Interview – Jesse Haynes

Hello readers!

Today we’ll be bringing you an interview with Jesse Haynes, YA novelist and podcaster extraordinare.

The Spork Review: You got your creative start as a young adult author – how did you get into podcasting?

Jesse Haynes: Hmm… great question. A lots of little parts working together, I suppose. I’ve been listening to podcasts for a good while. Since 2011, I believe. That being said, I never actually considered creating one until my high school principal started one and I saw the potential that iTunes and free content offered.

TSR: You’re also a full-time college student – how do you find the time for everything? Your schedule must be very busy!

JH: It really is quite a busy schedule, but I try to pick classes that help me with my writing and podcasting, so occasionally I can kill two birds with one stone. For example, I actually made an “independent study” class with one of my professors last semester, and that is how we created The Others. It was actually worth 3 hours credit! Whoo!

TSR: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

JH: Definitely. I’m a very methodical writer. Too much so, I will be the first to admit. My mother and I were talking last week about how she doesn’t think I’m “flexible” enough. Whether I am writing books or podcasts, I like to create a very detailed outline with all the major plot elements before I ever write a word of the actually work. Many argue that isn’t creative, but I’ve never been one to just sit in front of a blank screen and begin typing out super creative stuff while aimlessly pecking away at a keyboard, y’know?

TSR: Where is your favorite place to write?

JH: I try to find silence. I used to write in a chair in the corner of my living room by choice, but I have gravitated to a quieter chair in a back room of my house now. That said, I have also typed in a high school basketball stadium before a game, on long car/bus rides, or even during a slow lecture. (Shhh, don’t tell.)

TSR: Your newest book, Special, releases in August. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

JH: Special is a book that I never thought I would write but I’m very glad I did. It’s a story about an unlikely friendship between a cheerleader and boy with Downs Syndrome, and it teaches about bullying and why we should respect others who are different from us. It’s a story that needed to be told, and I’m happy to be the one to tell it.

TSR: Who has been your favorite character to write so far?

JH: Oh goodness. I have two. For novels, my favorite character is Shafer McCartney. He’s a little bit of all of us—the good and the bad. The sassiness, the bravery, the love—everything that makes us human has gone into Shafer. His story is a long one that I recently finished telling (at least the first part), but the world has not met him yet though, so that’s all I will say for now.

For podcasting, my favorite character is Uncle Rick. He’s the stereotype of “that crazy guy who is nobody’s biological uncle, yet claimed by all.” Is that even a stereotype? Uncle Rick was the product of actually my friend Mitchell’s imagination at about 1:30 AM, and a 3 page short story has blossomed into a full-fledged character that slowly is building a fandom. (I’ve had a 12-year-old write a letter to Rick.) Mitchell says some of the wildest things, and many of Rick’s lines are actually things that have come out of Mitchell’s mouth, so there are a decent amount of inside jokes with that character, but everybody can laugh with and at him.

TSR: I hear that The Others has been a huge success – congratulations! What can we expect from season 2?

JH: The Others was 100 percent intended to be a standalone series of one season, but I had a company approach me about buying a second season. That being said, if a second season does turn up it will probably be in late 2018 or early ’19 and will explore the backstory of the island a little more thoroughly while offering an escape.

TSR: Which other podcasts would you recommend to listeners who are all caught up on Cryptid Creatures, The Others, and Mazie Meadows?

JH: Oh goodness. These are hard questions, ha! My personal favorite is the Thrilling Adventure Hour, which is no longer being produced. But there are about 250 episodes that follow four or five common storylines (my personal favorites are “Sparks Nevada” and “Beyond Belief”), and they are brilliantly written and performed. I started podcast listening with WTNV for a while but can only handle so much absurdity, and I have followed a few other shows for a while but eventually lost interest in most of them as well. I tend to favor the cleaner shows, and that’s hard to find—so I’m making them myself.

I like radio drama like the Alexandria Archives and King Falls, but I’m not even caught up on the latter because I eventually just got tired of the storyline. I will occasionally listen every now and then though, for sure. The production is great. I’m not sure how TAH has kept my attention for so many episodes.

TSR: What’s up next for you?

JH: I’m going to study carpentry.

Joking, of course. I have a new series of books I am writing—YA Action and Adventure—and I foresee a good amount of Mazie Meadows in the future. When I first created a podcast, a show like MMMS was my goal, but I didn’t think I could get there with my first attempt at podcasting. I knew nothing about it, so I took the unconventional route of both a historical series studying myths followed by a short audio-drama series to learn enough to pull off a fictional radio show.

TSR: What piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

JH: “Never stop chasing your dreams.” Then I would wince because I am super cliché. Maybe I would actually say something like “Don’t feel like you have to stick to the industry standards.” That just doesn’t sound as good when you’re talking to an eight-year-old.

Here’s the deal: none of my books have been traditionally published, but they are doing well enough to create a little word of mouth buzz, at least in this general geographical reason, and I’m very blessed for that. But I’ve learned that maybe the ideal way to make a living writing is to sign a million dollar contract and turn your work over to a publisher, but that is not the only way.

And this is sad, but I foresee a near future when fiction books are nearly obsolete. There just aren’t as many people willing to put down a tablet or phone and read, and most of the people that are willing to do so are older than me. That being said, no way do I feel bound to print and binding fiction now. I’m a story-teller more than a novelist, and through ads and downloads I think I might be able to support myself just as well with (free) podcasts than by selling books. Crazy how the digital world works.

