Antony John is the author of two YA books, Busted: Confessions of an Accidental Player and the newly released Five Flavors of Dumb. And today he's hear to answer a few of my questions.
In your opinion, what are the top three reasons why teens (or even adults) should consider picking up Five Flavors of Dumb the next time they see it in stores or online?
Oh, yikes! It’s only the first question and I’m already guilty of shameless self-promotion. Okay, well, here goes:
Reason #1: I like books that put me inside the head of someone whose view of the world is necessarily different to mine. In Five Flavors of Dumb, that person is a deaf high school senior named Piper, and she’s about to discover the awesome power of rock music, forgiveness, love, and her own irrepressible spirit. Every review I’ve read [hearts] Piper. I hope you will, too.
Reason #2: Based on the cover and blurb, some people assume Five Flavors of Dumb is just humorous. Sure, it’s funny, but it’s much more than that. Piper has a lot of stuff to work through with her family and friends, and things get pretty emotional. In fact, very emotional at times! (In other words: keep the Kleenex handy.)
Reason #3: I like books that inspire me to jump out of my chair and pump my fist (even though it freaks my kids out). Five Flavors of Dumb still makes me do that, and I’ve read it, like, a gazillion times already.
If this isn’t enough, please just head over to Goodreads and see what everyone else is saying. (And no, none of the reviewers are related to me!):
Five Flavors of Dumb tells the story of Piper so would you mind telling us a little about her? Also, if you could offer her any type of advice, what would you say?
Piper is smart, sassy, sardonic, and (I’m sorry to say) occasionally self-absorbed. In fairness, though, she’s going through a tough time. A deaf senior at a mainstream Seattle high school, her parents have raided her college fund to pay for her baby sister’s cochlear implant. As a result she’s worried her college dreams have just gone up in smoke, and she’s also pissed that her connection to her sister (i.e. deafness) has been “corrected” (as her father sees it). When she’s offered the chance to manage her school’s rock band, Dumb, and share any money they earn, she throws caution to the wind and goes for it. But getting this band to function musically and socially may be more than she can handle!
If I could offer her advice, I’d tell her to stop worrying and realize how awesome she is. She’s so stressed out about things she can’t control that she misses out on some of the wonderful things that are right in front of her. Some of Dumb’s members help her to see that, thankfully. With the aid of rock music, of course!
Five Flavors of Dumb is told from the voice of a girl, obviously, which leaves me to wonder what made you choose to tell the story from a girl's POV rather than a guy's? Also, what was one of the hardest parts of getting Piper's "voice" down?
I get this one a lot: How does a guy in his late-30s with a Ph.D. in music who grew up in England and went to an all-boys school write from the perspective of a deaf 18-year-old girl at a co-ed American high school?
Hmmm, put like that, I have to admit . . . it’s a good question!
Honest truth: Piper came to me more fully formed than any character I’ve ever written. I just had an innate sense of who she was, how she thought and felt, and how she would communicate that through the written word. I don’t have plans to write from a girl’s point of view again anytime soon, but it felt totally right in this novel, and Piper is without doubt my favorite character (from my books, at least).
That doesn’t mean everything was easy. In fact, there were some, um . . . interesting moments in the writing process. For instance, Piper crushes on a boy. To be honest, I wasn’t completely convinced why she would like him all that much. So I asked my wife and sister-in-law: “What makes a boy attractive to a girl?” Now, as someone who has been happily married for a decade, I probably ought to have had some idea of this already, but I didn’t. And so both of them dutifully gave me a list of things that they would have found attractive in Piper’s situation. And I thought: “Huh. That makes sense. Cool.” And I included it. All of it.
Then there’s the moment where Piper makes out with someone-who-shall-remain-nameless. And I thought: “Huh. I’ve never kissed a guy. I wonder what that’s like.” So I asked. And they told me. And it’s all there in the book. It was very illuminating for me!
If Five Flavors of Dumb had a theme song what would it be?
Easy: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Read the novel and you’ll know why!
How did the title Five Flavors of Dumb come to be? Was it always the title or did it come later on in the game?
Actually, the title came before anything else. I was on my way to a coffee shop to write and the title just popped into my head. I spent that morning planning the book. I was sure it was going to be the best thing ever, but I was very wrong. Fortunately, by the time the book sold eight months later, the only thing that remained from that original version was the narrator, Piper. Oh, yeah . . . and the title!
You're also the author of the teen novel Busted: Confessions of an Accidental Player, which leaves me to wonder how the writing process from Five Flavors of Dumb differed from that one?
Great question. Actually, the writing processes were completely opposite.
Busted was written in a two-month flurry, and edited for well over a year.
When it came to writing Five Flavors of Dumb I felt dissatisfied with how I’d approached Busted, and decided to do more planning before I actually began writing. Well, a little planning became a LOT of planning, and before I ever wrote a word of Five Flavors of Dumb I’d compiled a 30000-word plan for it. Then I spent about four months writing the first draft. But after that the editing process was much easier!
Now I write all my books this way: a solid, comprehensive plan that precedes the actual writing. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.
What were you like as a teen? Were you similar in any way to Piper or the other characters?
Oh, boy. Musically, I was Ed Chen (Piper’s sidekick). Music consumed my teen years, which is why I didn’t begin writing novels until much later.
Temperamentally, I had a lot in common with Piper: I was highly opinionated, sometimes to a fault; I cared deeply about everything and everyone, but wasn’t always sure how best to communicate it; I hated being wrong, and didn’t always take criticism well. But like Piper, I was also energetic, determined, passionate, and steadfast with my friends. These remain the touchstones of who I am today, and are almost certainly the reasons that writing from Piper’s perspective came so easily.
What's next for you book wise?
My next YA, entitled The Hallelujah Book Tour, will be coming out spring 2012, also from Dial Books. It's the story of a 16-year-old boy who writes a spiritual self-help book that becomes a bestseller. When he's sent on a promotional tour along Route 66 things don't exactly go as planned, particularly when a former crush hitches a ride.
After that, around fall 2012, the first book in my Elemental trilogy will be released (again with Dial; can you tell I like my editor!). It's set in a dystopian colony of the United States where everyone is born with powers of the elements—earth, water, wind, and fire—except for one boy who is powerless . . . or is he? I'm so psyched about it I can barely see straight.
Thanks so much for having me along today, Lauren. And a very happy new year to you and your readers!
To find out more about Antony and his books, head on over to his website.
By the way, Antony frequently hosts book giveaways (his own books and also ARCs of forthcoming releases). Just head along to his website (www.antonyjohn.net) for details, or “like” him on Facebook:
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