Saturday, April 21, 2012

the best and the most difficult

Before Passenger comes out on October 2, the paperback edition (whose cover is a complete mystery to me) of The Marbury Lens will be published in September.

That paperback will have a lengthy excerpt from Passenger in its appendix, as well as an author Q&A and... um... author photograph, too.

Anyway, I wanted to share a question and response here the people at Square Fish (Macmillan's paperback imprint) asked me about The Marbury Lens, and then, since I actually have, like, four books (counting that paperback) coming out between now and fall of 2013, respond to it for each of those other -- brand new -- books.

The question was this: What was your favorite scene to write, and what was the most difficult?

Here are four answers for you:

1. The Marbury Lens:

My favorite scene to write was the one where the boys -- Jack, Ben, and Griffin -- find the anomalous train sitting in the middle of a salt flat in the Marbury desert. I think the qualities that appeal to me most in that scene are the dark mystery of the train, and the sense of wonder and discovery at all the cool and horrifying stuff the boys find inside. I had always intended to write the backstory about how that train got there and what happened to the passengers inside it. I actually started to write a comic book -- just about THAT train in Marbury. Needless to say, the story of the train is an important element in Passenger.

The most difficult scene to write in The Marbury Lens was what finally happened to Seth and his adoptive father, Blake Mansfield after the accidental killing of the minister named Uncle Teddy. That scene upset me for a long time. It still bothers me to go back and reread it.

2. Passenger:

To be totally honest, there were so many exciting scenes I had a blast writing in this book. I enjoyed writing all the scenes with our new character -- Quinn -- because he's so sneaky and annoying. But I think the scene in the London Underground, when Henry and Jack try to "get back home" and Quinn is chasing while Jack bleeds to death and everything falls apart around them was one of the most enjoyable to write. (Not really a spoiler)

The difficult scenes to write involved the couple times when Jack's friends -- Ben and Griffin -- blame Jack for letting them down and ruining their lives. It happens a few times in the book -- when they're in "the box," and again in Marbury's "Under," and even again after that, too. Friends are going to sometimes let one another down, and young kids like Griffin can lash out emotionally, and those are the kinds of things that hurt. You'll see.

3. Winger (coming next spring from Simon and Schuster):

No doubt about it, my favorite scene to write in this book happens when Ryan Dean, his best friend Joey, and Ryan Dean's tormentor Chas have to suffer the "consequence" for losing a poker game and go into town in the middle of the night to buy Halloween costumes. Ryan Dean and Joey end up being stuck inside a car, in the middle of a flash flood, with a guy named Screaming Ned. Best scene ever. I laughed out loud while writing it. I still laugh at that scene. Maybe I'm insane.

The most difficult scene to write happens between Ryan Dean and Doc Mom -- the mother of Ryan Dean's girlfriend, Annie. That's all I'll say about that.

4. Grasshopper Jungle (coming next fall from Dutton/Penguin):

This book was a pure joy/adrenaline rush to write. I have actually done a few out-loud readings of chapters in the book which can practically stand alone as short stories, and I like them very much. The first one is called Stupid People Should Never Read Books, and it's about how Austin (the narrator of this "history") gets in trouble for writing a book report on Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War. The second is a chapter called Rat Boys From Mars and an Unfortunate Incident Involving an Inflatable Whale, which is about Austin and his best friend, Robby, being mistaken for alien invaders and getting shot at by Austin's next-door-neighbor, Earl Elgin, and Earl's son, EJ. And there is an inflatable whale in it, too. All I can say is Ouch. Both those chapters seem to go over very well as read-alouds, as long as the person doing the reading is not easily embarrassed.

I can't say there was any part of the book that was difficult to write. One time, I sat down and tried to compile a list of all the characters and people who are mentioned in the book. I couldn't do it. There were parts of the book that made me very angry, though. A chapter called Soup From Paint Cans comes to mind.