Book Nerd Interview
David Pandolfe has been a bartender in Seattle, the front man for an alternative rock band in Los Angeles and a college writing teacher in Richmond (among other things).
One day, it occurred to him that sometimes these experiences felt like completely different lives altogether. Which got him to writing Jump When Ready, a novel about of bunch of teenagers trying to get over their past lives while getting ready to jump into their next.
While he’s still writing about himself in third person, David Pandolfe should probably mention that at one point he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has had short stories published in Millennium and the Georgetown Review. Jump When Ready is his first YA novel but he’s currently working on another, to be released in the fall of 2013.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
Not exactly. Instead, I was kind of a creative dabbler. First, I loved to paint and draw. Then I wanted to make movies and used to make these claymation deals that took days to create (projects lost to the world, but I suspect the world will get on fine without them). Then it was music and I learned to play guitar (later, I played in bands and fronted some as the singer-songwriter). I definitely loved books the whole time (I was really into sci-fi in middle school and then later branched out). Anyway, at some point I started writing short stories. Then I went on to major in English in college but then I ended up in another band, this time in Los Angeles. Later, I went back to school and got an MFA degree in creative writing. So, a long way of saying that for me writing was always simmering on the backburner but I kept getting distracted by other shiny objects. I think all of that blended well with writing fiction but the defining moment was a slow progression rather than an epiphany.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Here’s my take: So we know we’re not alone. Telling stories is how we let other people know how we experience the world. And when we hear other people’s stories, and realize they experience the world like we do, we feel less alone. We feel connected to something.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
Looking for Alaska is one of my favorite YA novels. John Green is just such a great writer for any age. Outside the YA genre, I have long loved A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Hilarious, bizarre, completely unique.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
“This story kind of sucks. Do you have anything else?” I know that’s not exactly advice, but I was about to submit a story to a workshop and let a friend read it. Then, I went with another one when she said, “Way better! Submit this one!” That was great advice—that story went on to be published in the Georgetown Review after some post-workshop editing.
In your new book; Jump When Ready, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
Well, I’ve been happy to hear that people think Jump When Ready presents an original take on the afterlife. I haven’t read many afterlife stories, so I wasn’t sure how that would go over but I’m really glad to see readers embracing that aspect. You know, the whole reincarnation thing. Personally, to me that makes as much sense as anything (which is not to say I’m advocating a belief, I’m not). But, in physics it’s been proven you can’t destroy energy. You can only change it. So, I think that perspective makes the novel worth checking out, the idea that our energy, that which is us, keeps changing and evolving.
The novel also offers a compelling plot and interesting characters (based on feedback, anyway). I also had a lot of fun writing Jump When Ready and I think that shows in the characters, the voice and the humor. So, I guess because Jump When Ready is something different. It’s unique. I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think the afterlife has been presented in fiction quite that way before.
For those who are unfamiliar with Henry, how would you introduce him?
Henry’s a cool kid. He’s kind, introspective, a little on the Goth side, artistic, into music. He’s also on the outside socially when the novel kicks off, not sure where he fits in but not interested in playing the games required to make himself fit in. Henry wants to remain true to himself. He’s also a bit lost next to his older siblings who are both more self-assured and have more freedom. Henry’s just starting to come into his own when he suddenly dies and finds himself in an entirely unexpected new reality.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Henry should meet the characters from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I think he’d fit in well with those guys (if he was still alive, of course). Although, come to think of it, they’re not a judgmental crowd, so they might be willing to hang with Henry anyway.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
“Did you get enough sleep last night?” Night person. Writer. What can I say? The correct question would be, “Did you get enough sleep this morning?” Provided it’s at least 11:00 AM, I’d say, “Close enough.”
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
Playing in a band doing mostly rock covers in a seedy bar. We thought we were likely to be killed but people actually liked us and kept putting up with us week after week. We were a bunch of teenagers and I think they thought of us like pets or something. They kept us around until fall.
Who was your first girlfriend?
Well, since I’m married I think my first girlfriend should probably remain nameless. Let it suffice to say that she’s a wonderful person who I still think of fondly. I’m lucky, that first relationship remains something I can look back on without cringing, or feeling sad or angry. It started good and it ended good. A totally happy memory.
Tell me about your first kiss
Actually, that was pretty hilarious. I made my big move only to discover I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully, she was like, “No, here’s what you do.” After that, we kept practicing and things got way better.
When was the last time you cried?
Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or to have never loved before?
Oh, totally true love with the guarantee of heartbreak. You still got to experience love and now you have something to write about too. A win-win situation. (Presuming you find love again, but, then again, even if you don’t).
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
None of them; I’d vote for this decade. I mean, look back. No racial or marriage equality? Short lifespans and relatively poor healthcare? No internet (can you imagine)? Sure, we all romanticize the past. We definitely have big issues now (ahem, climate change). But I’m an optimist. I think this is possibly the best time to be a teenager in human history.
Since he drowned, Henry has remained with the same group of teenagers and he keeps wondering why. After all, what could he possibly have in common with a Mohawk-sporting punker from the 80s, a roller skater from the 70s with a thing for kimonos, and an English “rocker” from the 60s? Add to that, Henry can hear the other groups but he never sees them. Soon, Henry learns that his new friends all possess unique skills for making themselves noticed by the living. Is Henry’s group kept isolated because of their abilities? If so, are they considered gifted or seen only as a potential bad influence?
Before Henry can reach any conclusions, he witnesses his sister being kidnapped. He knows who did it, where she’s being held and what will happen if the kidnappers don’t get what they want. As the police chase false leads, Henry comes to realize that he’s his sister’s only hope. But for Henry to even have a chance, he has to convince a group of teenagers that dead doesn’t mean helpless.
You can purchase Jump When Ready at the following Retailer:
And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you David for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Signed Copy of Jump When Ready+ Swag by David Pandolfe.
($30 iTunes gift card18” X 24”, Signed Poster by author and Artist)
1 Winner will receive a Signed Copy of Jump When Ready & $20 iTunes gift card by David Pandolfe.
1 Winner will receive a Signed Copy of Jump When Ready & $10 iTunes gift card by David Pandolfe.