Patrick Ness Interview and Book Chat


you guys, you are witnessing my dreams coming true. Tracy at Candlewick Publishing asked if i'd like to be a part of a blog tour for A Monster Calls. <insert hysterical laughter here>

obviously, i said yes. quite emphatically.

if you're not aware of my complete and total adoration for Patrick Ness's work, please peep my reviews. warning: i am an unabashed fangirl.
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and The Answer
Monsters of Men
A Monster Calls

i suggest y'all read the interview all the way to the end. 

Lisa: Patrick Ness! First, thank you so much for sharing the opportunity for me to pick your brain about your work and your inspiration to do what you do. I was honored (well, first ECSTATIC and then more humbly honored) to receive an email from Tracy at Candlewick to send some interview questions your way about your latest book, A Monster Calls. I did some digging around for other interviews in order to think of fresh questions that still allowed me to investigate my personal inquiries into your writing. So, without further ado:

Who - Something I adore about your writing and Siobhan's novels are the characters. They are authentic, flawed, and absolutely real. The reader hopes for them and you feel a connection with them almost immediately. This is most certainly true with Conor and the rest of his family in A Monster Calls. How do you create and craft characters that jump off the page like this?
Patrick: I always just want them to be like the people I meet and know, rather than Characters In A Book, if that makes any sense?  With Todd and Viola, for example, it was a conscious decision to move them away from the stereotype of the slightly thick but brave boy and the brainy girl with glasses who have adventures together.  I just wondered why couldn't they be equally brave and equally smart and equally make mistake and be equally afraid.  True, they're individuals, but why couldn't they be like the complicated boys and girls I know personally rather than what's expected from a book character.  To me that's more real and more interesting.  Same with Conor and his family.  I kept asking, how would they really react, not how a reader mightexpect them too, but how'd they act if they were real people.  The grandmother in particular.  He says straight out she's not like grandmas in stories like this, and that makes me interested in her.  And my cardinal rule, if I'm interested in her, then maybe a reader will be, too.
 
Lisa: What - The blend of fantasy and reality is absolutely one of my favorite means of storytelling. Conor's world is grounded firmly in a dark reality, yet has infiltration of a world beyond our own comprehension. What was your inspiration for this delicate balance of 'what's real' and 'what's real to Conor'?
Patrick: Well, it's what any story is, isn't it?  That's why we read them, I think.  We can feel truth (as opposed to 'real') and explore different outcomes and how me might react in a variety of ways.  Also, it's a HUGE theme of the story that we're complicated beings and that that's okay.  Who doesn't feel regularly that they've got one foot in this world and one foot in whatever's going on in their mind?  And who's to say what's more real?  How we experience reality is just as real as whatever objective reality is, isn't it?  Anyway, that's what's interesting to me about a story: your boundaries can (and should) blur.
Lisa: When - Grief is with us throughout our life, coming at expected and unexpected times. To be with Conor is his confusion and grief was heartbreaking, but also held kernels of healing and hope and perseverance. How did writing a novel about such heavy and emotional pieces of life through the perspective of a very young adult shape the story?
Patrick: It didn't in an important way.  I never thought, what would be the perspective of a young adult.  I only ever thought, What would Conor's perspective be?  It really is that specific.  If I can get at the absolute truth, as best I can, of this one boy going through this specific experience, then all those themes you talk about are going to be there, I hope.  I just kept asking, what's the truth of Conor?  What would he really feel?  How would he really react?  And I find as I write that if I keep pressing and pressing like that, you get surprising and often really interesting answers.


Lisa: Where - Some of my favorite scenes and interactions were with Conor at school. He is desperate for things to be normal and to be treated the same, and no one can do that...except the bully. You take a character who could easily be one dimensional and give him depth and purpose in Conor's tale. Which of the minor character's in this book are closest to your heart? 

(Chaos Walking Trilogy minor spoiler to follow)

Patrick: Well, I kind of like them all.  I'm never one who hates even my villains.  I try to understand them as humans.  You know, I think even the Mayor could have been redeemed in Chaos Walking.  Here, I've got a soft spot for the grandma, because she makes sense to me.  Also, she makes me laugh.  I also had a kingergarten teacher who I adored called Mrs Nishimoto, so she's slightly in the book in a different nationality as Miss Kwan.  But minor characters tend to be where I put all my private jokes and affections, and so that's probably why they live for me.

(End spoiler) 

Lisa: Why - In an interview with Publisher's Weekly in June 2011, you lightly touch on why you write for teenagers. You said "...I just somehow had to get back to that place like I did when I wrote my first book, which is, no one will probably ever read this book so it can go where it wants to go. Then it became a private conversation between me and [Siobhan's] story, her idea. It was a fun place to be even though it was sad. I wanted it to be true. Not hopeless, but true. That's an important part of my writing for teenagers because it was what I wanted as a teenager but rarely got. For me, it is really important to have a story with blood in the veins, there are bad tempers and good tempers. It's visceral, physical and not just one color because that's not how people are." Can you share some more about why you write young adult literature?
Patrick: Feeling liberated is the best place for me to write.  If I can set aside all expectations, then I'm freest and my stories are at their most vivid for me.  And it turns out, to my pleasant surprise, that that feeling of liberation comes in great waves when writing for young adults.  Certainly doesn't mean I won't write for adults again, but I just decline to see all that much difference between the two.  And if I can feel so free in writing for young adults, all the while still writing about all the stuff that's important to me, what a combination!  What a great place to be writing from. 
(Chaos Walking Trilogy spoilers to  follow)

