NAW- Tell us about your book, Minion.How did you get the idea for it?How long did it take to finish the book?
The idea actually came to me while writing Sidekicked. As much as that book explored the moral ambiguity of its world, it did so from the perspective of a protagonist whose allegiances were ultimately never in question. Drew Bean was one of the good guys, even if he was goofy, questioning, insecure, and sometimes discouraged by what he saw. I was curious what the traditional superhero yarn would look like from the other perspective—not the villain’s necessarily, that’s been done—but the sidekick to the villain, his minion. This would give me the chance to draw interesting parallels to the thematic content of Sidekicked while also telling an original story.
NAW- Tell us about the character ofMichael Morn. How did you develop the character?
Michael is an orphan (naturally), raised first by nuns and then later by a doting, mad-scientist, blow up the basement type. His relationship with his adopted father is quite strong, and the two of them rely on each other to get by in a world where breaking the law is sometimes the only means of survival. He is powerful (at least by comparison to the protagonist of Sidekicked), but he’s also conflicted, unsure of when or why to use his powers, uncertain of the world he finds himself in, and especially uncertain of the superhero and the masked villains who suddenly show up in his town and flip everything around. He still copes with the same coming-of-age issues as every bildungsroman youth, but he comes at it from a somewhat darker perspective.
NAW- Tell us about your other works.
All of my works so far tackle the same thematic concerns—trust, family, heroism—and seek to question some of the assumptions we have about right and wrong and how we navigate the thorny choices we have between the two. At the same time, starting with Standard Hero Behavior and continuing on through Sidekicked, I also set out to have fun with genre conventions, creating a tongue-in-cheek style that keeps me from taking all the above stuff too seriously. My goal is always to make the reader have fun, hopefully giving them something to ponder in between the explosions and gags.
NAW- Is it difficult to maintain the voice when writing for the young?
Depends on how old you are. I find it incredibly difficult to maintain an adult voice in my writing, partly because I have a hard time relating to them. I’m basically perpetually twelve years old.I think every narrative voice I create is, in part, a function of my own insecurities, immaturities, and sense of humor. It just comes naturally. Writing for a young audience gives me a greater freedom to explore weighty issues while still having enormous fun.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I do laundry. And dishes. And mow the lawn. I also like to hike, bike, play with my kids (board games, video games, pillow-fight-Armageddon), read, eat chocolate, watch movies, play the piano, pretend to play the ukulele, make fun of things, and scratch my beard.
NAW- When did you decide to become a writer? What was your inspiration?
I always wanted to be a storyteller. I’m not sure the medium mattered at first. I could have just as readily gone into film or visual arts or video game design, except I had even less talent with those than with writing. My high school heroes weren’t athletes or movie stars, though, they were writers. I fell in love with the idea of that relationship—the one between author and reader—so distant and so intimate all at once—and I still get little chills any time I imagine someone actually sitting down with one of my books, getting lost in one of my worlds. As for inspiration—most of my inspiration comes from the paragons whose shoulders I stand on, those authors I’ve fallen in love with. I’m not the kind of writer who gets inspired by the world around me so much as the hundreds of worlds I’ve escaped to over the years.
NAW- Who are your favourite writers?
Too many to name at this point. I’ve given up on having favourites. Instead I have the writers I wish I could be half as good as, and even they are too numerous to count. That said, my formative years went through periods of authorial crushes. I’ve been enamoured with Mark Twain, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Walt Whitman, Chuck Pahlahniuk, Michael Chabon, and Dr. Seuss at various stages.
NAW- Name your five favourite books.
Impossible again. Let’s go with this: Book that changed how I thought about my position in the universe? The Tao of Pooh. Book that taught me the proper balance between dark humor and hope? Huckleberry Finn. Books that I taught every year while at the University of Illinois? White Noise and Kindred. Book that scared me to death? It. Book that I’m one of the few people probably to read three times? Moby Dick. Favourite Hemingway novel? The Sun Also Rises. Book that I would have with me on the deserted island? Robinson Crusoe (sucker for irony). Best book I read in the past month? Storied Life of A.J. Fickry. Book that I will probably never finish despite having started it twice? Gravity’s Rainbow. Favourite Elephant and Piggie book? We Are in a Book. Favourite Harry Potter book? Prisoner of Azkaban. Book that I wrote in grade school: Super Dave and the Deadly Robots of Doom!
NAW- What are your upcoming works?
Up next I head back to fantasy and dungeon diving with a book called The Dungeoneers. It has a barbarian in it. Who can’t stand the sight of her own blood. It should be a romp.