Sep 27, 2011

A Monster Calls - Interview with Patrick Ness

I am beyond honored to have THE Patrick Ness on the blog today. I jumped at the chance to read his latest, A Monster Calls, and practically fell off the couch for an opportunity to ask him a few questions. 

If you haven't read my review of A Monster Calls, you can find it HERE. If you are too lazy to go take a look and want the bottom line, it's a short story that will leave a lasting impression - a must own. Period. I know many of you readers were lucky to score this ARC at ALA in New Orleans this year. Don't wait a moment more, pick it up and grab a box of tissues. If you didn't get one, the book is available today! Without further ado, Patrick Ness!

You have publicly voiced the relevance and importance of libraries describing yourself as "a child that libraries built." What is your fondest literary memory as a child?
Well, confession time, I didn't actually use that phrase, that was a misquote that's oddly followed me a bit, but I don't mind, it works! The sentiment's a good one. My best library memories are the big secret that no one wants to say about them: their freedom. I could walk in and there was the whole world waiting on the shelves. I'd pick books almost at random. I'd come up with some real duffers (and some really hilariously inappropriate stuff, which I've written about) but also some real discoveries that felt so much more personal since they were purely mine. Freedom, I'd say. I've been a free reader ever since.

I found the BBC article about A Monster Calls enlightening. What was the clincher in the late Siobhan Dowd's work that convinced you to finish her story?
It was that her idea was so potent that it almost involuntarily started triggering my own ideas, and THAT - as any writer will tell you - is the magic moment. When ideas start sparking so fast you barely have time to write them down. Off I went, joyfully.

Can you tell us a little bit about how the illustrator Jim Kay came on board?
My editor and art director suggested a few folks, and they'd particularly liked some drawings Jim had done of beetles. I went to his website (which is great) and saw some terrific drawings of - of all things - electricity pylons and crows that had just the right feel for what I had in mind. So we asked him to do a test drawing, and he came back with the monster leaning on Conor's house, looking in his window. And it was perfect, right from the very first try. That picture hasn't changed since day one, and that's how we knew he was the guy for us. And he's such a lovely, nice guy, too.

Jim Kay/Walker Books

I agree with others that A Monster Calls is a fantastic story for children of all ages and adults alike. Was that intentional or does the universal subject of love and loss naturally make it a fitting crossover?
I only ever really write stories for me. And that sounds selfish, but it's not, it's a real principle of writing, I think, which is that if I don't respond to the story, why would I ever expect anyone else to? It's really got to work for me first, or I think I'm being dishonest and the story will fail. So if I'm writing it for me and responding to it, then I hope that everyone else can, too. If you aim for "crossover" then I think you immediately fail. You just have to set all that aside and write the best story you can. The appropriate audience will come, you just have trust.

When the monster visits Conor, he is told that he will hear three stories before telling his own truth. Where did these three stories originate?
Siobhan had made some notes about how there would be three stories and how excited she was to write them, but she didn't actually leave any notes about what they might be. I really responded to the idea of the stories, though, and thought that was brilliant concept and fit in so well with the theme of the danger/benefit of stories. I like the folkloric feel of them, and I really like the way they turn on themselves after what would be the traditional ending. I'm a big fan of finding out what happens after the "happily ever after..."

Jim Kay/Walker Books

I'm sure you get hundreds of letters from fans that tell you they lived through something similar to what Conor experienced. What do you want the reader to walk away with after reading A Monster Calls?
I really do try not to ever answer this question, sorry! Reading is so personal, so individual (which is why I value it so greatly in my own life) that I wouldn't dream of pushing an interpretation or an expectation on a reader. It's more that I hope that I've opened my own heart and soul and mind to them and said, here's what I think and feel and dream, now what about you?

You moved to the UK in your 20s, what is the one thing you miss most about the US?
You'll laugh, but junk food. Big glasses of raspberry lemonade, peanut butter and chocolate combos, proper Pop Tarts, Mexican fast food, I could go on...

Can you tell us what you are working on right now?
Nope. New projects need protection and privacy to grow into exactly their right shape before anyone lays eyes on them. But I'm working, I'm working.

Thank you, Patrick and Candlewick Press! 

Add A Monster Calls on Goodreads
Patrick Ness can be found on his website and on Twitter
Jim Kay can be found HERE
Siobhan Dowd Trust can be found HERE
Link to BBC article HERE

Check out the book trailer. I think it is one of my favorites, ever!

I loved this book so much that I am sharing my review copy with one lucky winner!