Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Conversation with Kim Savage, Author of AFTER THE WOODS

In a time when YA seems to be continually centered around fantasy novels and contemporary issues, debut author Kim Savage has written a thriller, for which I am, well, thrilled.  AFTER THE WOODS  deals with the aftermath of an attack on a teenage girl in the woods near her home.  Over the course the novel, Julia deals with post traumatic stress disorder from the attack, and is forced to question the motivations of the people closest to her.  It's a tense, honest, and thrilling debut, and I had the opportunity to chat with Savage recently.  Our conversation is below.

Kurt: So to get this started, why dont you take a few lines to let people know who you are.  But to complicate your life some, you have to use 50 words exactly.  Go!

Kim: I am a former journalist and academic consultant from the Boston area who tries to write the kinds of books she loves to read: fast-paced, complex, sophisticated, and suspenseful novels for readers of all ages, mainly about intense female relationships that have the power to heal or destroy. Boom!

Kurt:  You’re one word short, but I’ll forgive you.  A 98% is perfectly acceptable by my standards.

Kim: Thought I had it with Boom! I’m terrible at math, says Yet Another Writer.

Kurt: I’ve read a lot of YA novels lately, but AFTER THE WOODS is one of the only YA thrillers I’ve run across.  What draws you to the genre?

Kim: I’m going to highjack this question a bit and say that I’m drawn to psychological suspense (and over the straightforward thriller). I love to get physical reactions from books I’m reading. I need the rush. I also need to be surprised by a plot turn I didn't see coming. And, layers. I need layers of meaning that unfold long after I’ve finished the book. That last one’s not particular to psychological suspense, of course. For instance, I’ve spent the last four days having revelations about Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!.

Kurt:  You certainly evoke a physical reaction with this novel, especially in that brutal first chapter.  Do you find writing dark, visceral moments like that difficult?  Does it affect your mood for the rest of the day?  How do you get in that mental place to write scenes like that?

Kim:  I suppose I compartmentalize. And if I’m not in the mental space to write a scene, I won’t write it. I might edit or do social media stuff instead. But if I’m resisting writing a scene over and over again—and this can happen with a funny or romantic scene just as easy—it probably means I’ve gone wrong somewhere. That will certainly affect my mood!

Kurt: There aren’t a lot of YA thrillers out there, unfortunately.  What draws you to the genre?

Kim: I want to see a character use their intellect and street savvy to solve what I throw at them. As a reader, that engages me on a much more visceral level than, say, dudes leaping from train car to train car. I guess it’s just a personal preference, but it’s hard-wired, because as a reader, many of my favorite novels sit squarely in that genre: Shutter Island, Gone Girl, Rebecca, The Silence of the Lambs, The Talented Mr. Ripley. Memento (the film) took my breath away.

I’m also drawn to noir, which I’d like to see more of in YA.

What an awesome cover, right?
Kurt:  Yes, some variety in YA would be nice!  Noir-ish YA would be fantastic!  Like the movie Brick, which is fantastic if you haven’t seen it.

I think what makes your book effective is that it deals with Julia’s life after the attack in the woods instead of making this into a hunt-down-the-attacker novel like a lot of writers would do.  Why did you choose to tell the story you did, which in a lot of ways is Julia dealing with PTSD?

Kim:  Girls get abducted. Statistically, the most time passes, the less chance they have of coming back. What do you do with the girl who comes back? How does she fit back into her old life, and mainstream society? What if she starts to question what really happened that day?  My novels always begin with questions that I find intriguing. I don’t find the abduction of Julia nearly as interesting as what happens after.

I also wanted to tell a story about survivors. Terror is terror, whether it’s brought by Sadam Hussein or Boko Haram or Deborah Lapin or Donald Jessup. Liv was being terrorized, and sought freedom in a permanent solution. Julia went inward, and when her physicality failed her, she relied on mental strength to outwit and survive Donald. Liv and Julia are both fighting oppression, and they both prevail in different ways.

Kurt: One of the things that I thought was really interesting was your choice to have Donald Jessup, the attacker, already dead very, very early in the novel.   I thought it was a gutsy choice as most writers would want him around, at least by having him in jail and therefore an ever-present specter, but you didn’t do this.  What was your thought process on this decision?

Kim: Early in the novel, when Liv tells Julia to move on, she’s being insensitive, but she also has a point. I mean, what teenager wouldn't want to get back to her old life? I want readers to see that Julia is behaving erratically, and for that reason it was important that all immediate threats to Julia be blunted.

