentenced to community service visiting with a crusty old man. What makes them funny is the wry, self-deprecating and utterly believable voices that Jordan brings to each of his characters. My questions are in bold.

Thanks for being here today, Jordan. First question, did you read a lot as a kid?

The DARK IS RISING sequence, by Susan Cooper, was the big turning point. After I read her books, I was hooked for life.

Tell me about a favorite and/or unusual place that you've read books (as a child or an adult)?

No special spot -- I will read ANYWHERE!

When did you start writing? Or did you always write?

I always wrote when I was a kid. Then I basically took a break from the end of high school right up until the day I started writing DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE. Apparently, the fifteen-year hiatus was a necessary part of my development.

Your website says that you are a middle school English teacher. Are you still teaching full-time?

I am on a two-year leave of absence, but I am planning to go back in fall 2009. I meet tons of kids on school visits, but I miss having my OWN students.

Both of your books feature musicians. For Steven from Drums, Girls, especially, music is his thing - what he can get lost in, and know that he's doing something great. Your website picture shows you holding a guitar. Do you play drums, too? Have you ever played in a band? Or the school band?

I play drums, guitar, and bass. If I just had some more arms, I could be a fairly decent rock band.

Both Steven and Alex go through significant personal growth in their respective books. They each start out not quite doing the right thing, and even railing against what they know they're supposed to be doing. Steven has trouble being there for the sick younger brother who adores him. And Alex starts out feeling quite sorry for himself for having to spend time with the crusty Sol in a nursing home. Did you, as the author, always know that they would evolve to do the right thing? Or were you figuring it out along the way with them?

I'm a big pre-plotter. Both DRUMS and NOTES were very heavily outlined beforehand. I don't generally know how characters are going to interact in each specific scene, but I do know, in broad strokes, how the protagonists will change, and I always know the last line of the book before I start writing. I sort of think a good analogy would be to a road-trip vacation: you have roadmaps, or Mapquest directions or whatever, and you know the kids are going to fight in the car -- but you have no idea how and when each fight will arise. Even within a tight outline, your characters will surprise you just as your kids do.

One of my favorite thing about both of your books is their narrative voice, in each case wryly sarcastic, sometimes self-deprecating, and utterly believable as the voice of a teenage boy (though there are certainly > differences between Steven and Alex). What I'm wondering is, does this voice stem more from your own internal 14-year-old, or from spending time with kids as a teacher and visitor to schools?

I have certainly learned a ton from my students in the 14 years I've spent as a teacher, but I think that mostly comes out in my plot details. My continued sense of teen-boy voice is almost totally a result of my general immaturity.

Your books make me laugh out loud, and I heard that same feedback recently from a 12-year-old girl who I know. Does this humor come naturally in your early writing, or is it something that you add more on revision? I find it especially interesting because both of your books deal with such serious topics.

For me, funny is easy as I'm drafting -- I was always the smart-mouthed kid who got kicked out of class. The serious parts are the challenge. Truthfully, I think that the reason I couldn't write for fifteen years before DRUMS was because I needed some life experiences -- marriage, becoming a parent, being a teacher -- so that I could become a person who could handle being serious in print.

I love the character of Sol from Midnight Driver. Was Sol, and/or Alex's relationship with someone elderly and different from him, inspired by some real-life person or event? I remember reading that you wrote Drums, Girls at least in part in response to a girl from one of your classes, who had a younger sibling with cancer, and wondered if that was the case with Notes from the Midnight Driver.

Sol is a composite character: he's basically a combination of my favorite grandfather's vocabulary and personality, the illness (and reaction to it) of a roommate my grandfather had in the hospital a week before I started writing NOTES, and a totally made-up musical career. The biggest of those three components is my Grampa Sol, who was always extremely crusty and snappish with everyone else in the world, but endlessly warm and attentive with me. He was also a teacher and writer, so obviously his influence on me was just huge. Grampa Sol is 96 years old now, fairly docile, and quite senile, so it was really important for me to capture some of his old fierceness on the page.

Are you working on another book? Is there anything that you can tell us about it? Will we find out more about Alex and Laurie in the next book? (It was such a pleasant surprise to see Steven from Drums, Girls, show up in Midnight Driver.)

My next two books are finished already, so I'm just chomping at the bit for their pub dates to roll around. ZEN AND THE ART OF FAKING IT will be published by Scholastic in October, and is about an 8th grader who lies to his whole school, mostly to impress a girl. Then, in the spring, a new division of Holtzbrinck, called Feiwel & Friends, will publish my first middle-grade novel, tentatively titled DODGER & ME. I wrote D&M for my 9-year-old son; it's about baseball, an imaginary blue chimp, and what happens when girls stop being yucky.

Links:


SBBT: Day 5 Schedule

And the interviews just keep on coming at the Summer Blog Blast Tour. Eleven more interviews today, including first appearances by authors Eddie Campbell and Cecil Castellucci. My interview with the oh-so-funny Jordan Sonnenblick will be posting today. What do you all think? Has the SBBT been a success?

Thursday, June 21
Eddie Campbell at Chasing Ray
Sara Zarr at Writing and Ruminating
Brent Hartinger at Interactive Reader
Justine Larbalestier at Big A, little a
Cecil Castellucci at Shaken & Stirred
Ysabeau Wilce at Bildungsroman
Jordan Sonnenblick at Jen Robinson's Book Page
Chris Crutcher at Finding Wonderland
Kazu Kibuishi at lectitans
Mitali Perkins at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Ruby at The YA YA YAs


SBBT: Day 4 Schedule

And here we are with Day 4 of the Summer Blog Blast Tour. Are you beginning to get a sense of the care and effort that have gone into putting together all of these interviews? Of course most of the credit goes to the SBBT's creator and organizer, Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray. Lots of new authors to hear from today, not to mention a few you should be getting to know fairly well by now. Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 20
Mitali Perkins at HipWriterMama
Svetlana Chmakova at Finding Wonderland
Dana Reinhardt at Interactive Reader
Laura Ruby at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Holly Black at Shaken & Stirred
Hilary McKay at Bookshelves of Doom
Kirsten Miller at Miss Erin
Julie Ann Peters at A Fuse #8 Production (Part Two)
Carolyn Mackler at The YA YA YAs
Jordan Sonnenblick at Writing and Ruminating