Monday, June 9, 2014
Author Interview- Michael Barakiva
I didn’t come out until I was 21. And I don’t regret that – I think everyone comes out when they’re meant to. But I tried to imagine the set of circumstances that would’ve needed to transpire for me to have come out at 14. Naturally, they involved a hot skater boy. That was the germ of the idea for One Man Guy.
2) Are you working on any new novels now? Can you tell us anything about them?
Yes yes yes! For the last three years, I’ve been working with two dear friends, Suzanne Agins and Rosemary Andress, on The Aether Wild, a fantasy/sci-fi epic set in the future where young people are born with superpowers. We’re hoping to have it finished by the end of this year.
My editor Joy and I are also talking about working on another book together. The protagonist would be Seth, a minor character who appears in a flashback early on in OMG.
3) You also work in the theatre as a director and playwright. How did you get involved with theatre, and what do you love most about it?
Theater is my first love. It took me around three years to gather the courage to audition for a show. I was cast as Orphan #1 in Oliver in 6th grade, and then grew into more mature roles, like Man #2 in Fiddler on the Roof in 7th grade and the Gatekeeper in The Wiz in 8th grade.
As my casting indicated, I was never a good actor, but I loved the people who were in the plays. Like many theater people, I didn’t really fit in anywhere else during those formative and horrible teen years, and finding my clan made me feel like life might be bearable one day.
In college, I directed plays obsessively, and was accepted into Juilliard’s (now-defunct) Directing Program afterwards. I’ve been making my living as a director since.
I think what I love most about theater now is really different than what drew me to it all those innocent years ago. Now, I love the chaos. A rehearsal process is like playing chicken – the temptation in the process is to “set” things, the way in chicken your impulses are telling you to swerve out of the way of the vehicle charging at your full speed. But if you set too soon (or swerve too soon), you lose. Now, in theater, I try to wait until the last possible moment to set things, experimenting and questioning and challenging and creating as much as possible.
4) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or, if you don't eat those, your favorite snack to have while writing or as a reward for writing? Feel free to talk about other foods you love since your bio mentions you as a "lover of food" (aren't we all though? hehe).
It’s a great question – is everyone a lover of food? I guess we all are, which comforts me in some way. I don’t just love to eat food, though, I love to make it as well. Right now, I’m in the process of founding a theater ensemble, The Upstart Creatures, whose mission statement is to create events that combine theater with food.
I don’t really eat jelly beans any more – I’m trying to stay away from that kind of processed sugar after one summer in Ithaca that just lives as a Sour Skittles/Red Bull blur in my mind.
While I’m writing, I reward myself with snacks the way I used to with cigarettes (smoking is evil and you should never do it). I like to have something in the fridge that’s rich and delicious so that just a little goes a long way, like chicken liver mousse (I just found a great recipe that uses yolks instead of butter and cooks in a water bath) or roasted, salted nuts.
When I’m out of town directing a play, I cook furiously because it’s the perfect way to come down after rehearsals. I leave rehearsals in this state of delirium – exhausted and wired, and cooking engages me just enough to bring be back down to normal. My favorite weekday recipes include salt-crust roasted chicken, shell steaks in a shallot/red-wine reduction, kale in almost any form, fresh pineapple (the carving is such fun!), butternut squash, and (since I married a Mexican) anything with jalapenos.
5) Had you read much Young Adult literature before writing One Man Guy? Or was it something you kind of fell into?
To be honest, I hadn’t read much, although I’m a sucker for anything fantasy/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic/dystopic. If there’s magic in a world, I’m hooked.
6) What book(s) are you currently reading, or about to start?
Most of my reading is for my directing work, which is not to say it’s not interesting. One of the things that I love about directing is that I get to research and learn so much stuff. I also used to be one of those people who could only read one thing at a time, but obviously, I’m not anymore.
Next to my bed, which is where I keep the books that I’m reading:
WAS by Geoff Ryman
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks (this was a gift from Ethan Butler and Cory Tarallo, two of the many stunningly talented cast members in a production of Spring Awakening I just directed up in Syracuse)
7) Your Goodreads profile mentions that you're an avid board game player. Which ones do you most enjoy, and are there any that you don't like?
The only board game I hate is Agricola. My board game group loves it, and sometimes they make me play it and I hate it. It’s horrible. I hate it.
The games that I love:
Last Night On Earth, which was introduced to me by Craig Bridger and which I played incessantly with Joseph Midyett after Spring Awakening rehearsals.
Age of Empires: The Age of Discovery
I guess this is based on a computer game, but I gave up on computer games years ago because I realized they were less fun than board games. Or rather, in the computer game, the computer is your scene partner, and in board games, it’s the other players.
Race For the Galaxy
I play this at board game arena when I need to clear my mind, but I wish they’d update the game to include the deck expansions.
I’ve only played this online, which is sort of cheating, but it’s super fun.
One of the best boards for a board game ever made.
Titan and Talisman
These are old school games and my copies are incomplete for pieces lost over the decades, but if anyone had a complete version (Titan especially) and wanted to give it to me, I would be their friend forever.
Also fun: Smallworld, Ticket to Ride (especially India and Switzlerand), Catan (Cities and Knights only, please), Civilization, Cathedral, Citadels
8) Your pub day for One Man Guy falls the day after the 1-year anniversary of your marriage to your husband Rafael. How was it finally getting married to him, and is that week this year going to be one long celebration party?
Getting married was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. When we were planning the thing, I thought, “Is it really worth it? All that money? All the energy and resources and time that you have to put into?” Remember, I’m a director, so I know about putting on a show, and having a wedding is like having to be your own producer, playwright, director and leading actor.
But then the day of, you just feel so blessed to be in front of your community. And that’s what it’s really about – taking those vows in front of the people you love. They witness. And the spoken words, the promises you make to the person you love, become powerful, binding things.
Last week was amazing. Rafael and I went to the Gaudalupe Valley to celebrate our one year, and were guests of some of the most gracious and hospitable hosts I’ve ever met, including Tru Miller at Adobe Guadalupe Inn & Vineyards. Our last day there was my pub date. We were off the grid, no cell or email, and then when we got back to New York I was amazed at the out-pouring of love, both for the congratulations of our first-year anniversary and for One Man Guy. To have the two events so close to each other made me feel like the luckiest guy in the world.