Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Interview with Steve Brezenoff

Today I'm quite smitten to be able to host Steve Brezenoff, the author of The Absolute Value of -1, to my blog! As you may remember, I absolutely loved his book. You can read my review if you would like to see how very much that is true.

Well, in an effort not to be too terribly gushy, I'll stop here and let Steve take the wheel! Below are his answers to some interview questions that I sent. Enjoy!

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1) I always like to begin my interviews with a challenge. If you had to create a one sentence mission statement for your book, what would it be?

I think there's a line in the trailer that works really well: "Just how far apart are we, anyway?"

It's perfect that it would be a question, since this is a story that offers so many questions and so few solutions. Of course, the book is, at its heart, about relationships and how they change, and how friends and family come together and move apart.

2) While reading, I think what struck me most was how much heart there was behind each word. Where did the need to tell this story spring from?

It's hard to say, since I started it and left it alone at such long stretches, then started it again, several times. I think I really got my gusto to work hard at it (when it was just Simon's part) when my father got sick himself. Simon's father was not sick yet, but after going through sickness and death, I knew it would be the central part of Simon's story too. From there, I couldn't stop writing if I wanted to.

3) Did you find that the story was difficult to write, or that it flowed out of you once you began?

I didn't have to struggle much with this story. Of all the writing I've done, this probably flowed most naturally. With the exception of Lily, for whom I had to do a long writing exercise to get into a female perspective, the story and voices came pretty easily. Even Lily, once I'd started her in earnest, felt natural. That said, it was in a way very difficult to write. It was the first YA I've written, and tapping in to adolescence was no treat for my psyche. Of course, tapping in to the feelings I experienced when my own father had cancer wasn't a walk in the park either.

4) Was there a character that resonated with your more than any other? A character that was more difficult to write than the others?

Well, like I implied above, Simon is the character I have the strongest personal connection with, since he goes through a lot of what I went through when I was 25 and my father died. In that way, he was very difficult to write, but a huge relief to write at the same time. For Lily, there was that exercise of getting into the female perspective, but even that was pretty fun.

5) What would you say to those who might find the subject matter in this book questionable?
Hm. Probably not very much. I don't want to fall into the habit of defending this book to would-be censors. But, because you deserve an answer to this question, I will say that nothing in this book will harm anyone, and there are plenty of teens who will empathize with characters and recognize situations in the story. For them, the material is definitely not questionable.

6) This is your first book aimed at teens. How was the writing experience different from the books that you previously authored?

I was compelled to write this. I am still compelled to write YA fiction. I suppose it's because I suffer a mild form of arrested adolescence. Maybe not so mild. The point is, I write YA because it is tremendously satisfying for me as a writer. I write stories for younger readers because, yes, I enjoy it, but mostly because it is my (insanely awesome) day job. (I do have a middle-grade unfinished manuscript or two; I'll finish them eventually, I think.)

7) What do you hope your readers take away with them after reading The Absolute Value of -1?

Ideally, maybe a little insight--into themselves or into someone they know who they recognize in the story. But I'd be happy with a few laughs and a good cry.

8) I'll shamelessly admit that I love your writing. Can we expect more books for the teen crowd in the future?

Yay! And yes. My second YA novel, TWO SUMMERS AROUND THE FIRE, is coming from Carolrhoda Lab in Fall 2011 or Spring 2012. It's a mystery of sorts set in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, one of my favorite places in the world, and features two homeless teens trying to figure out . . . well, quite a lot.

I'm also working on two YAs right now, simultaneously, much to my agent's chagrin. Hopefully, I'll finish at least one of them this fall. We'll see!

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Thank you so very much Steve for stopping by! My friends, if you haven't yet read this book please go and get a copy. It's simply fabulous.

Steve Brezenoff has written several chapter books for young readers, and The Absolute Value of -1 is his first novel for teens. Though Steve grew up in a suburb on Long Island, he now lives with his wife, their son, and their terrier in St. Paul, Minnesota.


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