Book Nerd Interview
What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
I started out writing mystery novels for adults, but in 1996 I wrote a time-travel novel called Mr. Was. I thought it was another adult book. Because of the way the time-travel aspect worked out, the main character was a teenager for most of the story. When I tried to sell it, my agent told me I had written a young adult novel. I said, “What’s that? A book for people in their twenties?” She explained that YA novels are books written for a teen audience. I realized then that Mr. Was was a book I would have loved as a teen.
The book was well received, and I started thinking about how important books had been to me as a teen. Most of my all time favorite novels were books I read between the ages of twelve and eighteen. It’s a good age for reading. I began to think about my teenage years, and the ideas started coming, and the next thing I knew I was a “YA author.”
Mr. Was is (sort of) a prequel to The Obsidian Blade. The characters and setting are different, but the core concepts in The Obsidian Blade came straight out of Mr. Was. In fact, I began thinking about the Klaatu Diskos trilogy shortly after Mr. Was was published.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I listen to hip-hop. Mostly 90s rap—Snoop Dogg, NWA, early Eminem, Dre, stuff like that. About ten years ago I was running along a highway in Tucson Arizona, training for a marathon, and I found a CD wallet on the shoulder. It was full of hip-hop CDs. I hadn’t listened to much rap previously, but I was immediately hooked on the sound. The lyrics, not so much.
Also, I am fond of 1940s big band music. The Andrews Sisters rock.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote an autobiography when I was nine. It wasn’t very long. I wrote and illustrated a couple of underground comics when I was nineteen—they are now very rare, and very embarrassing. I wrote my first novel, Drawing Dead, when I was thirty-eight years old.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
How to use a library.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Skeptical, optimistic, curious.
Did you learn anything from writing The Obsidian Blade (The Klaatu Diskos #1) and what was it?
I learned a lot! I hardly know where to begin. I did a lot of research into topics ranging from nuclear submarines, to autism, to the physical configuration of the World Trade Center viewing deck. Because the book takes place in a variety of geo-temporal locations, it seemed as if every day I had to learn something new to keep writing. I love research. There is so much to know.
For those who are unfamiliar with Tucker, how would you introduce him?
Tucker is an ordinary kid who finds himself facing a series of impossibilities. He is forced by events beyond his control to become a person greater than himself. In other words, he has to grow up fast—which sort of defines the modern young adult novel.
Some of my novels begin with a preconceived “character”—in other words, I conceive of a particular personality, and build a story around that personality. Usually the story has to do with how that person became who they are. The Obsidian Blade is different. Tucker Feye begins as a rather formless individual who is shaped by his experiences during the course of the story.
What part of Lahlia did you enjoy writing the most?
I really like the parts where she kicks butt. I’ve always loved spunky, ferocious female characters, from Pippi Longstocking to Ann Shirley (Ann of Green Gables) to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lahlia is vulnerable, tough, naïve, wise, and above all, dangerous. I like that in a girl.
Lahlia plays a much larger role in Book Two, wherein she kicks much butt.
If you could introduce Tucker to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would introduce him to Jack Lund, the time-traveling protagonist of Mr. Was. They would have a lot to talk about.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I have to choose? That is a very sneaky question! If we change “mentor” to “influence,” it would be Samuel R. Delany, Elmore Leonard, or Jack Vance. But “mentor”…let’s see…I’m going to say Mary Logue, my partner, who I met when I took her class on writing suspense novels, more than twenty years ago. She still inspires me every day.
How many books have you written?
I’m not sure… (visits his own website and counts) …it looks like twenty-five published novels: eight adult novels, fourteen YA, and three middle grade (with Mary Logue). I may have miscounted.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Read what you like. But also read things that challenge you. Read authors with whom you disagree, read books that make you uncomfortable, read a book that would embarrass you if your friends saw you reading it (ebooks are great indulging guilty pleasures in public.) Read the classics, but punctuate them with fluff and nonsense. If you really like a book, read it twice. If you hate a book, give it another fifty pages. If you still hate it, set it aside. Read books by authors from other cultures, other religious backgrounds, other political parties. This is the best time ever to be a reader—the choices are boundless, and no one can tell you what to read.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
“How are you?”
I always answer, “Great!”
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
I’ve liked just about every job I ever had—and I’ve had a lot of jobs: sign painter, pineapple cutter, factory worker, sales executive, graphic artist, tree planter, pin chaser (in a bowling alley), tire changer, copywriter, Christmas tree decorator, busboy… I didn’t much like being a busboy, but that job only lasted eight hours, and it was winter, so it doesn’t really qualify as a “summer job.”
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
Can I call you?
When was the last time you cried?
It’s been a while—I’m rather stoic. I think it was while reading an old William Saroyan novel called The Human Comedy. I thought I was buying a funny book, but it was, as I recall, about a young boy named Ulysses, whose older brother dies in World War Two. It made me all weepy, much to my surprise. That was a long time ago.
Where can readers stalk you?
You are so sweet. I am stalkable online. Google “Pete Hautman” and you will find my website and my blog. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. You could start here.
The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had just turned thirteen. The Reverend Feye simply climbed on the roof to fix a shingle, let out a scream, and vanished — only to walk up the driveway an hour later, looking older and worn, with a strange girl named Lahlia in tow. In the months that followed, Tucker watched his father grow distant and his once loving mother slide into madness. But then both of his parents disappear. Now in the care of his wild Uncle Kosh, Tucker begins to suspect that the disks of shimmering air he keeps seeing — one right on top of the roof — hold the answer to restoring his family. And when he dares to step into one, he’s launched on a time-twisting journey
— from a small Midwestern town to a futuristic hospital run by digitally augmented healers, from the death of an ancient prophet to a forest at the end of time. Inevitably, Tucker’s actions alter the past and future, changing his world forever.
Wow! This was truly one of the most original stories I have come across in a long time. The mystery and intrigue laid out only seems to get more intense as the story unfolds. Pete’s writing style is perfect for this sci-fi/fantasy time-travel story. The details within this book are excellently executed with prime precision. More often, stories involving time-travel tend to be mind-twisting as shifting time-periods can get confusing for readers. However, Pete manages to maintain a solid story line, even if the timeline is in disorder. Just like any good first book in a series, there are more questions than answers. It is this painful realization that your questions may have to wait until the second book that makes The Obsidian Blade hook onto its readers. Everything is solid and firm. From the characters, story plot, setting, and the time-travel, readers will have a hard time finding flaws. This is certainly a big hit for any science-fiction fan or fans of reading in general. The Obsidian Blade is an immensely packed story of mystery, suspense, action, and intrigue.