My Teen Pizza Pagers book club recently read Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. I am pretty sure I talk about this book all the time. I love this book. I decided on a whim to see if Antony John would be willing to answer some questions for us. Imagine my excitement when he agreed to do a Skype interview (no need to imagine, I will tell you there was a little jumping up and down in my office. There was most definitely a school-girlish squeeee too). Interestingly and slightly embarrassingly, the 12 and 13-year-old girls in my book club had a very similar reaction. We immediately got down to business coming up with questions. On the appointed day, after a bit of technical difficulty, Mr. John graciously answered a volley of questions ranging from the personal to the philosophical. I believe a good time was had by all. Here are some of the highlights for you. Since this was a live interview, all the answers are transcribed from my notes and are therefore most likely not direct quotes.
First, a round of This or That
Coffee or Tea
It depends on the time of day. Tea to start, coffee to write, and back to tea in the evening.
Coke or Pepsi
Peeta or Gale
Both. Gale to shoot a turkey and Peeta to make a croissant for a turkey sandwich! But really, Gale.
Zombies or Vampires
Zombies (I think he really wanted to answer both again!)
Summer or Winter
Early Bird or Night Owl
A little more getting to know Antony John…
Birthday: December 12
Favorite Book: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
The book that changed your world: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Mr. John said that as a student he was a reluctant reader because the books he had access to in England were not appealing and because reading was a challenge. Then his school librarian gave him The Outsiders and he was introduced to a different style of writing and a world more diverse than the one he lived in. (Megan says-I will confess to feeling a bit giddy with pride for my profession when he told this story. Yay, librarians!)
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite Band: The Beatles.
Favorite quote: Here he said that he loves quotes, but doesn’t have a favorite because he doesn’t usually remember them. Except the rude ones.
Sibling: an older brother in England, who is awesome.
Song most played on iTunes: With 531 plays, …Baby One More Time by Britney Spears. (Ah…old-school Brit!)
What was high school like for you? Mr. John talked about going to a very homogenous all boys school. He talked about how he was not like Piper in high school. He did not fight back. As a writer, he was able to go back to high school through Piper and get it right.
Did you always want to be a writer: He actually always wanted to be a composer. From the age of ten, when he got his first instrument, he was obsessed with music. However, music lost its magic for him and he stopped. When he switched to writing books he rediscovered the love of telling a story.
Is there a book you wish you had written? The Hunger Games. He couldn’t put it down.
Let’s talk more about Dumb!
Why did you choose to write a female protagonist? Piper came out of nowhere while he was making notes for the novel.
What was the inspiration for this book? Because of his background, he knew the book would be about music and his wife, who is a doctor suggested the idea of having a deaf character.
Does Piper represent anyone in real life? Piper has a lot of his own personal biases and opinions in her, but she is a totally made up character. She is who he wishes he had been in high school.
Will there be a sequel? What happens to everyone after the book ended? (Megan says-This was one of my favorite questions and answers of the entire interview.) Mr. John reports that there will not be a sequel because the inherent nature of a sequel means the characters once again have problems that need to be resolved and he didn’t want Piper to have any more problems. She got to a good spot and he wants to leave her there. However, he does have romantic notions of an epic summer tour in which Dumb opens for the band GBH/ABH (they changed their name after the book was published!).
Did you learn sign language when you were writing Dumb? Mr. John said that he took one class to get the feel for it, but he did spend four months researching deafness and deaf culture before he started writing. He even consulted with deaf teens so that he was sure he got it right.
What’s next? Thou Shalt Not Road Trip is due out on April 12. Final edits are being done on a new fantasy series due out in Fall 2012, called Elementals. And in addition to the outline for book 2 of Elementals, he is also working on another contemporary YA novel. It sounds like we have a lot to look forward to!
Mr. John had some great advice for young writers. I will leave you with that as some final thoughts.
1. Know the power of your words. Know when less is more.
2. Write about what is truly emotionally real.
3. You have to be able keep multiple projects on the go and always think about the next project.
Thanks for joining us. Please pick up Five Flavors of Dumb if you haven’t already and stop by Antony John’s website for more news and info.