Book Nerd Interview
Called a “YA rebel-author” by Kirkus Reviews, Barry Lyga has published nine novels in various genres in his six-year career, including his latest, the I Hunt Killers series. His books have been or are slated to be published in nine different languages in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.
After graduating from Yale with a degree in English, Lyga worked in the comic book industry before quitting to pursue his lifelong love of writing. In 2006, his first young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, was published to rave reviews, including starred reviews from Booklist andSchool Library Journal. Publisher’s Weekly named Lyga a “Flying Start” in December 2006 on the strength of the debut.
His second young adult novel, Boy Toy, received starred reviews in SLJ, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus. VOYA gave it its highest critical rating, and the Chicago Tribune called it “…an astounding portrayal of what it is like to be the young male victim.” His third novel, Hero-Type, according to VOYA ”proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature.”
Since then, he has also written Goth Girl Rising (the sequel to his first novel), as well as the Archvillain series for middle-grade readers and the graphic novel Mangaman (with art by Colleen Doran).
His latest series is I Hunt Killers, called by the LA Times “one of the more daring concepts in recent years by a young-adult author” and an “extreme and utterly alluring narrative about nature versus nurture.” The series has been optioned for television by Warner Bros./Silver Pictures.
Lyga lives and writes in New York City. His comic book collection is a lot smaller than it used to be, but is still way too big.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I truly don’t know when I decided to be a writer or what prompted it, but it was very early -- I have a clear memory of my grandmother asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I responded “A writer!” This would have been around second grade or so. So, I’ve wanted it at least that long, but I don’t know why!
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Beats the hell out of me! It’s a compulsion of our species and it clearly has an important function in terms of passing down knowledge and illuminating aspects of both the world and the human spirit. But I don’t know why we feel drawn to explaining the world and ourselves through metaphor and layers of symbol and allusion so often. Probably the same reason why we paint in different styles and enjoy different kinds of music.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Every writer has a million bad words inside, and until you write those million bad words, no one will care what you have to say.
In your new book; I Hunt Killers, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
Short and sweet: The son of the world’s most notorious serial killer decides to track down a new serial killer in order to prove to the world -- and to himself -- that he doesn’t have to grow up to be like his dad. It’s got action, mystery, some romance, some humor, and a metric ton of blood and body parts.
For those who are unfamiliar with Jazz, how would you introduce him?
With a simple question: When you’re cursed by both nature AND nurture, is there any chance you could have a soul? Jazz isn’t sure, but he wants to find out.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
Same reason I feel the need to tell any story: It’s just a compulsion. You get an idea and you try to shake it off, but at some point it just clicks into place in your head, and you realize that you would cheerfully run over a platoon of nuns and orphans in order to tell this story. That doesn’t happen with every idea. Ideas are cheap. But the ones that won’t leave you alone, those are the ones you have to tell to the world.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Wow, it’s weird that you ask this question, since I’ve been working on a blog post about this very topic! I would probably introduce Jazz to Dr. Kennedy from BOY TOY and GOTH GIRL RISING.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
The big one, of course, is the next book in the I HUNT KILLERS series, which will be out in April 2013. I also have the final book in my middle-grade trilogy -- ARCHVILLAIN: YESTERDAY AGAIN -- coming out in January. And I’m working on an adult novel in my spare time.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
Ones like this. :)
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
There’s really no tool to use or trick to perform: It’s just a matter of slogging away at it, each and every day, trying new things, experimenting, failing, trying again. The more you write, the more you begin to slip into a groove that feels right, that feels uniquely yours.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
Honestly? That’s no one’s business but mine. :)
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
Pizza delivery boy! I made a ton of money, but I also nearly totaled my car.
When was the last time you cried?
Got a little choked up at the series finale of HOUSE.
What is the one, single food that you would never give up?
It’s a toss-up between sushi and pad ki mow.
Where can readers stalk you?
barrylyga.com, @barrylyga, and facebook.com/barrylyga!
What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?
Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.
But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal's point of view.
And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.
In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?
Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers is probably one of the best serial murder novels available. It is dark, twisted, and truly gruesome. Readers will be amazed just how brilliant this book is. The main focus is seventeen-year-old Jasper “Jazz” Dent. He has had an interesting upbringing with his father, Billy Dent, a notorious serial murder. He now lives with his aging grandmother where it seems another serial killer has come to town. Willing to help the police, Jazz, his girlfriend and best friend try to help with what Jazz knows from his lessons with his father. Being denied for his helping hand, Jazz soon realizes that the murderer is engrossed in him.
The story of Jazz’ unique life is gripping and incredibly engaging. Readers will appreciate Barry’s direction of Jazz in making him such an extraordinarily complex, and believable character. His character development and his views were entrancing as he fought against uncertainty of becoming like his father. The rich details of the murders may come off as the book’s creepy moments, but it was the voice of Billy Dent inside Jazz’ mind that took the creepiness award.
Barry’s brilliant writing prose made the plot move quick but never overlook important backstories. Truly suspenseful with a twisted unexpected ending that will leave readers hanging in impossible ways. The book is equipped with vivid details of crime scenes and human structure. Yes, it is graphically violent but has its humorous moments. If you ever wondered what goes on inside the mind of a serial killer, and you happen to be at the bookstore, Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers is the obvious choice.
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