Along these lines, there’s a clue about what happened to Donald buried in the novel. I must have buried it too well, because I don't think anyone has ever caught it. Did that sound like a challenge?

Kurt: That’s definitely a challenge!  All readers should email you when they find it right?  Who doesn’t love interactive books?

Okay, to wrap this up, let’s do the lightning round.  Answer these questions however you’d like--with or without explanation.  It’s up to you.

1. Since you’ve written a novel about survival, let’s start with an oldie but a goodie: You’ve been stranded by yourself on a deserted island ala Tom Hanks in Castaway.  What one book, one cd, and one miscellaneous item of your choosing would you want with you?

Kim: Item or human? Because I’m thinking Benedict Cumberbatch would be super-helpful. You know, peeling bananas. Catching fish. Anything, really.

2. The woods in your novel is a terrifying place.  What’s the scariest place you’ve ever been?

Kim: Inside Hill House, by way of Shirley Jackson.

They don't make covers like this anymore, unfortunately.
3. Thrillers like you’ve written are usually centered around some sort of mystery.  What’s a mystery you would like to know the answer to?

Kim: When Donald Trump will finally announce this is all just his own well-funded social experiment, and America failed, and we can move on.

4.  The characters in your novel deal with trauma in their own ways. What’s your go-to comfort food when you’re feeling particularly stressed out by life?

Kim: Were there but one. Mostly, though: cheese, juicy Spanish reds, and coffee.

5. Dinner party time!  What one writer, rocker, actor/actress, and miscellaneous person of your choosing would you like to invite?  (Yes, all living, please.)

Kim: It was David Bowie until recently. Ok: Gloria Steinem.

Kurt: And finally, I’ll give you the last word.

Kim: You won’t know this, but I am a HUGE fan of pranks. I’ve strung bikes in trees. Decorated conservative lawns with leftist political signs. Created an imaginary college suite-mate that people believed existed for months. If I can’t read DON’T GET CAUGHT soon, well.

Let the Prank War begin, Dinan.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Reblog: Janet Reid, Literary Agent: A short quiz

It makes sense that for my 100th post I'm reblogging something from Janet Reid.  Reid is a literary agent who runs the incredibly helpful Query Shark blog which gives great advice in writing query letters.  My query writing travails are documented throughout my blog, and I've always said it was Reid's blog and advice that helped me shape and craft my query to where I finally landed an agent.  This post of hers yesterday, on a separate writing blog she does, is great advice for any writer, and it's so good I thought I'd post it here.

*Note, this is just the beginning of her post.  You need to click the link below to read the awesomeness.


Janet Reid, Literary Agent: A short quiz:

Recently I came across an excerpt from a book when it was posted to Twitter.

I've posted the excerpt below and it's followed by a short quiz. 

Don't comment until AFTER you take the quiz ok?

And don't READ the other comments till you've posted yours, ok?

Get a pen/pencil and paper ready (you really need to write by hand for this.)


Here are photos of the two pages.

I should mention this is NOT a trick quiz. The pink highlighting is NOT significant. Just read the text. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Conversation with Eric Smith, author of INKED

I first met Eric Smith through a great blog post he did awhile back.  I sent him an email telling him how helpful he had been, and after a couple of back and forths, he gifted me an e-copy of his fantastic YA fantasy novel, INKED.   It's the type of fantasy novel I can easily get behind--a hero I care about, real stakes, excellent world building, and moves at just the right clip.  I finished the novel in two days, which for me is quite an accomplishment due to my busy life, but should be a indicator of just how invested I was in this world.  Below is an interview I did with Eric a few weeks back.

Me: Just in case readers have been living in a dark cave in a third world country (like Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie, if you need a movie reference), introduce yourself.  But you only get 50 words.  Go!

Eric: Ah! Okay! Well, I'm an author, blogger, and literary agent living in Philadelphia with my amazing wife, corgi, bunny, and chinchilla. I read and write YA, and can usually be found doing one of those two things every single day. 

Me: It's very clear you live a very writer-y life: writing novels, being an agent, blogging, etc.  Is this the life you always dreamed of living?  What are the benefits and drawbacks to such a writing-fueled life?

Eric: It's true! Benefits, I'm pretty much always doing what makes me really happy, whether I'm actually fussing over books-in-progress or just reorganizing my library for the millionth time in a High-Fidelity-but-with-books inspired fury. And I have a lot of friends who pursue similar things, whether it's blogging or writing books, so there's always someone to nudge and talk to, if not in person, at least on gchat or Twitter.

