Monday, July 19, 2010

Author Interview: ADAM SELZER

Yay! I scored an interview with one of my favorite authors - Adam Selzer. You know him from HOW TO GET SUSPENDED AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, ANDREW NORTH BLOWS UP THE WORLD, I PUT A SPELL ON YOU, as well as his newest I KISSED A ZOMBIE AND I LIKED IT.
So without further delay...

My readers & I thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few burning questions. I’ll begin with a few of the typical author-type questions.

Did you read a lot as a child/teen? Who were your favorite authors then?

Of course I did! In grade school I was into Daniel Pinkwater, Gordon Korman, Judy Blume and Barbara Park. In middle school I went through a brief Christopher Pike phase before moving onto Dean Koontz, Harlan Ellison, and the Beat Generation guys.

Who are your favorite authors now?

I tend to breathe better when I’m reading Dickens – I’ve read just about all of his stuff now. But I went back to some old Barbara Park lately and couldn’t believe how hilarious it was. Writing funny stuff in middle grade is extraordinarily hard, and she just makes it look effortless. I’ve also been reading the Captain Underpants series with my stepson – I love how many “big” words are in there.  I’ll take my hat off to anyone who can use the word “gastrointestinal” in a chapter book.

I agree that it takes a lot to make middle schoolers laugh. When did you start writing? Tell us about the first story you remember writing.

The first real story I remember was one called Vampires in the Woods that I wrote in second grade – it was about a friend of mine and I going camping and being harassed by a vampire. Everyone in class had to write a story, and we all sort of tried to outdo each other in terms of creativity (a pretty wonderful sort of competition to have).  Every kid in the school had to write a story that would be in a big book that everyone got at the end of the year – I still have my copy!

Wow, so really it was YOU who started the big vampire trend, huh? 
Was HOW TO GET SUSPENDED the first book you tried to get published?

Nope – the first one I tried to publish was called INSTANT KARMA, back when I was a teenager. It was a Dean Koontz-type metaphysical thriller.  I still have it around here, but I’m tempted to destroy it. I don’t think I’m famous enough that people will want to publish every extra scrap after my demise, but better safe than sorry!

How did you realize that you wanted to write for young adults? (It’s way cooler, of course, but are there other reasons?)

When I got started with writing, I thought the YA scene was much more exciting than the adult books that were coming out – and it seemed like they needed more funny books to go along with all of the books about issues. It’s also more of a subversive thrill to be a smartass in a book for younger readers, really.

I bet you have a lot of characters floating around in your head that you haven’t been able to use yet. Describe one for us.

I’ve got this one idea for a kid called Brendan Butte The Poop Salesman. He takes some snake poop to school for show and tell, and some kid offers him a buck for it, giving him the get rich quick scheme of the century…

Now that I'm in an elementary school, I can say with certainty, Brendan would be a huge hit! Do you base your characters on people you know? (we promise not to tell)

I have a t-shirt that says “careful, or you’ll end up in my novel,” but in reality I try to bury anything autobiographical.

Are you as funny in person as your characters?

I have my moments, but most of the time I’m pretty quiet.

You seem to really like history. Was that your favorite class in school?

A couple of semesters it was – it really depended on the teacher and what the assignments were like. It’s very easy to make history boring.

I’ve heard you say that high school really isn’t the best years of your life. Well, if my high school experience was more like HOW TO GET SUSPENDED AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, it might have ranked higher. What was high school like for you? What “group” did you hang out with?

I went to high school in Snellville, GA, when it was in sort of a transition period between being a total hick town and a middle class suburb. I’d just moved to Georgia from Iowa and going through some culture shock – I didn’t realize that ‘y’all’ was singular (the plural form is “all y’all”).  I got picked on by hillbillies a lot, and no one else seemed that bothered by the fact that the health teacher used his whole class to preach at us. I had plenty of friends (mostly smart, left-of-center sort of kids), but I never seemed to have any classes with them.  In my senior year I switched over to the local “alternative” school twenty miles away – they ran it like a college there. They treated the students like adults and expected us to act like it – and we did. The school had a reputation for being the place where the bad kids, stoners, and pregnant girls went, but in those days it was actually wall-to-wall smart kids.

You grew up in Idaho, right? But you’re in Chicago now? Why did you move?

Iowa, actually - then I did high school and college in Georgia. Georgia never did grow on me, so I left for Chicago right after college. I loved the idea of living in a city where I wouldn’t need a car. I think of moving back to Iowa now and then, but I love that I get paid for talking about Chicago history. No one’s going to pay me to talk about Iowa history. They might pay me to shut up about it, though.

Oops, my bad on the geography, sorry! About the ghost hunting… are you still doing that? Or is writing keeping you busy full time?

For those who don’t know, I worked professionally in the ghost busting industry for a several years – primarily doing historical research and running ghost tours, but with plenty of actual investigating thrown in. I still do it occasionally. I’ve never found anything that really made me believe in ghosts, but poking around old buildings looking for cool stuff is great fun. You’re apt to find plenty of cool stuff besides just dead people – at one old theatre, back in a little alcove we found several lip prints on the wall, which were signed and dated in the 1930s by a vaudeville dance troop.

That does sound fascinating. One more occupational question: If you weren’t a writer, how would you spend your days?

I’d probably still be in retail or restaurant gigs – that’s about all most college degrees qualify you for nowadays.

According to your website, you have a book coming out next year tentatively called Fairy Godmother. Is this a sequel or simply a book with characters we know from Cornersville Trace? Can you tell us about it?

It’s a sequel to both I KISSED A ZOMBIE AND I LIKED IT and I PUT A SPELL ON YOU. It’s a comic noir mystery set in the same world as ZOMBIE, featuring musical theatre, vampires, magic spells, con artists, and a whole lot of unicorn poop.  I’m working full time on it lately.

Will you give us a peek into any other books you’re working on?

I’m a bit superstitious about talking about books that haven’t sold yet, but I can tell you about one called TANGLED UP IN BLUE that I think will be out in 2012 – it’s John Hughes-esque story about a girl who gets over an unrequited crush by embarking on a “holy quest” with a couple of misfits who have invented their own religion.

Wow, there's not a topic you won't tackle!

To take a look at all of Adam Selzer's books, check out his website.

For more kicks and giggles, go to the website dedicated to I KISSED A ZOMBIE AND I LIKED IT. You will find interviews, reviews, pictures and other goodies. Like this:
<--The pamphlet that Alley reads about converting - it's really too much. LOL!