Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interview with Antony John

If you've read Penelope's review of Five Flavors of Dumb, you'll know how much she adored this book. And here's her wonderful interview with Antony John.

For those who happen to be scanning the shelves for their next great read and happen to spot Five Flavors of Dumb (the cover is so boss!), can you tell them a little bit about your book?

Isn't the cover great! (Of course, I had nothing to do with it whatsoever, but I'm happy to bathe in reflected glory.) Five Flavors of Dumb is the story of Piper Vaughan, a high school senior who becomes manager of her school rock band (named Dumb) as a way of rebuilding her college fund after her parents raid it to pay for her baby sister's cochlear implant. The trouble is, she doesn't know the first thing about music. Plus, she's deaf. But she's also smart, resourceful, and determined, and getting the five dysfunctional band members to play in harmony might just bring out her own inner rock star.

Piper is a truly unique heroine, not only because she happens to be deaf but because her fierce, witty intellect sometimes makes you forget about the silence. Who inspired Piper?

Honest truth: Piper inspired Piper. Somehow she came to me more fully formed than any character I’ve ever written. Of course, I did a lot of research into deafness, too, to make sure I got the details of her experience right, but I just had an innate sense of who she was, how she thought and felt, and how she would communicate that through the written word. I think that's why she's also my favorite character from my books.

Music is almost it's own separate character in the book, were there any bands or records in particular that fueled the fire during the writing process?

Absolutely! My playlist for the book was over 100 songs, but the biggest influences were (not surprisingly) Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. I watched movies of them obsessively, listening to the music, but also watching them: how they moved, their facial expressions, their clothing, etc. Not only did I never get bored of listening to their music, I actually found all the studying really inspiring -- it made
it easier to convey the enthusiasm some of the characters have for these artists.

I love Piper's parents, at times they reminded me of teenagers themselves but in a dreamy sense, did they ever attend a Nirvana gig themselves?

I like Piper's parents, too. There's some of each of them in Piper herself, though she'd probably deny it! I think they're absolutely the kind of parents who would've attended a Nirvana gig back in the day. But since then, "adulthood" has overwhelmed them, and neither of them is entirely comfortable with whom they've become. I really believe that by the end of the book, they're on the road to recovery, and a few more rock concerts might be in their future.

You have such a great voice for YA (very reminiscent of John Hughes, had he written for YA). what made you want to write for this genre?

First off, thanks for the compliment! (I'm not convinced I'm anywhere near John Hughes' league, but it's a nice thought.) The truth is, every idea for a book I've ever had, has been YA. I don't know exactly why that is, but I think it's a sign. I also happen to like YA more than any other genre.

As for what makes me want to keep writing YA . . . I think it's the fact that the teen years are such a dramatic, stressful, and highly emotional time of life. I had a great high school experience, but that doesn't mean I always felt comfortable, or like I belonged. Writing books gives me the chance to revisit the issue of self-identity and examine it from multiple perspectives. It's very therapeutic.

What books are you an evangelist for at the moment?

There are so many. That being said, there's one book that almost no one I meet at schools seems to have read, and I find it hard to believe: HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff. It won the Printz Award in 2005, and the British equivalent (the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year) in 2004. It's a staggering book, and the voice is extraordinary. It's impossible to put down. Everyone should read it.

What's next after Dumb, working on anything new?

Oh, yes! My next YA, entitled The Hallelujah Book Tour, will be coming out spring 2012, also from Dial Books. It's the story of a 16-year-old boy who writes a spiritual self-help book that becomes a bestseller. When he's sent on a promotional tour along Route 66 things don't exactly go as planned, particularly when a former crush hitches a ride.

After that, around fall 2012, the first book in my Elemental trilogy will be released (again with Dial). It's set in a dystopian colony of the United States where everyone is born with powers of the elements—earth, water, wind, and fire—except for one boy who is powerless . . . or is he? I'm so psyched
about it I can barely see straight.

Thanks for having me along. And thanks to all your readers!

If you'd like to find out more about Antony his website is:

He can also be found on Facebook at:

1 comment:

Liana said...

Great interview. I didn't know that book was written by a guy!