Drawbacks... well, it can be a serious brain drain. If I'm editing a book all day for one of my authors, come 5pm-ish, I'm usually mentally exhausted and just want to play video games or watch Netflix. And if I wanted to write that night, that's usually a no-go. If my pals want to do happy hour, I'm generally tired or still thinking about that book. It's a tricky balance!

Me:  I really loved INKED, especially the world building and complex politics of the novel.  What was your process in developing such a world?  Is this a novel you've lived with in your imagination for a long time before writing it?  Because it seems like you've really thought this place through.

Eric: Thank you! It existed for a bit before I hit the page. My tattoo artist (I'm inked myself!) made some jokes about always being a tattoo artist, because of the incredible amount of ink he has. And that got me thinking a lot. And I've always been obsessed with games like Final Fantasy, where the government is doing really messed up with things with magic. I wanted to explore that idea for a long time, and it felt like a good, odd fit. 

There was a tiny bit of outlining, but a lot of it was just seat-of-my-pants writing. I owe it to my awesome agent, Dawn Frederick, and stellar editor, Meredith Rich, for helping me sharpen the story into what it became. Those two, they are amazing. 

Me: As an agent and lover of YA novels, I'm sure you've read your share of YA fantasy.  When you wrote INKED, did those novels influence your characters or plotting?  How did you work to ensure your novel was different from all of the fantasy novels out there, because I think it is original.

Eric:  Absolutely! Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly series had a huge influence on me while I was writing the first book, and I probably bring that up every time I talk about it. As did Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, a book I was doing the marketing for at the time. 

For me, the inspiration was drawn from the voice and the tone of the books I loved, and less from the plot. I'd never dabbled with writing YA before, so I wanted to really know what I was getting into. 

Me: How has being a writer affected your work as an agent and vice versa?  If held at gunpoint and forced to choose one, which are you going with?

Eric:  Hahah, yeah, it's tricky. Finding the time to work on your own stuff while working on other books can be tough, but it's also insanely inspiring. One of my authors, Dave Connis, who has a book due out with Skyhorse in 2017, has sent me several projects since we started working together. It makes me want to get my act together and write more, every time something pops up in my inbox from one of my writers. 

It's about balancing all that time, without losing track of what's important. I wanted to be an agent to work with other authors a lil' more closely. Can't let that slip up. Held at gunpoint... heh, maybe agenting, actually. I do love writing, but there's a real thrill in making other writers' dreams come true. Don't tell MY agent that though. She'll probably see this though... er. Hi Dawn!

Me: Now for the lightning round--five out of the ordinary questions that will let readers know things about you they wouldn't find anywhere else.  Answer and explain, or just answer.  It's up to you.

You're forced to get a face tattoo, ala Mike Tyson, but it has to be a cartoon character, big and bold for everyone to see.  What character are you choosing and where is it going specifically?

Eric:  Hah! Oh dear. I have no idea. It would definitely be something from Futurama though. That I could live with. 

Me: Caenum lives in a world of magic where people have super hero-like powers.  As America's newest crime fighter, what is your super power and what is your nickname?

Eric:  I have such problems with the "what would your superhero power be" type questions, because I am convinced I would end up a villain. I'm a super nice person and love helping people but... man. I'd rob banks. It would happen. Let's just say telekinesis, for now, because you can like, do all kinds of stuff with that according to the X-Men. Maybe my name would be "Notsureif" because people would wonder if I'm a good guy or a bad guy. "He's robbing the bank! Oh, but look how nice he's being to everyone."

Me: Agent time machine time.  You can go back to any point in history and be the agent who discovers a writer and sells his/her first novel.  Who's book are you going to discover and why?

Eric:  Oh hell yes. Jules Verne. Done and done. Because he's Jules Verne and his books influenced my entire life. 

(Jules Verne just looks smarter than the rest of us, doesn't he?)
Me: What under-the-radar novel out there do you wish everyone would read?

Eric: Oooh. I feel like a lot of people slept on the Talker 25 series by Joshua McCune. Second book came out last year, first one two years ago. It's basically like that movie Reign of Fire, except set in the future, with dragons that can talk telepathically and a world that's all aflame. It's amazing. I want more people to read it.

