Thursday, October 2, 2008

Author interview: Todd Mitchell

Today I bring you an interview with the third finalist in the Young Adult category of the Colorado Book Awards. You can also read the interviews with the other two finalists, Teresa Funke and Laura Resau.

Todd Mitchell is the author of the fantasy novel, The Traitor King (Scholastic Press, 2007) His next YA novel is coming out with Candlewick Press in 2010 but he can't figure out what to title this one. He's also published several short stories, essays, and poems in journals and magazines. He earned his M.F.A in Fiction from Colorado State University and his B.A from Oberlin College. Currently, he teaches creative writing at Colorado State University. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife, dog, and daughter (whose middle name is Story). P. S. If you have any title suggestions for his upcoming book (about a high school sophomore who likes a lot) please email them to him (click on contact me at his website.)

I know your secret to writing so convincingly: you are really a teenager pretending to be an adult. You're not? Then how do you do it?

I think everyone is a teenager at heart. Some people just like to dress up in suits and pretend they're more adult. As for myself, I try to avoid pretending.

Which makes you want to procrastinate more: starting a new scene of revising draft? (And if you never procrastinate, please, please, please share your secret.)

Facing the blank page is always the hardest for me. Anytime I need to start a new scene, I get an overwhelming urge to play hacky sack, or mow the lawn or something. THe only tip I have is to put a few words down. ANy words. Once something is there, things get easier.

In your writing, what is the relationship between putting down the initial idea and revising?

I see putting down the initial ideas as capturing a vision or mood. But it's only in revision that the vision becomes real. Or to use another analogy--putting down the initial idea is like gathering a handful of clay to work with. But it's in revision that I actually shape that clay into something I want other people to see. I often spend three times as long rewrigin and revising something as I do writing the first draft.

Which scenario comes closest to yours: (a) you wake up at dawn, sit at your keyboard with your coffee and work for a couple of hours before the rest of the family gets up; (a) you put away the dinner dishes, tuck the kids into bed, start a load of laundry and start writing; (c) you have 10 minutes between your office hour and your next class/you sit in the pickup lane of your child’s school and scribble down a few sentences?

I write in the morning, because it's too easy to let other things crowd out writing. Th only way I can get writing done is to make it a priority, and do it before everything else. Unfortunately, this often means I forget to pay bills, and my house is trashed, and the dinners I make are pretty lame.

Do you have a community you turn to for support, encouragement, critiques, and celebration in your writing life?

My wife reads everything I write. She's a pretty tough critic, but she's the one I'm always writing for. I also trade manuscripts with some writer friends (some of them are up for the Colorado Book Award this year too!) It's important to have a few good, critical readers who can keep you from getting locked in your head.

Did you ask young readers to read you book before you published it? What was the most interesting response you’ve received?

Nope. My wife is pretty immature, though. I think we have that in common.

If you weren’t a children’s book writer, what would you do?

I'd be Vice-President. (Todd's debating tonight!)

What will you do for your two fellow authors if you win: (a) bring them homemade apple pies, (b) offer to watch their child/children for a weekend, (c) provide them with unlimited signed copies of your book?

If I win, I'll gladly bake them corn bread. That's about as far as my baking skills go.

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