Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Jon Skovron Interview

1) How did you get the idea for Struts and Frets?

The idea came slowly, gradually. In the book, Sammy talks about how writing song is like following the clues to a mystery. Writing is much like that for me. I didn't really do an outline. I just had Sammy's voice in my head saying to me "One thing I was sure of, we were going to be famous." I just followed it, line by line, scene by scene from there. Not that it was a smooth process by any means. I'm still pretty new at this, so there were lots of starts and stops, wrong turns, doubt, confusion, etc. But if you stick with something long enough, and you are open to getting some constructive criticism, you'll get there eventually.

2) What was The Call like? Tell us all about it!

It came out of the blue. The manuscript had been out on submission for a few months, and we (my agent and I) had gotten some very complimentary rejections and that's about it. Then one day I'm at work, on my lunch break, and my agent calls and tells me that not one, but two publishers were interested. There was a few tense days of negotiation, during which I tried not to drive my agent insane, Then at last we settled on Amulet. And I couldn't be happier. Maggie is an amazing editor and the rest of the team at Amulet has really been behind STRUTS & FRETS in a major way.

3) What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

I can tell you it's completely different from STRUTS & FRETS. Some might call this a bad idea (commercially). But when it comes to writing fiction, I have to follow my heart. I'm just putting some final polish on it now, then we'll be sending it off to my editor.

4) What brought you to the YA genre? Have you always been a fan, or are you new to it all?

I came into YA through China Mieville, Cory Doctorow, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, and other writers who do both YA and "Adult" fiction. Once I started reading it, I also discovered so many other great writers like Holly Black and Markus Zusak. I'm discovering amazing writers and books all the time now.

It's an incredibly fertile time for YA and there is such a spirit of comradery within the YA writing community. Just last week I was at an event with all these established writers, like Barry Lydn, and they were so generous and encouraging.

5) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor? And also your favorite band since the book is about music?

Er...um...I don't actually like candy. In fact, I don't like anything that tastes sweet and haven't since I was born. No really. Nothing. Not even (fill in the blank with your favorite sweet). I tried the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly, and even that didn't work for me.

My favorite band changes all the time, depending on my mood and what's currently coming out. If I had to choose my favorite of all time, it would probably be The Pixies. Those albums changed rock and roll forever. I wouldn't go see them now though. I prefer to support new, upcoming indie talent. I'm currently really digging local band Wye Oak.

6) What book(s) are you reading right now, or are about to start?

I'm currently reading Lisa Manchev's EYES LIKE STARS and absolutely loving it. I have a massive stack of books waiting for me from colleagues that I simply cannot wait to dig into. Carrie Ryan's FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, Heidi Kling's SEA, and Neesha Meminger's SHINE, COCONUT MOON just to name a few.

7) Your oldest son has autism. What has it been like raising him with this neurological disorder in contrast to your other son? Do you have any common myths to dispel about autism so that people have a clearer understanding of what it is?

I am always glad to talk about Autism because there are a lot of assumptions and misinformation out there. One of the most important things to understand is that just because people on the Autism Spectrum can't easily express their feelings, it doesn't mean they don't have feelings. Just because they can't easily communicate with you, it doesn't mean they aren't sweet, affectionate people in their own way. And that's the crux of it. Understanding and accepting the label of Autism, getting the therapy and aid they need to help them interface with the world around them, but then moving past the diagnosis and seeing the individual behind it.

In that way, it's not really all that different from my younger son. He would technically be classified as "neurologically typical", but if you've ever met that dynamic free spirit, I dare you to find one thing typical about him.

I guess what I'm trying to say is the concept of what is "normal" seems to be getting narrower all the time, and I don't think that does anyone any good. Instead I think we need to expand what we think of as "normal" or "typical". To do that, we need to be more generous.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity, James.

And thanks for being here, Jon!!


  1. Loved the interview! I need to get his book but Wal-mart don't have it! lol

    Thanks for the interview!


  2. Thanks for the interview, James. I had a blast!

  3. Great interview! I loved his book, and it's good to hear more facts about autism.