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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Interview with Conrad Wesselhoeft

1) How did you get the idea for Adios, Nirvana?

I stumbled on this quote: “In darkness, it slowly came to me that what happens to a man isn’t nearly as important as how he meets it.” The author of the quote was Victor Riesel, a labor journalist who was blinded when a mobster flung sulphuric acid in his face. I jotted Riesel’s words in my journal, then added, spur of the moment: “Story about a young man who becomes a stenographer/writer of a blind man’s life, and in doing so exorcises his own demons.” So right there was the seed--an old man experiencing darkness through blindness, a young man experiencing it through grief. I wondered what light might shine if those two darknesses merged. If I hadn't seen the quote and jotted it down, I probably wouldn't have written the book.

2) What was The Call like, the one you got when your book sold? Tell us all about it!

I'd been waiting for "The Call" for a long, long time--several lifetimes, it seemed. So when it came, it was like a multi-colored roman candle exploding inside me--the most delicious and natural high ever. Here's what happened: my agent was about to go to Greece. She asked me to spend a few more weeks polishing the manuscript, and then e-mail it to her no later than 5 p.m. on May 1, 2009. I worked up until the last minute, then hit "send." I thought, well, that's that, if it dies, it dies; at least, I gave it my best. When she returned from Greece three weeks later, she had e-mails waiting from two publishers: one was a solid offer; a second was "very interested." In fact, the second publisher made an offer three days later. So after years of literary poverty, I felt like I had stumbled upon King Solomon's Mine.

3) What book(s) are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about them?

I’m working on a YA novel set in the Southwest. I’m a bit superstitious about saying too much, so I’ll leave it at that.

4) Jonathan is a great poet and guitarist. Did you base any of that or other aspects of his character on you? Or is there another character that is closer to how you were as a teenager?

The guitar part is based on me. I've always messed around, but I don't read music. I keep various guitars planted on stands around the house—guitars should not be imprisoned in cases. Noodling on guitar is a good way to anchor and think. Playing with friends is pure joy. Jonathan (the protagonist) is a much better guitar player than I am. And Telly, his brother, was sublime.

5) What's your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?

Definitely Pomegranate, for its mystic healing qualities. A handful a day cures all of my ailments, including vertigo, lumbago, and halitosis.

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

I'm a pretty eclectic reader. Right now on my bedside table, I have: "Mark Twain, A Life," by Ron Powers; a TV script ("The Glades," by Clifton Campell); a screenplay ("Hiroshima, Mon Amour," by Marguerite Duras); and a pile of YA novels, including "Crazy," by Han Nolan, and "The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl," by Barry Lyga. I keep Kit Carson's autobiography close by; it is the world's driest volume and best sleep aid. I recently finished--and highly recommend--Holly Cupala's YA debut novel "Tell Me A Secret," which I found deliciously poetic and gut-wrenchingly real.

7) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Abide by the three P’s and one B: Practice, patience, and perseverance. (The greatest of these is perseverance: Never give up!) The “B” is believe in yourself, because at first editors and agents won’t believe in you. They will likely say “No” many times before they say “Yes.” Read great books, both the classics and contemporary. Read books on the craft. My own favorites are: “Hemingway on Writing,” by Larry W. Phillips; “Zen and the Writing Life,” by Peter Matthiessen; and “Story,” by Robert McKee. My favorite memoirs by writers are: “Education of a Wandering Man,” by Louis L’Amour; and “On Writing,” by Stephen King. Finally, don't let your good ideas slip away for lack of note-taking. Jot them down. Treasure them. Write them.

1 comment:

  1. LMAO!!! wesselhoeft is the now hasselhoff! hahaha that's like the 1st thing that came to mind when i read that sorry.... hehe. i will totally read his books he seems awesome! <33