But at the end of the day, if I’m telling stories and people have eyes (or ears) on them, then I’m happy. That’s what it’s all about—enjoying what you do. I’d tell the aspiring writer all of that and hope he/she is not in a big hurry.

Lightning round:

TSR: Do you have any hidden talents?

JH: I actually am not the super stereotypical sci-fi novelist, or at least I hope not. I was an all-state basketball player in HS along with winning several visual art awards (a Scholastic Gold Key, if that means anything to anybody). Oh, I also can eat a lot in one sitting. Like a lot.

TSR: What is something no one else knows about you?

JH: I have a mixed relationship with golf. I love it but it frustrates me to no end. Also, I have five cats and wear a size seventeen shoe. Only a few people know that.

TSR: What is one thing you never leave home without?

JH: Clothes.

But also my computer. I typically have my laptop on me, or at least in my car, at most times.

TSR: Favorite thing to do to relax?

JH: I loooooooooooooove hot tubs. Just don’t have one. Yet. That’s a future goal. I also really enjoy typing to relax—surprise!—and occasionally I will watch TV.

TSR: If you were stranded on an island with The Others, what 3 things would you like to have with you?

JH: Duct tape, sunscreen, and LeBron James.

You can do anything with the duct tape, I’m snow white and would die of sunburn in 3 minutes and 12 seconds without sunscreen, and it would be really great to meet LeBron. Plus, he could probably fight off the Others if need be. 

Thank you Jesse for that sporkeriffic interview! I must say that I’m thoroughly enjoying the MMMS. Looking forward to the new broadcast!

Author Interview – Brooks Benjamin

Hello readers!

Today we have a special interview with Brooks Benjamin, author of My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights.

The Spork Review: Why write for middle-graders?

Brooks Benjamin: The twelve year old in me won’t let me write anything else. Maybe it’s because because he knows that age is such an important time in our lives–it’s when we begin to figure out stuff like who we’re going to be, who we’re going to like, what we’re going to enjoy, fear, and need. Or maybe it’s because he knows it’s the perfect mixture of being a kid and becoming a young adult that makes that age a wonderfully delicious emotional and behavioral soup. Or maybe it’s because he’s an immature little turd that won’t let go of the fact that he still giggles over fart jokes sometimes.

TSR: The main theme of My 7th Grade Life in Tights is “Find the moves that fit.” Why do you feel that it was important to tell Dillon’s story?

BB: Middle school is a jungle we’ve all explored but will always remain unconquered by human beings. There’s an air of incivility that surrounds it which makes those three years some of the worst years in many people’s lives. It wasn’t any different for me. I had an idea of who I wanted to be but was so scared to allow myself to become that person. So I wanted to write something that spoke to that and to any human who has ever felt that way. I wanted to tell every one of them that it’s fine to be scared and it’s fine to be worried but it’s not fine to let others tell you who or what you should be. “Find the moves that fit” is my dancetastic way of sharing that no matter who you are, there’s a style out there for you, even if you have to make it all up yourself.

TSR: Tell us a bit about your writing process.

It always starts with interesting characters. I hear them say something, I see them do something, I imagine their reaction to something. They’re nothing more than an idea at this point, but while I begin to throw out problems and stories and allow them to speak to it and about it, I learn who they are and who they want to be. Their personalities grow and deepen and the rose-colored glasses come off when I see their flaws. But they become very real to me after that. As I begin to write out their stories, there’s always a fear that I’m getting it wrong, but they always let me know if I am. And as their story progresses, I continue to learn things about them. There’s never a time when I know it all. The difference is that by the time that particular story is finished, I’ve grown to love each of them and appreciate their quirks, their worries, their problems, and their needs, about as much as I can appreciate my own.

TSR: Where is your favorite place to write?

My desk beside the big window that overlooks the woods. And when it’s raining outside I love it even more.

TSR: Can you tell us about what you are working on now?

BB: Sure! I’m working on another MG. This one’s about two friends, one who is very real and is trying to find a way to disappear and one who isn’t quite real and is trying to keep from vanishing altogether.

Lighting Round:

TSR: Favorite NKotB song?

BB: HANGIN’ TOUGH!

TSR: Favorite thing to do to relax?

BB: Play video games while eating pizza.

TSR: Salty or sweet?

BB: You mean salty AND sweet? Yes.
TSR: What is one thing you never leave home without?

BB: My underwear. If I ever have to sacrifice my pants to save someone’s life I want to do it with some dignity.

TSR: Any hidden talents?

BB: I can impersonate a ton of actors or characters from cartoons. When I was a kid, I wanted so badly to be someone else that I tried on different characters all the time. The result was a talent for sounding like, but never being anyone else but me. And that’s pretty cool, I think.

Thanks so much to Brooks for answering some questions for us! Your new book sounds great – I can’t wait to read it!

Author Interview – Jeff Zentner

In celebration of Jeff Zentner’s upcoming book Goodbye Days getting its first major review (and a starred one at that – as if there was any doubt!) we have a special treat – Jeff has agreed to answer a few questions for us!

Continue reading “Author Interview – Jeff Zentner”