First of all, time to announce the winner of May ARC Giveaway #3 — Congratulations, Dana W.! Your books are already on their way to you.
As you guys remember, one of the books in May ARC Giveaway #2 was FAT VAMPIRE by Adam Rex, who kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about vampirism, the perils of being an exchange student and the coolest musical instrument in the world (the theremin):
CG: First, tell us about FAT VAMPIRE. It sounds like a fun twist on the usual vampire legends.
AR: Well, honestly I feel like it’s something of a return to more of the feeling of the traditional vampire legends. Old folktales cast the vampire as little more than a bogeyman. I’m kind of eschewing the modern twist, which is all about good vampires and fantasies about being arrested at the peak of your physical prime and whatnot. My vampire, Doug, is short, doughy and fifteen; and now he’ll always be short, doughy and fifteen. Nobody intentionally made him a vampire–he was sort of an accident. But as he embraces his new status as a creature of the night his star begins to rise in high school, and so he has to decide what he’s going to ask from life, what he’s going to take, and just what sort of person he’s going to be for the rest of eternity. There’s also a basic cable television show called Vampire Hunters on his trail, so that complicates things.
CG: I thought the love interest in FAT VAMPIRE was refreshingly original. Can you tell us a little more about her, and what the inspiration for her character was?
AR: Sejal is an Indian foreign exchange student. Which is a very useful thing to have in a story, of course, because she’s the character to whom everyone can introduce themselves. She’s had a bit of an identity crisis back home and is trying to reinvent herself in America, but she eventually realizes that maybe she doesn’t so much reinventing after all. By the end of the book I think she’s one of the best put-together characters.
She’s really an amalgam of a few different people I knew in high school and more recently. Including an exchange student who went to my high school, though he was technically Australian and a boy. But he once shared some of the idiot questions he’d been asked by Americans (do you have trees in Australia? was my favorite), and that informed the sorts of conversations Sejal suffers during the course of my book.
CG: You’re an extremely gifted artist, and your first books were picture books. What made you decide to branch into YA? What are the biggest challenges you met in making that change? (Or is it easier? I’ve always thought that the younger the reader, the more difficult the writing.)
AR: There’s some truth to that, certainly. I wouldn’t say YA is easier (for me, anyway), but there are some aspects to it that have been kind of liberating. Not having to fret so much about language, for instance. And I don’t just mean vulgar language, though there’s a fair bit of that in Fat Vampire. I mean that I can indulge in a few more five-dollar words without worrying that I’ve just made some 10-year-old throw my book across the room. And I feel like I can be a little less plot-driven here and there.
CG: It’s always interesting me how the lessons from one creative endeavor carry over into another — for instance, I think the best writing advice I ever received was actually a lesson from a pottery class. What have you learned by drawing and painting that you also use in storytelling?
AR: When I paint I find it’s easy to get bogged down in the fine details of a small area, to the detriment of the entire painting. It’s usually better (for me, at any rate) to attempt to paint the whole composition at once, building up each of its subjects simultaneously. I think there’s an example there for the process of writing. Something about not revising the same first forty ages over and over and instead attempting to establish a solid first draft of the whole thing. That isn’t to say I don’t still tend to revise the first forty pages over and over anyway.
CG: Because some of your picture books are about Frankenstein, I’m guessing that you’ve long been a fan of the paranormal. Is that true? Do you remember when and how you first became interested in all things creepy?
AR: It’s certainly true. I can’t recall just how I became interested in creepy things, but I can say that I didn’t turn out this way because I was impervious to frights. I got just as spooked by scary things as most kids, if not more so. But I was also fascinated by the things that scared me, and wanted to master them. I think that’s an important step that’s being denied a lot of kids. The parent only knows that some book or movie or show has scared their child, given him bad dreams, and as a result they want that thing taken away from their children, or worse–from all children. I see too many kids who are being denied the experience of managing their own fears.
CG: After FAT VAMPIRE, what’s next for you in your writing and your art?
AR: I’m working on a new novel, and I have a number of picture books to illustrate–one a manuscript of my own, a least two for other people.
CG: Do you really play the theremin?
AR: I play it badly. I don’t practice enough.
More ARC giveaways will take place later on this summer, but not in June; I’m going to be in Europe for the whole month, either at the Madrid Book Fair (appearances June 3-6), Mare de Libri in Rimini, Italy (appearance June 20!) or just hanging out in Italy to celebrate my upcoming birthday. I’ll be posting more details about the European stops — and also photos, travel stories, you name it. So I’ll check in with you guys after my flight!