Book Nerd Interview
Thank you TOR for making this interview happen.
Thank you TOR for making this interview happen.
Ben Tripp Interviews Himself
I had the opportunity to sit down with me recently to discuss my upcoming young adult novel The Accidental Highwayman. None of my answers surprised me very much.
You’re known as a writer of gristly horror. The Accidental Highwayman is a rollicking fantasy for young adults. What made you try your hand at so different a genre with so different an audience?
So now I play the part of me answering my own questions?
This is a stupid premise.
Don’t blame me. You’re the one who pitched it.
Genre and audience aren’t of much concern to me when I undertake a project; I didn’t specifically set out to write young adult. This book has scary stuff, tremendous peril. It’s no less challenging in some ways than horror. But the narrator of Highwayman, Kit Bristol, is naturally lighthearted and diffident, so the story is inflected with that sensibility. I found out it was YA when Tor told me as much.
So you see the audience for a project emerging from the voice in which it’s told?
It’s a big factor. How is The Lord of the Rings adult and The Hobbit for young readers? People do make that distinction between them. It’s voice, which in its broadest sense includes the author’s editorial decisions. The Hobbit doesn’t have any politics in it, for example. Voice shades over into content, of course -- there are taboos regarding certain words and subject matter. Cross those lines and the book gets upgraded to ‘mature’ or whatever the next category is. Oddly enough cannibalism is not one of these taboos, so it features in a tremendous number of children’s stories -- including The Hobbit.
Speaking of cannibalism, how is young adult fiction distinct from adult or children’s literature?
What a dreadful segue. I think the reliable definition of YA includes books about young adults, rather than things it is permissible for young adults to read. After all, once you can read, you can read anything. That’s the anarchic, unpredictable wonder of literacy: once young minds learn how to decode these written symbols, once they’re proficient, they have access to every idea, every story there is. So a young adult is fully equipped to read anything an older adult can. But they have distinct interests and concerns. They’re especially attracted to stories about people like them, whose preoccupations and vulnerabilities are similar to their own.
So we could call the genre ‘young adult protagonists’ and it would be suitable. The term 'young adult' is aimed at we old adults, I suspect. It's to let us know there won't be any dirty parts.
Aimed at us old adults, I think you mean.
Sure, fix it. I don't care.
What has been the most unexpected response to the book so far?
People are talking about its educational value! This astounds me. As you know -- you were there -- I was the worst student alive during my school years. I think I got a plaque for it from the New Hampshire Board of Education. But I’ve always loved learning things. This story was an opportunity to reflect back a lot of the history, the language, the ideas I’ve been storing up over the years. Lessons lived are lessons learned, and when you read a good yarn you’re living it. So Highwayman is a way to get a peek at the 18th century without having to memorize any dates.
You mentioned the language in the book. How is that educational?
I suppose because I wasn’t focused on a particular age group while writing, I felt free to use relatively advanced vocabulary and construction. I love language and dialects and archaic slang, so I made generous use of 18th century terms -- some so rare they can’t be found in dictionaries. Quite a few folks who struggled to teach me anything in school would be amazed to hear of this.
We’ve come a long way.
I notice I'm 'we' all of a sudden. You should figure out what person you want this interview to be in.
Quit breaking the fourth wall.
I'm a little surprised at how difficult it is to interview myself.
I know all your tricks.
At this point I abruptly went to make tea and never got back to the interview. So allow me to step in and conclude that there’s no critic harsher than the author of a work (or there oughtn’t be). We tend to see only the shortcomings in what we’ve done. It’s tremendously gratifying therefore to have people whose opinions I value say this book is something of merit. May it find a happy audience. Meanwhile, there are two more volumes in the series to write -- so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go talk to myself about that.
In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….
Fans of classic fairy-tale fantasies such as Stardust by Neil Gaiman and will find much to love in this irresistible YA debut by Ben Tripp, the son of one of America’s most beloved illustrators, Wallace Tripp (Amelia Bedelia). Following in his father’s footsteps, Ben has woven illustrations throughout the story.
“Delightful and charming. A swashbuckling adventure in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson.” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson
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