Lisa: How - Reflecting back on The Chaos Walking Trilogy as I read A Monster Calls, I recognized that they are clearly two different ideas but they share an emotional intensity and the powerful writing that's signature to your work. From the courageous Viola to the heartbreaking Davy Prentiss, Jr. to Conor's grandmother, you create real characters and real stories and real situations that break your heart while slowly infusing hope. And I know that with excellent writing, the story takes on a life of it's own and that the characters and the plot are their own creation...but seriously, how do you deal with where your story takes them? I still mourn the loss of Davy, and it's been years!
Patrick: It's an interesting thing, this, because of course there's lots of sadness in writing a sad storyline (like poor Davy, who deserved so much better), and I definitely feel the sadness when I write them (I always say that if you're not crying, why would you ever be arrogant enough to assume that your reader would?).  But when writing a storyline that also feels true, that also feels new and fresh, that also feels like a new place for you as you write it, that sadness comes side-by-side with the joy of writing.  When everything's working (often as a complete surprise), there's no feeling like it on earth.  And so Davy's fate is terrible, yes, but the storyteller in me could also feel how right it was and there's a kind of joy in that. 

(End spoiler) 

It was more harrowing with Conor, because I cared so much about him, but if I felt I'd be a coward if I didn't follow him every step and invest myself with everything he was feeling.  It would have been a disservice, and most importantly, I think a reader could spot from a mile away that I'd emotionally stepped back.  Plus, all Conor wants is to not be alone while he's going through this stuff.  So I had to be there, too.  It's worth it; he (and Siobhan) deserved the right story, and it's my job not to shy away from that, no matter how hard it sometimes is. 

Thanks to Patrick Ness for sharing so openly about his process and more about his amazing books. seriously, the simplicity of his answers is what makes his writing and his characters so incredible and endearing to me. the whole "well, I did this because that's how people are" mentality is EXACTLY why i resonate with his books so much. plus, the plots have me wrapped around his little finger. 

and Candlewick is making sure i can share that awesomeness with you. OH THAT'S RIGHT. i'm giving away a SIGNED copy of A Monster Calls and Monsters of Men. SERIOUSLY.

contest closed. 

i've reached the pinnacle of book blogging with this post. there is nothing as amazing as reading great books and having the chance to talk to the publisher, author, and fellow readers about the books and THEN giving away a signed copy. this is the dream i want to live forever.

Lisa is a gamer, crafter, fangirl, mother, wife and unabashed nerd who is pretty ridiculous and it's best you know that up front. When she's not binge watching Netflix or crafting into the wee hours of the night, you can find her spending a lot of her time on Pinterest and Twitter.

5 comments:

  1. okay, friend, here on the east coast, i'm up early for this. <3 well, i get up early to take care of the family, but i have pushed aside the taking care of--just for this morning--to read this dream come true. and daggum it if patrick ness hasn't gotten me again. (Davy, of course)

    this tour (a monster calls) is the first one in my life i have actually followed daily from blog to blog. i cannot thank lisa the nerd enough for the recommendation for the chaos walking trilogy recommend because without it, i wouldn't have found my new(est) favorite books, my biggest heart swell, and a love for these characters that i have never had before. i consider the characters of those books part of me in some weird way, and i think of those books every day. (i may have revealed my geek-dom right here, folks.)

    i hung on every word of this interview, and despite the fact that i've enjoyed them all, i think this one was the most awesome for me...because of the blend of the characters i know (and love FEROCIOUSLY) and the characters i have not been lucky enough to meet yet. i want to rectify that SO SOON. there were so many parts that i want to point out and comment on, but i have to start getting the family up and at it for the day, so i'll come back. i promise.

    patrick ness, if you read this, and i know you will, your books tear me apart--an odd mixture of beauty and pain--and i love that roller coaster although it is SO EMOTIONAL at times. i have had a fear of finishing series for so long because i FEAR becoming overly emotional (which sounds so stupid) so needless to say, i had to meet that fear head-on a bazillion times throughout the chaos walking series. i always read super fast, but i actually took my times with these books and read them slow, at times only reading about 5 pages at a time because that's all the emotional intensity i could handle--especially with Monsters of Men. i'm ridiculously excited about this new book and i'm ridiculously excited about re-reading the existing books, all of which i am planning. you are my favorite author because you tell good and compelling stories that people that live miles apart can talk about and share in many dimensions, and i sincerely thank you for that so, so much. and i have lisa the nerd to thank for the recommend.

    lisa, i will be creep back to this post to re-read this interview more than once today. i am so excited about you being able to do this. what a dream, what a dream.

    shaking with excitement for ya, friend, and giddy over excitement over another chance to read the words of my favorote author--

    ~Asheley

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  2. hmmm...can't read the full article because of spoilers. dag, yo.

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  3. LISA!!!!!!!! I will be hiring you in the future to write interview questions for me! :) I'm so happy you were able to interview Patrick! Best Day EVER!

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  4. Can I hug this interview? BECAUSE IT WAS SUCH AN AWESOME INTERVIEW! Even though I had avoid the spoilery parts because GASP I just started reading The Ask and The Answer. OH TODD HEWITT AND VIOLA EADE. OH PATRICK NESS. I WANT TO HUG ALLLLL OF YOU.

    And you, Lisa, cos this is your blog and you're aweome.

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  5. I have been seeing so many good reviews for A Monster Calls.

    Thanks for the interview...and the awesome chance for an awesome book!

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