The other day, I was interviewed for the keen writerly website, Nineteen Questions. Nineteen Questions asks various writers how they became who they are. Kind of a play on the ‘Twenty Questions’ game, the site explores the career trajectories, challenges, and writing lives of writers. It’s a project of the University of British Columbia Creative Writing program, and the site has interviewed Joseph Boyden, Miriam Toews, and Hiromi Goto, among many others. Somehow, I snuck in there, too!
I think the main reason I snuck in there is UBC student and writer Aaron Chan. Here’s how he introduces me in the piece:
A few years ago, when I took a Children’s Lit class in college, The Dead Kid Detective Agency was the only book on the reading list written by a Canadian author. As the instructor told the class, “He’s not that much older than you guys, too.” Charmed by the snappy humour as well as the unabashed Canadiana of the novel and the sequel, Dial M for Morna, I had the opportunity to chat with Evan via email about his illustrating background, rejections, and The Postman.
(Ah, to ever be known as ‘not that much older than’ somebody. Those were the days. But what Chan humbly neglected to mention is that, as part of his study of The Dead Kid Detective Agency, Chan composed and recorded a score to the book. Check it out on YouTube here. It’s beautiful! (Chan is a composer, in addition to his writing talents.) You should read the full interview at Nineteen Questions, but here are a couple of my favourite parts:
The protagonist of The Dead Kid Detective Agency is a teenage goth girl with ghosts as friends. Based on the darker content, how difficult was it to get it accepted by a publisher, especially since the series is targeted to children? What challenges did you face in getting your manuscript published?
The fact that five of the characters are, in essence, murdered children, has never been an issue. Oddly. I think children’s books often trade in fairly dark subject matter, especially those that take the form of mystery. And they have for some time. So the morbid title of the book has never led to many conflicts with schools or parents or publishers. (Though it has led to some really depressing Google Alert results.)
More of a challenge to getting the manuscript published were the CanCon, the language, and the constant references to popular culture. I was surprised at how many Canadian publishers weren’t keen on the Canadian history angle of the book, probably because so much of the children’s publishing business is foreign rights sales, and the Canadian content would limit how far it could travel. The language I use is also fairly complex for the 9 to 12 set, and editors were worried my references to older popular culture would alienate or confuse younger readers. But ECW and I solved that issue with a handy glossary in the back that helps readers learn who Robert Smith and what The Craft is.
How do you stay inspired (and motivated) to write?
Everything I read (and to a lesser extent, everything I watch) inspires me. Any time I read a really excellent book or watch a really excellent movie, I’m inspired to just make something. In fact, it’s often the not-as-good books and movies that inspire me most. I distinctly remember watching the Kevin Costner movie The Postman in the theatre (full disclosure: I loved it) and being compelled to make some comics immediately afterward. I know that The Postman will never be recognized as a great film, but I was just so pumped after watching it. (Full disclosure, part II: I watched it three times in the theatre.) It inspired some really good teenaged comic books.
Read the full interview (and others) at Nineteen Questions.