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JONATHAN AUXIER INTERVIEW AND BOOK GIVEAWAY
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door- be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle- at fifty paces. Moreover, their fingers are so small and nimble that they can slip right through keyholes, and their ears so keen that they can hear the faint clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed;today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise. At one time, however, the world was simply thick with them. This is the story of the greatest thief who ever lived. His name, as you've probably guessed, is Peter Nimble.
Hi Jonathan. Thanks so much for joining us. And Happy Birthday!
Thanks so much! I’m not actually a big fan of birthdays (at least not my own), but getting to be on Literary Rambles makes for a pretty cool present!
1. So glad it makes your birthday a little more special. Tell us a little about yourself and your book.
Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes tells the story of a ten year-old blind orphan who also happens to be the greatest thief who ever lived. It’s a story that came out of a lifetime of reading and collecting classic children’s books -- from Alice Through the Looking-Glass to Treasure Island to Wizard of Oz … Peter Nimble is a sort of love letter to all the books that shaped me as a writer and human being.
2. I love how you used the three pairs of magical eyes as the basis of the magic in your story. How did you get the idea to use that in your story?
One of my favorite authors is Ronald Dahl. A while back I started seeing a pattern of wish fulfillment in his stories. From Matilda to The BFG, he creates stories in which a suffering character receives something magical that speaks directly to their need in a funny, wondrous way. Take Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: it’s the story of a boy who is starving -- literally suffering from starvation. And what does Dahl give him? He gives him a factory made of candy. Not just food, but candy -- the most decadent food any boy can imagine! Of course, along the way, Dahl also begins to address a deeper longing within his characters, which is where the real story resides.
So to answer your question, I began Peter Nimble with a character in need: a weak, blind orphan thief. Then I asked myself what would be the one thing such a boy would wish for? Well, eyes make a lot of sense, at least on a surface level. But in the spirit of “be careful what you wish for” (something else Dahl is a master of), I decided that the eyes needed to be a little bit of a mixed blessing -- they do impossible things, but not always what Peter wants them to. Really, the eyes are less an antidote to Peter's blindness than a promise of something better than a life of crime -- which is his deeper longing.
3. That is so awesome how you learned from one of your favorite authors and applied it to your own writing. I read that you have a background in screenwriting. A lot of writers read and recommend books on how to write a screenplay in helping to develop solid plots. How did your experiences in writing screenplays help you in developing your plot?
I can tend to be a bit abstract and rambling in my thinking, but theatre and film writers can’t afford to ramble: they have two hours to tell a story, and if the pace lags, people will start walking out. This starts and ends with a well-structured plot, which is pretty much the only tool dramatic writers have to work with -- if it’s not something a character does or says, it doesn’t make it into the story!
How does this apply to fiction? With fiction, there are almost no restraints to what a writer can do or say. This is part of what makes great books great … but it is also what makes bad books bad. It’s the old “enough rope to hang yourself” thing. Starting with structure gives me the necessary leash to make sure I don’t go too far astray with my story. The metaphor I’ve always used for this is a madman in a padded cell: the madman can flail and scream and jump around all he wants without hurting himself because he has this cell around him that will protect him. Story structure is my padded cell!
4. That's a great way to describe the perils of too little structure. How are you marketing your book and what advice do you have on marketing for other middle grade authors?
Wow, this is a big question! I am still learning new things every day. One discovery I’ve made is the importance of blogging beyond promotion. People will be happy to celebrate good news about your new book -- but not for months on end. The best online promoters are ones who contribute to the larger children’s literature conversation. Author/illustrator Katie Davis is a perfect example of this with her podcast “Brain Burps about Books.”
Another example is this great publishing blog run by two authors called Literary Rambles … ever heard of it?
In that spirit, I’ve spent the last year running www.TheScop.com, a website dedicated to exploring the connections between children’s books old and new. It’s a chance for me to roll up my sleeves and see how trends in contemporary literature connect with the older tradition (which is my real passion). It’s probably not the most efficient way to get my name out there, but it is certainly a lot of fun!
5. Glad you like our blog. And I agree that it's best to use your blog as a service to others and not just to promote yourself. Do you have any other advice for debut authors?
As I am just barely a debut author, I hardly feel like an authority. I would say that it’s very hard having something you love go into the world for people to discuss. It’s a special kind of vulnerability, and any review short of “best book ever!!!!” feels like a crushing blow. One thing I have made a practice of doing is never reading reviews. Not even Goodreads or Amazon comments. My wife gets Google alerts on all that stuff, and she keeps me abreast of what people are saying. That seems to keep the crazy at bay … for now, at least. Rest assured, I will find something else to obsess over soon enough!
Thanks for all your advice Jonathan. Good luck with your book. You can reach Jonathan at his blog.
Jonathan and his publisher have donated a copy of PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES for a book giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on August 20th. I'll announce the winner on August 22nd. International entries are welcome.