Today I have Ed Briant with me for his blog tour of his book I am (not) the Walrus, which I reviewed in the previous post. And here's what I asked him:
Describe your book in five words or less.
Bassist gets girl. No. Really!
What has your road to publications been like?
I started out as an illustrator, and my first published books were ones that I illustrated, but somebody else wrote the words. My first attempts at writing were actually comics, but they never really came to anything. The first book I published as a writer was Seven Stories, which was a picture book I wrote and illustrated. Time-wise, it took about ten years from my first serious attempts to write until Seven Stories came out.
I suppose that one of the things working against me as an author was that being a visual artist I think it was difficult to convince editors and agents that I could be as creative with words as I could be with images.
How did the idea for "I Am (Not) the Walrus" come to you?
When I was in my teens and twenties I was almost always in a band. When I joined my first band it was quite a shock. One moment I was a very ordinary middle class kid, the next moment I was in the bizarre underworld of rock-n-roll. It was a little like the scene in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope when Luke Skywalker wanders into the dive-bar looking for Han Solo, and there are all these weird-looking aliens hanging about.
The aliens from the world of rock-n-roll were: craggy musicians from more experienced bands, managers, producers, groupies, roadies, sound-men, club-owners, and so forth. I must have spent a lot of time pinching myself to make sure I was really awake. I couldn’t believe that these people had been living all around me my whole life and I’d never seen them before. Of course the reason I’d never seen them was that they were all waking up and starting their day just about the same time I was going to bed.
Anyway, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I made the best friends I ever made in my life, and I had the best times, and I always wanted to write about them.
What was the research process for "I Am (Not) the Walrus" like for you?
I like to think of I Am (Not) the Walrus as a back-of-the-van story.
Famous rock stars travel to their gigs by plane or in luxury buses. Struggling musicians get to gigs in aging transit vans, usually stuck in the back, sandwiched between speaker cabinets and drum cases. But, guess what, the rock stars are missing out. Riding in the back of the van is certainly a long, uncomfortable ordeal, but the musicians pass the time by telling each other of the strange ordeals of some the other rock-n-rollers they’ve come across in their travels.
Are these tales true? I’m sure some of them are. A little embellished, maybe, but there’s supposedly truth at the heart of every story. I Am (Not) the Walrus is based on one of those stories.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
I’m a frenetic writer. I’ll wake up at three in the morning with an idea, then rush to my computer and spend the next couple of hours tapping away at the keyboard. A lot the writing process is just slogging through the plot, but occasionally the unexpected happens. Every now and again characters show up who are so real they seize control of the story from me, start to tell their own stories, and take the writing to places I never expected.
Naturally, these intrusive characters can also take the story to places I don’t want to go, but then that’s the magic of writing.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
I use a lot of my own memories in my stories, both for characters and plot. I’m often surprised by the way that remembering one event from my past will often trigger a different, forgotten memory, and sometimes the forgotten memories are the best ones.
Revisiting events from the past can also force you to re-evaluate them. In one instance in I Am (Not) the Walrus the protagonist, Toby, is given a score of zero out of ten by a girl he likes. This really happened to me, and I felt wounded by it for years. In the book, though, Toby tells his friend, Zack about it, and Zack tells him that if the girl had given him two or three out of ten Toby should forget about her, but a score of zero is ridiculous.
Zack tells Toby that it sounds like the girl probably is interested in him, but is trying to convince herself that she isn’t. Too bad that Zack wasn’t around when I was sixteen.
Ed, thanks so much for sharing! I love that you compare the rock n roll scene to Star Wars! And wouldn't we all benefit from a friend like Zack?
Here's a little bit more about Ed:
Ed Briant grew up in Brighton, England, but now lives just outside Philadelphia, where he writes, illustrates, and creates the popular comic strip "Tales from the Slush Pile." He has two daughters, teaches creative writing, and plays the alto saxophone (quite badly). Choppy Socky Blues was his first book for young adults. He can be found online at ebriant.com.
I highly suggest checking out the "About the Book" section on his website, lots of great content that gives some further insight into this marvelous book.
The next stop on Ed's tour is The Brain Lair at http://www.thebrainlair.com/.
Kristen is the co-blog owner of The Book Monsters. Kristen is an Elementary School Library Media Specialist in the Chicago suburbs who loves reading. Why else would she be a librarian?
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