Me: Dinner party!  You can invite one rocker, writer, actor/actress, and miscellaneous person to your party--all living, please.  Who are you inviting?

Eric:  Rocker: Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World. Writer: Nick Hornby. Actor: Jason Bateman. Misc: probably my best buddy Miguel so we can talk about it later and someone will have been there to believe me. 

Me: And finally, you can have the last word. Go.

Eric: <3

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Conversation with Sarah Ahiers, author of ASSASSIN'S HEART

The fact is I've never been a fan of fantasy novels.  Wizards, dragons, magic, talking animals...it's just never been my thing.  I have no problem with these novels; we all just like what we like.  Live and let live, I say.  But when I saw that I could read an arc of Sarah Ahier's ASSASSIN'S HEART, I jumped at the chance.  I'd first met Sarah on the Query Tracker message boards, where writers discussed and sought help in their quest to get signed by an agent.  Sarah was always incredibly helpful and positive there, remaining behind to help even after she was signed by an agency.  I figured, knowing what a good person she was, I would give fantasy another chance.  And I'm glad I did.  Her novel is filled with assassin's, ghosts, and a Godfather-like family dynamic that I really, really enjoyed.  I'm hoping that other books in this world will follow.  Below is an interview I conducted with Sarah about her writing, world building, and her chosen assassin skill.

Me: Okay, so introduce yourself to the readers.  In 50 words (exactly!), who are you?

Sarah Ahiers: I am a kidlit author living in Minnesota with a houseful of dogs and critters. I have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University and write mostly fantasy for YA and MG, but also like to write horror and have dabbled in picture books. Bam.

Me: Assassin's Heart contains such a rich world that you've created. It really was my favorite part of the novel.  How did you go about constructing your world?  How much prep work did you need to do before writing?

SA: So, I’m a hardcore plotter. I like to have a ton of character and theme pre-work, a list of scenes and a query written before I start my first draft. But for world building, I tend to pants it in the beginning. I let a lot of it come to me organically as I’m writing the first draft (some things I know ahead of time, especially if they’re really connected to the plot or character.) I think my brain comes up with interesting things, that way. Like the angry ghosts was a product of this method. I didn’t even know there were ghosts in the world of Assassin’s Heart until I wrote a line where Lea mentioned the angry ghosts on the dead plains and I realized that was something I really wanted to explore more.

Me: Obviously readers see the final product usually without knowledge of the hard work that goes into a novel.  In the process of writing the novel were there any missteps along the way?  Is this the book you originally envisioned?

SA: This is very close to the original book I envisioned. There was a major character cut in my first edit letter, but outside of that, everything is very close to the original idea and draft. But I took a long time with this book. The first 50k fought me and I had to set it aside for a year. But when I picked it back up, the rest of it was so much easier it made me wonder why I had problems in the first place (the answer was, I was trying to write it too soon after finishing another book. Lesson learned)

Me: An odd and short question - Why YA fantasy?

SA: I live in the real world, so I don’t really want to write about it. And I love to read fantasy and just wonder “what if?”

Me: You've created an impressive online presence.  I first "met" you on the QueryTracker boards, but I know you're a blogger and have an active social media life.  How do you balance your novel writing time with your online time?  What benefits have you found to being so active online?  Any drawbacks?

SA: Yay for QT forum! I’m still on there. As for writing and social media, I do very little of either on the weekends, which helps, I think, keep things more balanced. I do have times, though, where I feel like I’ve missed things online because I’ve been unplugged, or where I’ve felt like I’m not working as hard as I could be because I don’t write on the weekends or evenings, but in general, I try not to beat myself up about it. And for blogging, I realized a long time ago that it’s best to try and find something you’re interested in and blog about that in order to keep your interest in your blog going.

Me: Time for the lighting round.  Answer with explanations or without.  It's up to you.  It's more a chance for readers to learn things about you they might not learn elsewhere.

As an assassin, Lea is an expert in poisons.  So you go nuts and turn into a present day assassin.  What is your area of murderous expertise?

SA: I would like to think I’d be a badass with a sword, but honestly, poisons would be safer, I think (though I was never great at chemistry…)

Me: One of the themes of the novel is the importance of family.  What fictional family (books, films, TV, etc.)  would you like to be a part of?

SA: Oh, the Weasleys from Harry Potter. Magic and a happy family = win.

Me: And now that fictional family you've just been adopted by has been wiped out like Lea's family in your novel.  You can now go be mentored to get revenge by any fictional character of your choice.  Who are you going to?

