Monday, May 30, 2011

Interview with R.A. Nelson(aka author of some of my favorite-all-time books)

R.A. Nelson, author of some of my favorite books of all-time, is totally awesome and agreed to do an interview with me. Just plain awesome. Author interviews is my favorite part of running a book blog. You get an excuse to email your favorite authors without feeling like a creeper :)

So, pretend we're in school and have to do one of those annoying ice-breakers, what are a few things you'd tell us to get to know you better?

Hmmm....let's see.....even when I was in school I loved a lot of "uncool" stuff like archeology, astronomy, history. But I was also a good athlete, so I would have been kind of hard to pin down. I didn't fit in with the misfits or the jocks or anybody else. I was just "me," basically! I am very interested in life, passionately curious about all sorts of stuff. I was the kid who was very quiet, just listening, but I was also the kid on the campout who couldn't stop yammering about everything under the sun (especially girls) until I was the last one awake.

Do you have a comfort book? You know, one of those books you pick up when you need to feel better? If not, what do you do for a pick me up?

Hmmm...maybe the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson? I love her mind, how she could be so vibrant and brilliant in spite of living such a contained, "small" life. There was also a time when I would have said Watership Down, the book about rabbits having this crazy adventure. Now I'm not so sure. I really like The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean, mainly because it's set in Antarctica, and there is a huge mystery about the possibility of an alien civilization living deep within a place called Symmes Hole. Anything that carries me away from where I am, that feels so timeless and interesting and mysterious is a joy for me. Especially if there is a romance involved.

What one book would you recommend to every reader?

I would say that book of Emily Dickinson poems. Most of her poems are really short, but she packs so much brilliance into her lines that you can read them over and over and still manage to get something new out of them every time. They are also the perfect example of how a writer can do so much in so little space.

Sorry for this cliche, but how did you come up with the idea for Breathe My Name? While reading, I couldn't help think of Andrea Yates; did that influence it at all?

I was really horrified by that case. When I was searching for an idea which ultimately became Breathe My Name, I got closer and closer to this thought of something horrific happening to a girl who is now 17 or 18, but had to live with this horrific thing from her past. Then I suddenly realized where this was headed, that her birth mom had killed her sisters and tried to kill her, and I was shocked and didn't know if I should write something so "dark." It was a difficult book to write, but I found that it actually could be quite an uplifting story, and that the heart of it was a great love story, not the story of what happened when Frances was seven years old. I think maybe I was so disturbed by cases like the Andrea Yates case, that this was kind of my way of subconsciously processing that horror? So I could somehow deal with it? Because when I researched what mothers went through who had this illness/condition, I ultimately felt so sorry for them -- they truly are the victims of an unspeakable illness.

I just wanted to tell you that Teach Me is oddly one of my favorite romance books I've ever read--and I've read a lot. This is not a question but I just wanted to praise you for a little bit :-)
As an aspiring author and reader, I've always wondered if authors are inspired by their favorite authors?

Thanks so much for saying that! An author always loves it when you find out you've touched someone in that way -- like two minds somehow are in synch over the course of the book and you are understood (in both directions, reader and writer). And yes, I'm sure writers are always inspired by their favorites authors. There are so many writers I love, like Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House), Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner and many others), Anne Sexton (incredible tragic poet), Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms is one of my favorite books and he teaches so much about writing simply, yet beautifully). A more recent favorite is Mark Z. Danielewski (House of Leaves). And I loved City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. I get inspiration from all sorts of sources, but from all sorts of sources beyond writing as well. You have to be in love with life -- or at least deeply fascinated by it.

How long did it take you to start writing your novels after you got the idea formed in your head?

It all depends, really, on the scope of the book and how it is written, as well as what else is going on in your life. Teach Me took about 7 months from the time I first wrote the words "Welcome to my head" through the final revision. While Breathe My Name took nearly two years. The structure of Breathe was really challenging to work out. And those first two books I wrote without an outline. I'm still not sure if writing with an outline is better or not. You can definitely write faster with an outline, as I did with Days of Little Texas and my latest book, Throat. both of those books took less than a year to write. But sometimes it takes a good while just to come up with the idea that really sparks your imagination, something you can sustain over all those months and weeks of writing.

What was your reaction the first time you saw your book in a store?

It felt kind of surreal, actually. I didn't jump for joy or gasp or burst into tears. I just stood there looking at it, not quite believing my book was right there, a physical object, squeezed in with all those other published books. I had gotten a box of them beforehand, of course, so it wasn't so much the seeing of it as a reality as it was seeing it in what feels like a sacred place to me, which is any place that sells or stocks books. It's almost more wrenching to see your book on a library shelf, which is kind of the holy of holiest places for a writer, as most of us grew up haunting the library shelves in our local towns.

Do you have any future plans for anymore YA or adult novels?

Yes! I don't want to spill too many secrets just yet, but yes, I’m working on something completely new and crazily different. A book like nothing anyone has ever seen before. So far out of left field, readers just might read the whole book open-mouthed and round-eyed. (Ha, a guy can dream, right?). The working title is BEYOND WHERE I CAN SEE.

Just a few quickies:
Favorite Movie:
This would be so hard to pick! I love movies so much. Here are some of my all-time favorites:
Shakespeare in Love
The Mothman Prophecies
Office Space
Cool Hand Luke
The Secret in Their Eyes
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Notting Hill

Favorite Book:
Again, practically impossible to pick one. Here are a few.
The White Darkness
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The City of Ember
How I Live Now
The Haunting of Hill House
Huckleberry Finn
A Wrinkle in Time
The Ice People
A Farewell to Arms
Dr. Suess

Favorite Band:
Hmmm....tough! I love a lot of "old" New Wave groups from the 80s like the Psychedelic Furs, Tears For Fears, Wall of Voodoo, etc.

Favorite TV Show:
Gosh, I don't really have one anymore. I don't watch much TV, just not enough time in the day. I do watch old movies and some sports. I tried watching Lost for a while and really enjoyed it, but couldn't keep up after I started having to miss episodes. I loved the mystery of it.

A memory that never fails to make you laugh: There are so many! One of my favorites is the time we built an "airplane" out of plywood in my dad's garage, then shoved it out of the sweetgum tree in the backyard with my brother aboard. Of course it didn't fly, but instead demolished the dog house! We had a lot of adventures like that.

Thank you so much for the interview. We, oddly??, have a lot in common. LOL I love it when readers can relate to their favorite authors!

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