Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Author Interview: Steve Brezenoff

From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story about two Minnesota teens whose lives become intertwined through school, role-playing games, and a chance two-a.m. bike accident.

It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.

But they don't.

This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other's lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn't belong in their lives. A story of those moments when we act like people we aren't in order to figure out who we are. A story of the roles we all play-at school, at home, with our friends, and without our friends-and the one person who might show us what lies underneath it all.

Name three things you loved about writing Guy In Real Life.

Oh, it's so hard to distinguish between when I loved writing this book and when I absolutely dreaded writing it! It was a long process--this book took me almost two years to write, and even longer if you start the clock from when I first wrote the synopsis back in 2007 or so. But I'll do my best. Okay, so here's what I loved:
Meeting the characters, and by that I mean not just Lesh and Lana, the main characters, but most of their friends: Lana's best friend forever Roan, and the others in the gaming club, Reggie and Abraham. I got very attached to that crew. And Lesh's something-like-friend Jelly--a girl a little older and a lot bolder than him--was a joy to write. I fully intend to go back to her and create a story all her own.
The research! It's probably not fair to call it research, since I didn't know I was researching when I did it, but playing World of Warcraft from 2006 till 2012 or so (on and off) was often a lot of fun. It was also often completely maddening and addicting. I will definitely never play it again--until the next expansion comes out.
And revising, which probably sounds insane to other writers. But the fact is that working on the revisions with my editor at Balzer + Bray, Jordan Brown, was a pleasure, not to mention educational and elucidating.
What's your best advice for someone who wants to be a writer?
Read a lot, with tremendous variety. Write a lot--as often as you can. And get some writing buddies--online or in-person--so you can exchange critiques, and be open to the criticism you receive. That said, if your writing buddies aren't jiving with you completely, get new ones.
With your novel now out on the shelves, how does it feel?  What was your favorite part of the process?
I'm writing this two weeks before G.I.R.L. hits shelves, but I've had two other novels on shelves before, and I can tell you it feels great, like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. At the same time, though, it's panic-inducing and paralyzing, because now these words that I obsessed over for literally years of my life are out there, and anyone can just pick them up and read them and be like, "Meh. Whatev." Writers are in a vulnerable position in that way, and that can be very stressful and exhausting.
My favorite part of the process is probably the first month or two of first-drafting, when I'm still meeting characters and figuring out how stuff is going to go wrong for them. After that, there's lots of heavy lifting yet to do, but it's never the same rush for me at that point, aside from the occasional revision epiphany. Those are fun too.
Your books have all taken place in cities and states where you've lived at one time or another.  Does it help you to write around what you know?
Absolutely. I grew up on Long Island, so I was quite familiar with its landscape and manner of speech and all that before I wrote The Absolute Value of -1. I lived in Brooklyn on and off for about ten years before I wrote Brooklyn, Burning, which was plenty for me to get a feel for the neighborhood of Greenpoint and really know how it felt to move through its streets at all hours of the day or night. Having lived in the Twin Cities for eight years now, I'm just beginning to feel comfortable with my knowledge of the area to write fiction inside it. That said, I'm sure I've gotten some things wrong--things about how people interact here, how they drive, how they move through their cities, their turns of phrase, stuff like that--and I expect someone will let me know pretty soon.
What's in your reading pile right now?  Any recent favorites you've read recently that you'd recommend or tell us to steer clear of?
You should read Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian, which will be out later this year. You should also read Bone Gap by Laura Ruby which will be out like next year. Sorry for the not-out-yet titles!
If you could travel anywhere you wanted, where would you go and why?  If you could only take three things with you, what would they be and why?
I'd go to New York. I'd always go to New York because I miss it. And the three things I'd bring are my wife, my son, and my daughter!
About the Author:
Steve Brezenoff is the author of young adult novels Guy in Real Life; The Absolute Value of -1; and Brooklyn, Burning, as well as dozens of chapter books for younger readers. He grew up on Long Island, spent his twenties in Brooklyn, and now lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Beth, who is also a writer for children, and their children Sam and Etta.

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