Thursday, March 17, 2011

Into the Mind of a YA Novelist: 8 Questions with Sean Beaudoin

A few weeks ago I read a most entertaining young adult novel. It was a crime noir that would make Mickey Spillane jealous. Okay that may be an overstatement, but it was very good. Shortly after finishing You Killed Wesley Payne a publicists asked me if I would like to interview the author, Sean Beaudoin. Naturally I said yes. We arranged to handle the interview over the Internet and what follows is a glimpse into the mind of a talented author of young adult novels. We began with a easy question to get warmed up:

Chapter One: What books are you currently reading?
Beaudoin: Get in the Van by Henry Rollins, Letters to a Young
 by Christopher Hitchens, and Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis.

Chapter One: What was your favorite book as a teen?
Beaudoin: I loved the Narnia books, A Wrinkle in Time, and Where The Red Fern Grows when I was younger. As an older teen, I read every Kurt Vonnegut I could get my hands on. Which was pretty much all of them, since we had a good library. I also was a big fan of Dune by Frank Herbert, The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll, as well as the books of Anthony Burgess, Don Delillo and Martin Amis.
So that gives us an idea of where Beaudoin's brain is. He's not just a good creative writer he's also well read. This is a quality you'll find in most good writers. Now that we've gotten that taken care of let's get into the meat of the interview.

Chapter One: Sean, what inspired you to become a writer of teen and young adult books?
Beaudoin: Pretty much because it's the last thing every single person I know ever expected. Actually, that's not true. It's because I think what is being published in YA is far more interesting and open than most of what passes for commercial literary fiction these days. Because there are no constraints. Because when I get a letter from someone who says my book helped them survive junior year, I feel exponentially better than I do standing around at fern parties. Because I stopped trying to write any particular genre of novel, and just write what I would have anyway, and let the marketers figure it out. Because there is a huge market of truly avid and enthusiastic readers, both teens and adults, that devour YA novels, and their genuine interest not only refutes the free floating cynicism endemic to our culture, but makes me feel that what I'm writing has real meaning.

I've been telling people for years about the quality in young adult novels. Many YA novels are better than much of the dribble being passed off as good literature for adults these days. I'm glad to find a writer who also sees the quality out there and is not afraid to write it.

Chapter One: What was the inspiration behind You Killed Wesley Payne?
Beaudoin: Jazz, the French New Wave, a solid left hook, a woman in high heels, a man who looks good in a hat, racing a car around a tight corner at ridiculous speeds, loot, greed, the dark flash of inhumanity in a too-perfect smile.

Chapter One: With all of the disturbing scenes of teen bullying and violence on the news and YouTube these days, how do you justify the violent nature of the storyline in your teen novel, You Killed Wesley Payne?
Beaudoin: I don’t feel the need to justify it at all. It’s a novel. A novel can be a mirror of unpleasant  behaviors that forces us to think about them a little bit differently, or it can glorify them in a way that seems cynical or profit-minded. I think it’s up to readers to decide if any given book has a point to make, and what the value of that point might be. In any case, I’m not sure there’s a way to write a detective story, even with a teen protagonist, without at least some of the implied violence of the genre, unless it's a complete neuter.

Chapter One: What do you want teens to take away from You Killed Wesley Payne?
Beaudoin: Pretty much whatever they feel like carrying. I’m equal opportunity on the idea front. Hopefully I’ve written something that is nuanced enough that multiple interpretations and competing revelations are possible. But, as with all my books, basically it’s this: don’t be a tool.

Chapter One: Do you see You Killed Wesley Payne spawning a series of Dalton Rev mysteries?
Beaudoin: I think YKWP is definitely set up nicely for a sequel. Even a franchise. But I’m not sure I want to write them. I may farm them out, like James Frey does. It’s possible Pitticus Lore is available.

Still on the fence about reading You Killed Wesley Payne? See if this preview makes a difference. Or skip down to catch the end of the interview.

Chapter One: Are you currently working on a new book? If so, can you give any sneak peek details?
Beaudoin: Sure. Actually, my next book is already done. It’s called Wise Young Truck and is the most straightforward thing I’ve ever written. It’s sort of a band tour diary. It’s the book that everyone who hated my other books will love, as well as being the book that everyone who loved my other books will love even more. I think.

I hope you enjoyed this time with Sean Beaudoin. I want to thank him for taking the time to participate in this interview. Hopefully he'll be up for another one in the future. I also need to thank Angelo Gianni at Blog Reach Solutions for setting everything up.

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