This is an interview Beth Fehlbaum did with me for her blog several months ago. She's switching blogs, and this will disappear, so I'm copying it here.
What's your book about?
Sunlight is a story about innocence and holding on to the idea that there’s magic in the world. Sol is a teenage boy whose mother recently died. His father can’t handle him, so he dumps Sol off on Sol’s aunt and uncle, who live on a sunflower farm Sol’s mom grew up on. But once he gets there, weird things start happening, and Sol starts to realize a fairy tale his mother told him when he was a child just might be true.
What inspired you to write it?
The book is set on a farm in Arkansas, which is a similar place to where I grew up. I wanted to capture the tone of Arkansas, which is something I haven’t seen in many books. It’s an odd place – mostly very rural. The people tend to be fiercely independent.
Has the reality of being published been different than you thought it would be?
I’ve been publishing stories, poems, plays, etc. in journals for about a decade. I’ve got a couple of poetry collections out, and a short story collection, in addition to Sunlight. I’ve also got a novel and another poetry collection coming out next year. I don’t really know what I expected from publishing, but what I do know is that publishing, itself, isn’t that difficult. Promoting books is difficult. You’ve got to get out there and do readings, interviews, blog, etc. etc. I love doing readings – I try to do them as often as I can (1-2 a month) but it’s been difficult since my daughter was born.
Do you write from an outline or are you a "pantser"?
I have a really tight schedule – I work a lot, my wife and I have a 1 month old daughter, so I don’t have a lot of time. So I tend to write from outlines just because of the time issue. I do a lot of work up front getting ready for the book, so that when I sit down to write, I can move through it pretty quickly.
Who's your favorite author? What is it about his or her writing that has made you a fan?
I have a few favorite authors. One who comes to mind is Terry Pratchett, who writes the Disc World books. These are sort of parody fantasy books. Pratchett is hilarious. I highly recommend him. I also love Italo Calvino, who wrote magical realism. Lately, though, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction, mostly historical books on race, anthropology, and some philosophy. Oh, and zombie books.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have a "day job"? What do you do in your "day job"?
I’m a high school teacher and college counselor. As a college counselor, I work with mostly juniors/seniors to help them find and apply to colleges. I also visit lots of colleges so that I can get a feel for them and figure out if they’d be a good fit for my kids. It’s very time consuming in the fall, though around the beginning of the year, I have a little bit of time to write.
What's the last book you read that you still haven't been able to shake off? What was it about the book that stayed with you?
Right now I’m reading After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh, which is exactly what it sounds like – stories set after ‘the apocalypse,’ whatever that means – some of them are about zombies, some occur after a plague. The thing that makes this stand out is they’re really smart stories with a global perspective that use the conceit of being post-apocalyptic to deal with some really important issues like globalism, xenophobia, etc. I’m about halfway through it. I review a lot of books for various journals when I can, so I read a lot of recent small press poetry, short story collections, and novels. Honestly, most of these don’t stand out.
Why YA as opposed to some other genre?
I don’t tend to write YA. I wrote Sunlight as YA because that’s what the story was. I think the teen years are some of the hardest to get through because there’s so much change going on, and that makes for great stories. Also, teenagers’ brains are different from adults – they’re still developing, which means they have different and interesting perspectives. I think I have a couple more YA books in me, though I will continue to write non-YA books as well.
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