SA: Darth Vader. I mean, dude taught those sand people a lesson or two, amiright?

Me: Ghosts play a large role in your novel's plot and setting.  What, if any, supernatural beliefs do you have?

SA: I think I’m a hopeful skeptic. I always try to be skeptical about things, but I’m also very willing to believe in people who have no real reason to lie. So ghosts, and a lot of cryptids, especially, like, orang pendek which has been spotted in the wild by well-known scientists.

Me: Dinner party!  You can have one rocker, writer, actor or actress, and miscellaneous person at your party.  Wo are you inviting?  (All living, please, and yes, you can have other family and friends there.) 

SA: Bon Jovi, because I’ve heard he’s a nice dude. Neil Gaiman (natch.) Jennifer Lawrence (because she seems hilarious.) Jensen Ackles (I shouldn’t need to explain that one.)


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Conversation with Jeff Garvin, author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN

The best books give insight into people I will never be or worlds I can never visit.  For example, there's no chance I'll ever be a pregnant teenage girl or live in the year 2200 on a remote planet out of our solar system, but a book can show me what those lives would be like, and ultimately help make me more empathetic.  Jeff Garvin's debut novel, SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN, did just that--let me experience a world and a life I have little in common with, but ultimately made me more empathetic to people living that life.  It's the story of a gender fluid teenager struggling with questions of identity, family relationships, and friendship.  It's wonderfully written, honest, thought-provoking, and yes, in the end, made me teary-eyed.  Below is a conversation I had with Jeff about the book.


(I love everything about this cover.)
Me: Okay, so your life has clearly been focused on the arts--guest starring actor on TV, frontman of a rock band, a BFA in film, and now the (soon-to-be nationally recognized) author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN.  Since writing on this level came to later in life, what lessons from those other mediums and carried over to writing this novel?  What overlap, if any, is there for you between acting, singing, and now writing?

JG: It definitely took me a while to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and I tried a lot of things along the way. I think all Art comes from the same place. And, while I have no idea how to actually get in there, I do have some practice at peeking through the windows. Acting forces you to abandon your ego in favor of whatever makes your soul sing in the moment. I use that muscle every day while I’m writing. On the music side of things, writing songs is like building a spacecraft: you only have room for what works. Everything else has to be mercilessly thrown out. That experience speeds up the editing process. Putting on a good rock show is a balance between doing what you love as a performer and focusing on giving the audience whatever they came for: inspiration, or maybe escape. I suppose that experience pays off when I’m deciding which idea to pursue, or how to frame my story. Lastly, filmmaking forces you to visualize EVERYTHING, which helps me with description and visual metaphor. From a business standpoint, acting, music, film, and literature are all Showbiz: lots of lonely work followed by lots of knocking on doors. So all that experience outside of writing fiction helped me figure out how to enjoy life and support myself while I banged on doors.

Me: So when you decided to finally pursue writing seriously, did you know what sort of stories you wanted to tell or did you just sort of feel your way?  What led you to SOBH?

JG: I definitely thrashed around in the dark for a while. I wrote a contemporary adult manuscript for NaNoWriMo, then experimented with paranormal comedy and YA short stories. Then I tried my hand at epic and dystopian fantasy. I was in the process of trying to sell the latter when the idea for SOBH arrived. I was on my way to dinner with friends, when one of our group—let’s call her Jane—brought up a court case pending in my county. A transgender girl (assigned male at birth, but identifying as female) was suing the school district for the right to use the girls’ locker room at her high school. Jane gave us the gist of the story—and then she said, “It’s probably just a pervy boy trying to see some boobs.” I waited for one of my friends to object—or, at the very least, to defend the trans girl—but no one did. I woke up the next morning thinking about the girl—and the morning after that, too. So I sat down to start writing, and what came out was the first line of Riley’s opening blog post: The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Me: Did the novel flow pretty quickly after that?  How long did it take you to have the draft your agent sold?  I ask because there’s a good deal of interest in the novel’s topic of gender fluidity (finally!), and you’re fortunate enough to have a novel on the topic.

JG: I started drafting in February and the book sold as an incomplete draft (a “partial” in pub speak) in a preempt in early June. So it happened fast. The timing (with regard to the subject of gender identity) is certainly fortuitous.

Me: How was the experience writing the novel? You’re dealing with a heavy subject overall, and I’m wondering if it ever affected your mood.  How did you go about putting yourself in the mindset of Riley?

