Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’ve written one actual novel, I Am Not Thirteen. I published one of my short stories, “Endless Holiday,” on the Kindle store just to prove to myself that I could do it. Right now I’m working on a short story collection and another novel.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
I Am Not Thirteen was inspired by a tumblr post, where the author wrote “What if you woke up tomorrow and it was the first day of seventh grade, and all your life since then was a dream?” Underneath that, somebody posted a gif of a woman from Family Guy lighting herself on fire. It made me think, “Well, what would I do, really? I’m not going to light myself on fire, but how would I survive?” And from that idea a book was born.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Sometimes I close my eyes while typing so I don’t see what I’m writing. That keeps the inner critic at bay, at least for a while. It may be horrible dreck, but in writing, every problem can be solved. It’s better to get something down and fix it later.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Too many to list! I read almost everything by George Orwell as a teenager and in my early twenties, and his work, especially his nonfiction, had a profound impact on me. I also read Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, Laxness’s World Light, and Platonov’s “Soul” at a very impressionable age. They moved me tremendously; I didn’t know books could be that powerful.
I also read a book of interviews with Werner Herzog, the film director, that influenced me when I was young. Herzog was absolutely determined to do some quite insane things, such as hauling a ship over a mountain using pre-modern technology–and he did it! Same, to some extent, with Greg Sestero’s The Disaster Artist. Tommy Wiseau is such a strange figure, but at the end of the day, he got it done. He had an idea for a movie, he saw it through, and now millions of people have gone to see it around the world. It’s not just a file on his laptop.
What are you working on now?
I finished the rough draft of the sequel to I Am Not Thirteen, and now I’m finishing up a few short stories that I couldn’t work on while IAN13 was underway. Once those are in a better state, I’ll start editing the sequel.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m brand new to this, so I don’t have one yet. I’m hoping to figure it out through trial and error–hopefully not too much error.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Focus on finishing the first book. Nothing happens until you have something to show people, something to sell. Then focus on getting the next book out. I’d also set a small daily goal for yourself, and hit it no matter what. Quantity over quality–the more you write, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
A family friend bought me a seat at a stand-up comedy class as a teenager. I had no interest in doing stand-up, but I went anyways. The teacher was a bitter guy, but he said one thing that stuck in my head: when the audience applauds, think to yourself, “What’s my next line?” Don’t just bask in the moment, or you’ll whiff it when the applause dies down. Keep your eye on the next line, the next thing, and you’ll keep your footing. That’s applicable in so many areas of life.
What are you reading now?
Trying to read The Devils of Loudun but my concentration is shot. I just read an interesting article about Foxconn in Bloomberg Businessweek, does that count?
What’s next for you as a writer?
Who knows? It reminds me of that old joke: How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans. Right now I’m trying to promote my first book and figure that out, while also carving out some time to work on new projects. It’s been a challenge to say the least.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
The English Standard Bible
Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford
A Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson
A blank journal with a waterproof pen attached!