Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Patrick Jones (The Tear Collector) Interview

So, you've read my review of Tear Collector...you have, haven't you? (It's right here) And now you just have to know more-about the book and its author, well have no fear, fearless readers, you, I have an interview just waiting for you to read it.

Patrick Jones has worked as a librarian for teens (and won awards from both the American Librarian Association and the Catholic Library Association for his work promoting teen reading). Besides The Tear Collector (out today), his novels include Things Change, Chasing Tail Lights, Nailed, Stolen Car, and Cheated. His website is connectingya.com and his books can be found on Amazon.com.
Now for the interview....

What was the inspiration for The Tear Collector? Did it start as an offshoot/variation of the traditional vampire story or something separate where the vampire similarities came in as the story--and character--developed?

Spite and greed served up my inspiration for this book. I was visiting a librarian friend of mine at a library in Fort Wayne when this teenage girl was browsing for something to read. My friend offered her one of my books (Things Change) but the girl replied, “No thanks, I only read vampire books.” So, out of spite I decided to show her! The greed is simply watching the Twilight juggernaut and wanting to grab a slice. I knew I wanted to write a vampire story, but then decided to flip all the conventions: the girl is the creature; the boy is the human. The liquid is tears, not blood.

(Book Sp(l)ot note: there’s one more convention flip he included but in the interest of my blog and review’s *spoiler* free-ness, I’m withholding it!)

Religion is a part of the story—from several of the characters attending Mass to some discussions in class—is that because of the ‘other’ in the tale?

One of the strange things about this book was that I wrote it in my head on March 15. 3-15. Now, if you wanted one number to represent science, I’d suggest pi: 3.14. If you wanted to represent Christianity in one number, you’d choose 3:16, for John 3:16. So, in between is 3:15. I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school, and in 2006, actually won a lifetime achievement award from the Catholic Library Association, so I think have some knowledge to write about that faith. Without giving too much away, it is implied in the book that some of the characters – or maybe their relatives – may have been present as Jesus of Nazareth carried his cross through the streets. If I’m writing about the supernatural, then I can write about religion.

(John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life…. And I have to admit that March 15 will forever make me think of the Ides of March over everything else after all those years of Latin class.)

What’s your favorite part (scene, character, etc.) of The Tear Collector?

My favorite scene is the first one because it seems like a normal thing in a teen novel – a girl crying because she broke up with her boyfriend – but then I hope readers realize something isn’t right; there’s something off about Cassandra, and it all builds to the punch line of the chapter about her feeding off tears. Years ago I wrote a book about R.L. Stine. I think I absorbed his notion of cliffhanger chapter endings.

(moving the first part of his answer to the end because by my standards it’s *spoilery* but it reveals an itty bit about sequel…so it’s here, but know there it is *spoiler-ish*:

I like the Alexei character because he’s so evil. Most of my novels have good heels (that’s pro wrestling jargon for bad guys), and Alexei – with his van and dental tools – well, he’s not a nice guy. Why he’s that way gets explained in the sequel I’m writing. )

Are you one of the writers that is a threat to listen to other people’s conversations on the train or elsewhere for writing material?
Well, if you’re a teen, you might want to watch out when you’re I’m doing a school visit. The Samantha character is based on a girl I met during a visit, complete with the unmatched pair of Chuck Taylors. The small detail of Brittney using her iPod as a mirror I saw a girl do during a school visit, and Samantha’s back story (that has double meaning) is based on a story a girl told me after a visit via a message on mypace (or facebook, I can’t recall). Also, I send out my books in manuscript to teens to read, and they often have good suggestions. Plus I maintain electronic connections with lots of readers. I normally practiced informed eavesdropping.

Any advice to writers?
My advice is sadly predictable: read a lot, write a lot, and don’t worry about publishing. Instead of learning the joy of writing, all you learn is the pain of reading rejection letters. For teens, find other kids who write. If your school has a creative writing class, take it. If they have a creative writing club, join it. If not, start one. You can’t get better on your own.

Outlining/Plotting or Writing-as-you-go?
While every book follows his own path, normally I get an idea and write the first chapter/scene. Then I start thinking about where the story might go. I don’t write the ending early, but I have an idea what I should be, although almost every ending of every book I’ve done has changed (except, ironically, Things Change). Then I do a brief outline and start making character sketches. To fulfill the promise of the first scene, what needs to happen, and who else does the main character need to meet along the road. Then I’ll write a very detailed outline – the one for the sequel of Tear Collector is around 15 pages – and then start filling in the story elements.

Favorite book now? As a teen?
Favorite book always changes, but as of this writing (August 2009), I’m still thinking about Dave Cullen’s Columbine. I’m publishing an interview / review with him in an upcoming issue of a magazine for teen librarians called VOYA. As teen, Ball Four by Jim Bouton. I still read it a few times every year. I can’t explain it other than it was classic right book at the right time.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream: should it be green or white?
The answer is no, as I’m not an ice cream guy; now green olive or pearl onion in a Martini might be a better question. But again, the answer is no, why you waste valuable gin space with filler?

Hope you enjoyed the interview, my first on the blog (hopefully I can do more--authors, you can email me!)...and that you'll go out and pick up a copy of The Tear Collector :)

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