JG: For the most part, it was incredibly fun. I find Riley delightfully witty, snarky, and unapologetic—all qualities that are very satisfying to write. In their blog (I’m using “their” because it’s Riley’s preferred gender fluid pronoun), Riley gets to say all sorts of things that I wish I’d been able to say in high school. Writing from a teenager’s point of view is simultaneously liberating and healing. It’s also revealing; I really haven’t changed that much since sixteen.

As far as the heavier stuff—yeah, those parts got to me. Anxiety is a real part of my life, and I struggle with it almost every day. It was gratifying to express that on the page and watch Riley thrive in spite of it. And that’s part of the beautiful healing power of art. It wrings your heart like a sponge, freeing up space for more love. The ending is always the hardest for me; it’s like leaving Disneyland after a magical day, or saying goodbye to a best friend.

Me:  You said, “I really haven’t changed that much since sixteen.”  And man, isn’t the truth?  I’m not sure if everyone’s like that, or just a few of us, but even 25 years removed from high school, I still think I’m 16 from time to time, definitely more than I’m comfortable with.  Part of me thinks adults are just teenagers who are acting a lot more grown up than they really feel.  Are there any specific moments in the novel that are drawn right out of your own high school experience?

JG: My freshman and sophomore years in high school were mostly miserable. I got picked on for being small, having a big mouth, and because kids thought I was gay. I got in fights. I planned routes to class so I could avoid certain antagonists. I remember one guy liked to poke me with a straight pin when I walked past him in the hall. I found hiding places where I could eat my lunch in peace. I transferred to an Arts High School for my junior year so I could escape all that. So, are there specific moments in the novel drawn from real life? Yes. I guess I’d rather not say which ones. That’s sort of embarrassing.

Me: I think a lot of kids who are dealing with gender fluidity issues are going to connect with Riley, but I also think it’s a great novel for anyone who doesn’t feel like they fit in, which, let’s be honest, is really most people in high school.  Is there a message you hope readers take from this novel?

JG: Thanks, Kurt. I hope you’re right.

I always hated it when teachers crammed themes down my throat in Lit class. When I read The Old Man In The Sea in high school, my teacher obsessed over the scars on the Old Man’s hands, insisting they were symbolic of Christ’s crucifixion wounds. I argued at length that any old fisherman would have scars on his hands—from fishing. (Wow, I’m still angry about that. *takes deep breaths*) Maybe that’s why I’m reticent to give direct answers to questions about message or theme. But I’ll give it a try. I suppose I’ve always felt “other,” and on some level, I wrote the book to exorcise my own demons in the hope that it might help others to expel their own. I think that’s the reason I write. When I read a good book, it does two things to me: it takes me out of my own small world into a bigger one, and it tells me something about myself I’ve never been able to describe and didn’t think anyone else could know. If Symptoms can do that for readers, I’ll be tremendously gratified.

Me:  Well, speaking only for myself, I read novels to experience lives and worlds I never can in real life.  I finished your novel feeling like I understood Riley and the very real struggles someone who is gender fluid must deal with on a daily basis.  It really was a very moving experience for me.

JG: Thank you. I’m thrilled to hear it.

Me: To wrap this up, I’d like to play a round of 5 Questions.  This is more a chance to let readers know some odd-ish things about you, a light way to end the interview.  You don’t need to explain your answers, if you don’t want to.  Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing.

So to start off:  Best 7K song to make someone a fan?

JG: From my totally NOT objective POV: “California Is The End” or “Solid Walls JustPretending.”

Me:  Biggest guilty pleasure?

JG: Car-karaokeing Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” and/or “Wrecking Ball.”

Me:  Book you’ve read more than any other?

JG: It’s a tie between Catcher in the Rye and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Me:  Mystery of the universe you’d love the answer to?

JG: I’d love to see a “Theory of Everything” unite particle physics and quantum theory.

Me:  And, as always -- You can invite one writer, one rocker, one actor/actress, and one miscellaneous person to a dinner party.  Yes, they must be alive, and yes, your friends and family are already invited.  Who are you picking?

JG: J.K. Rowling, Elvis Costello, Jack Nicholson, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Me:  Now you get the last word if you’d like it.  Anything you want to say to finish this up?

JG: Kurt, thank you so much for your time and enthusiasm. Readers, thank you for your attention, and for giving me this awesome job in which I get to  make stuff up. And, finally: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!