Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Barry Lyga - Author Profile

Barry Lyga is the author of a number of Young Adult and teen novels that all seem to garner numerous accolades. Born in 1971 he now lives and writes in the southwest. His books explore many intriguing issues, death, dying, deek and Goth subcultures, teacher student affairs and more. His books are awesome and we thanks him for taking some time from writing his current project that he affectionately calls 'the book that will kill me' to answer a few questions for us at Book Reviews and More.

1. Barry you often give writing advice on your blog, in fact you have over 40 articles on the topic. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

Probably the best advice was encapsulated in my very first blog post on writing advice: It takes a million bad words to get to the point where you write something worthwhile. I never really understood that until it happened to me. I was given that advice by a friend sometime in my mid-twenties, but by then I'd been trying to get published for a long time (and failing ? my first story submission was at the age of twelve). So, I wish someone had told me that years earlier ? I might have worked a little harder and not been as easily depressed by those early failures and rejections.

2. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

I shudder to think of it! I have tried other ways of earning a living and none of them were even remotely pleasant. They all sucked. I suppose if I couldn't be a writer, I would try to be involved in some other sort of creative endeavor ? videogames or something like that.

3. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

The answer is...yes! All of the above. Some are reflections, some are composites. Some are versions of me. And some of them ? like Kyra ? are entirely created from whole cloth.

4. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

It was an eclectic mix as a kid: Paul Levitz and Alan Moore (comic book writers). Joe Haldeman and Stephen King (genre writers). Bruce Springsteen. And believe it or not, Edgar Allan Poe and John Milton.

5. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

I'm not sure how to answer this in a fair and accurate way. There are so many influences on me that I can't really point to elements of my style and say which one(s) contributed to each different element. I think all of the authors listed above influenced me in big ways, but I was also influenced by John Barth and Tom Perrotta.
6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

The process of writing the actual book itself was discussed pretty thoroughly on my blog. Getting TO the writing from the idea is sort of tricky. What many people don't understand is that an idea is the easy part. Ideas are cheap. The tough part is figuring out which ideas are worth pursuing, which ones are valuable and interesting and worth the time and effort it will take me to write and you to read. Usually when I have an idea, I just try to put it out of my head, believe it or not. I figure that if an idea is worthwhile, it will stick with me. If time goes by and I keep returning to that idea and adding to it and obsessing over it, then I figure it's probably worth delving into. At that point, the process from my blog takes over.

7. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I'm a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen and Warren Zevon, both wordsmiths in their own ways. When I'm writing, I tend to listen to a random mix of their music, but I also like to crank some old eighties/nineties rap, like Public Enemy or Ice-T. The hard bass gets my blood pumping and helps me slip into a writing rhythm.

8. What is your favorite character you created and why?

Probably Kyra, from The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl and its sequel, Goth Girl Rising. You know, when I created her, she was only supposed to be in the book for a few chapters, to perform a sort of wish-fulfillment role. She was going to be for Fanboy the friend and the impetus that I wished I'd had at the age. Her job was to say some really awful, really true things and then disappear. But she wouldn't go away. She wouldn't shut up. I found myself falling in love with her. So she became more important than originally intended. Then my agent read the first draft of the book and said that there should be even MORE Kyra, so I added even more of her and that just cemented her in my soul forever.

9. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

I wouldn't say I get glimpses of what they're up to "now," but I have an inkling of what's in store for them down the road. These aren't definitive, written-in-stone facts, mind you, but more like notions. I have a sort-of notion for how Josh from BOY TOY will turn out in college. I have a notion of what Fanboy and Goth Girl's senior year in high school will be like. I'm pretty sure I know what fate holds for Kross and the Council of Fools. But nothing as dramatic as Ms. L'Engle's! And at this point, nothing strong enough to hang another book on for any of those characters.

10. What of your books is your favorite and why?

Impossible to say, really. They're all too different from each other to compare them fairly. I will say that Goth Girl Rising has a very special place in my heart because 1) it's about Kyra, and 2) a lot of people said I wouldn't be able to write convincingly from a girl's point of view, but now I get e-mails from girls who tell me I did.

11. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

That's tough! I'm not sure it's my place to tell anyone what books would make them a well-rounded person. Hell, I'm not sure I can even say that I'm a well-rounded person. And with only ten books… There's such a wealth of information and knowledge in the world that it's almost impossible to be well-rounded reading so few books. But how about this ? I'll offer up ten books that would make someone an interesting person:

Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis
A History of God by Karen Armstrong
1984 by George Orwell
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Henry V by William Shakespeare
Njalssaga by Anonymous
Parallel Myths by J.F. Bierlien
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
The Unfinished Game by Keith Devlin

There you go. A smattering of great literature, history, religion, and even math. But it's woefully Western-oriented and white-male-dominant, lacking a true diversity. (It's not quite as bad as it appears at first blush because the Armstrong and Bierlien books delve into Eastern history and religion, but it's still not anything that's going to result in a well-rounded person.)

12. With you comic and graphic novel background, could you list 10 comics or graphic novels someone should read who is just starting to read them?

Actually...no! Believe it or not, I get asked this question all the time and the thing is this: Comics are not a monolith. There's no one comic or list of ten comics that will appeal to everyone. It's like saying, "What are ten books someone who's just starting to read books should read?" Your answer changes depending on the person's age, literacy level, interests, previous media experience, etc.

13. In Archvillian, you make the main character the bad guy, yet readers find themselves cheering for him. Do you think you can sustain that excitement through the trilogy?

I hope so! The point of Archvillain is evolution. Right now, Kyle appears to be a bad guy who sees himself as a good guy. So will he become a true good guy? Will he embrace evil? How will his perspective on himself change, and how will the perspectives of those around him change? Each book tilts a little in a certain direction, so we'll see what people think by the end of the third book.

14. Your books are also marketed mainly to teen and youth and yet I have read them and recommended them too many adult friends who loved them. Do you see yourself writing a book aimed at a the general fiction audience?

Some would argue I've already done it ? Boy Toy in particular ended up in a lot of adult hands. But, yeah, the time will come when I write an adult book. I already know what it will be, in fact. Now I just need to find the time to write it!

15. How did Glen Gordon Caron win you over to option Boy Toy to make a film of the book?

He was just honest with me. We had lunch and he told me what he loved about the book and then we talked about certain aspects of it that would be difficult to translate to film. And what was really refreshing was that he didn't try to tell me how easy it would be; he told me it would be hard. I respected that enormously and I knew that it meant he would take it seriously.

16. Would you like to see the Fanboy and Goth Girl, Goth Girl Rising done as films or miniseries?

I think it would be fun to see each book as a movie.

17. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

I would add the word "critically" to that, but, yeah, I generally agree. I get asked by kids a lot of times: "What should I major in in college in order to be an author? Do I have to major in English?" And I always tell them to study whatever they find interesting. That it's not so much WHAT you learn as that you learn how think critically, how to examine the world in some way, how to come to conclusions, how to be a reasonable and thoughtful human being.

18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

Yikes! That's a tough one. Just off the top of my head, I would say:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
The Bible (mostly 'cause it's long!)
Paradise Lost by John Milton
'salem's Lot by Stephen King
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Bullfinch's Mythology
Njalssaga by Anonymous
Fortune and Glory by Brian Michael Bendis (because you have to have something funny)

Thank you again Barry for answering the questions and blessings on you and your future projects!


Books by Barry Lyga:
I Hunt Killers:
I Hunt Killers (2012)
Game - I Hunt Killers #2 (2013)

??? - I Hunt Killers # 3 (2014)

Brookdale High:
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl (2006)
Boy Toy (2007)
Hero Type (2008)
Goth Girl Rising (2009)

Archvillian:
Archvillain #1 (2010)
The Mad Mask - Archvillian #2 (2011)
Yesterday Again - Archvillian #3 (2013)

Other Books By Barry Lyga:
Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A definitive Guide (with Alison A.W. Lyga - 2004)
Wolverine: Worst Day Ever (2009)
MangaMan (with Colleen Dorren 2011)

Unsoul'd (2013)

Contributed to:
Geektastic (2009)

Author Profile and Interview with Barry Lyga

Author Profile and Interview with Randall Banner

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