Interview with JOHN COREY WHALEY
John grew up in the small town of Springhill, Louisiana, where he learned to be sarcastic and to tell stories. He has a B.A. in English from Louisiana Tech University, as well as an M.A in Secondary English Education. He started writing stories about aliens and underwater civilizations when he was around ten or eleven, but now writes realistic YA fiction (which sometimes includes zombies). He taught public school for five years and spent much of that time daydreaming about being a full-time writer…and dodging his students’ crafty projectiles. He is terrible at most sports, but is an occasional kayaker and bongo player. He is obsessed with movies, music, and traveling to new places. He is an incredibly picky eater and has never been punched in the face, though he has come quite close. One time, when he was a kid, he had a curse put on him by a strange woman in the arcade section of a Wal-Mart. His favorite word is defenestration. His favorite color is green. His favorite smell is books. He currently lives in Los Angeles. WHERE THINGS COME BACK is his first novel. NOGGIN, his second novel, came out in April 2014.
What are you reading right now?
I'm reading this great book, MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold. It comes out in 2015.
What first sparked your interest in writing?
I was always fascinated by characters in movies and on TV. As a slow reader, I got into books more when I realized that telling stories was something I wanted to do - and the only thing I was ever really good at doing.
What do you love the most about writing? The least?
The thing I love most about writing is that, on a good day, it can help me escape any and everything going on in the world around me.
My least favorite thing about writing is when I reach a point in a story where I lose inspiration....and then it's a waiting game sometimes.
Tell us a little about your writing process.
Process? Haha. I usually get an idea, sit down and see if it will work on paper (err..screen) at all and then come back to it and try again and again until it's either a go or a STOP IT - THIS DOESN'T WORK. I binge write, so I can go weeks without writing a word, then write half a book in a week or two. It's unpredictable and moody, my process, but it works for me.
What are your passions?
Music. Movies. Making people laugh. Telling stories that I think people aren't expecting to be told.
What inspires you?
People and music. Usually never environment. Just people and conversations and a really great (often sad) song.
Why young adult?
Why not? Teenagers get to explore openly and unapologetically where they're supposed to be in the world and in existence in general. Adults do the same thing, but after making a lot more mistakes and apologies. Teenagers are more interesting and honest to me.
Why speculative fiction?
It doesn't matter what a story is about, only how well it's told. It was a challenge at first, to write borderline sci-fi, but now I see the universality in it, which was my hope all along.
How was NOGGIN born?
I wanted to write my homage to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - a book with an absurd premise, grounded in emotional reality. A book seemingly about one big issue, but actually about a million little things that we all feel.
I empathized with Travis, his parents, Cate, Kyle and, well, everyone in this book so much that I shed quite a few tears on their behalf. Was it difficult writing such an emotional book?
I always say that my favorite thing to do in my books is make people laugh or cry. But, it isn't easy. Sometimes, it just happens, and I'm even surprised by the emotions a scene will produce. NOGGIN became much deeper than I planned, and that happened by equal parts accident and necessity.
You treat every character like they’re the protagonist of their own story. Other than Travis, is there any character in NOGGIN for whom you have a particular fondness?
I love Hatton - because he's so funny. But, of all the characters, Kyle is most like me - he holds onto the past just as much as Travis, but in his own, more personal way. And I can identify with that.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write whatever you want to write. Fix it later. Don't dwell on the possibility of failure or being laughed at - I wrote one book about a woodpecker and another about a frozen head. Anything can happen.