I am so pleased to have David Lubar on this blog today for an interview (plus a giveaway for his newest book Character, Driven thanks to Tor Teen!) David was one of the first authors I ever met! He was the featured author at an educator event I attended one of my first years as a librarian. I read and loved his book Hidden Talents and was so excited to get it signed for my middle school.
My students can’t get enough of his “weenies” short story collections (In the Land of the Lawn Weenies, Invasion of the Road Weenies, etc…) and I personally think Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie may be one of the best books you haven’t read yet 🙂 Here’s a bit more about the recently released (and highly praised!) novel, Character, Driven:
About the Book:
“Call me Cliff. By an accident of birth, I am well named for this story. Think about it. Cliff. Precipice. Edge. There you have it. I’m Cliff. Cliff Sparks.”
With only one year left of high school, seventeen-year-old Cliff Sparks is desperate to “come of age”―and find a girlfriend. But he’s never had much luck with girls. So when he falls for Jillian, a new classmate, at first sight, all he can do is worship her from afar. At the same time, Cliff has to figure out what to do with the rest of his life, since he’s pretty sure his unemployed father plans to kick him out of the house the minute he turns eighteen.
Time is running out for Cliff. He’s at the edge, on the verge, dangling―and holding on for dear life.
1. Can you introduce us to Cliff Sparks, the main character in Character, Driven? What do we need to know about him?
Cliff Sparks is a poem, a stink, a grating noise… Wait. Sorry. That’s Cannery Row. Cliff does occasionally smell somewhat fishy because one of his two part-time jobs is on the deep fryer at Moo Fish. He’s a senior, two months from graduation, two months from his 18th birthday, and two months from possibly being kicked out of his house by his jobless father. He’s also a reader, an artist, and a loyal friend to his small circle (or equilateral triangle) of companions. And he’s writing a novel. Atcually, he’s writing this novel we are discussing. So he talks a bit about the process as he fills in his back story and recounts his pursuit of Jillian, who captivates him on first glance. As for anything else you might need to know about Cliff, he’ll tell you.
2. I really enjoy the wordplay in your books (and your tweets!) Can you talk a bit about why you include it?
Thank you so much. I guess I include wordplay in my books for two reasons. First, it brings me joy. Each instance of wordplay is like a tiny invention or discovery. It means I’ve found a connection. And once I find that sort of connection, I feel compelled to share it. (This is much easier on my readers than on my family and friends who might be within earshot when inspiration strikes.) The English language is one of the greatest toy chests, or building-block sets, in the world. Second, I include it because it often springs from my mind unbidden. That’s just the way I’m wired. I guess I’m wired weird.
3. Your books tend to be humorous, creepy, or both. What draws you to writing funny and/or creepy stories?
I’m a funny, creepy guy. I was a huge fan of monsters when I was a kid. I devoured every issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland and Monster World magazines, as well as Creepy and Eerie comics. Back in the 1960s, you could catch one of the great Universal horror movies, such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, on TV at almost any time. That was also when the funny/creepy shows came out, like The Addams Family and The (marginally creepy) Munsters, along with one of my strongest influences, The Twilight Zone. I think humor and horror are closely related. They often involve the unexpected, and the unpleasant. A pie in the face is not all that different, as far as initial reaction, from a spike in the face, as long as you’re the observer.
4. You write books for a wide age range of readers. Is your process different based on the target audience of a book?
I really only make two adjustments based on age. I’ll keep an eye out for cultural and social references that a reader in the target range might not be familiar with. And I will, at times (and very rarely), replace a word with a simpler or more familiar one. The tricky part here is that prose, just like poetry, comprises both connotation and euphony (which I now fear I’m misusing, of course), so the perfect word might not be the simplest one. But I feel very strongly that reading is one of the ways that young people build vocabulary (as long as the words are not thrown in just for that reason). I also try to make sure any word that might be unfamiliar is used in a way where the context points to the meaning. Wait. Make that three adjustments. I try to make sure the content isn’t inappropriate for the readership. Though I have very liberal standards, for the most part. Still, I warn younger kids away from my horror stories, and I think anyone who isn’t comfortable with very mature situations might want to hold off reading Character, Driven for a while.
5. In reading your biography on your website, I noticed that you’ve worked other jobs but keep coming back to writing. What’s your favorite part of being a writer?
I love revision. My hidden talent is that I can turn crap to gold. My first drafts are a stink, a grating noise. And definitely not a poem. (Oh, Steinbeck, how I love you.) I also love the fact that I can create something new. To paraphrase Sondheim, I made a story where there was no story. That’s an amazing feeling.
6. What’s the best part about writing for teens and younger readers?
They will go anywhere with you, as long as you respect their intelligence and keep them supplied with snippets of wonder. And the occasional fart joke.
7. People look for different things in books. What makes a book a “good read” for you?
For me, a good read has the same components as I try to put into the books I write. (That sentence desperately needs revision, but I’m already late on this, so I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.) There’s a plot. (Despite the title, I feel that Character, Driven is plot driven.) There’s action. There’s lively dialogue from interesting characters. There’s this indescribable magic trick where you and the book exist outside the universe, in some timeless place. I guess, basically, a good book is absorbing. People have told me Character, Driven is a quick read. I take that as a high compliment.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about the book. I feel it is my best work, to date.(Though if you want to date it, please bring it back by 10:00 PM.) I’m pleased by the initial response, and I appreciate the interesting questions. This was fun.
Thanks so much to David for answering my questions! I highly recommend you check out his books!!
About the Author:
David Lubar created a sensation with his debut novel, Hidden Talents, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Thousands of kids and educators across the country have voted Hidden Talents onto over twenty state lists. David is also the author of True Talents, the sequel to Hidden Talents; Flip, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a VOYA Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror selection; several short story collections: In the Land of the Lawn Weenies, Invasion of the Road Weenies, The Curse of the Campfire Weenies, The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies, and Attack of the Vampire Weenies; and the Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie series. Lubar grew up in Morristown, New Jersey, and he has also lived in New Brunswick, Edison and Piscataway, NJ, and Sacramento, CA. Besides writing, he has also worked as a video game programmer and designer. He now lives in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Thanks to Tor Teen I have one copy of Character, Driven to giveaway. US only. Must be 13 or older to win.