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Today's a very cool/hot day...I have the newly appointed HOT MAN IN KID LIT, debut author Greg Neri, here! And the coolest thing is, he offered to interview me too on his blog! My first ever interview by a HOT MAN IN KID LIT...ssszzzzz....here that? It's SIZZLING in lj land today! So read all about user here and read about moi, seaheidi over there gneri!

Congratulation on your new HOT MAN IN KID LIT status and your recent CYBIL nomination for CHESS RUMBLE, your illustrated free-verse novella in the poetry division. What will you do with all the prize money?

Wait, there's money?? I thought it was just about the honor of being mentioned. Dang, I'll get me some new wheels (Hot Wheels, that is).

You've been so busy! CHESS RUMBLE is just coming out in November, followed by your graphic novel YUMMY, next Spring. AND you're finishing revisions for your YA novel SURF MULES (for our editor at Putnam). Tell us a little about all these projects.

SURF MULES was my first novel. I never thought I would write one, but I saw others in my critique group doing it, so the stigma of writing the great American novel slowly went away. I basically lied to myself that I was writing a novel, until it got so big, I couldn't turn back.

YUMMY came first though, a project I originated as a filmmaker years back, only to find it's perfect outlet was as a graphic novel. It took about 10 years to realize this, even after I had submitted it as a picture book text for Lee and Low's New Voices contest. In the 5 months in between, I saw a friend of mine who was writing a graphic novel and realized that the cinematic qualities of graphic novels was the better way to reach my
target audience. Lee and Low said they loved the picture book version but felt it wasn't the right format and would I consider doing it as a YA book? I handed them the graphic novel version, which was done and they bought it up very quickly. In the end though, production on it took so long, we switched the release date with CHESS RUMBLE, so now it's my second book. CHESS RUMBLE, on the other hand, was offered to me by my editor at Lee and Low. It was basically a win-win situation. She'd been wanting to do a book about the urban chess scene for years, and asked if I might ponder it. She left it completely up to me, gave me no parameters for the story, characters, age, or formats. I said yes because I wanted to pay her back for picking me out of the slush pile. But I also knew that because it was her pet project, it'd be published for sure (unless I screwed it up).

You went to UC Santa Cruz. You know only the coolest people went there. lenkaland is a fellow banana slug and so is my husband =) Were you a surfer in school? Do you surf still?

My surfing days were long gone by then, by I have always been an avid bodysurfer, despite living in Florida these days, where there are no waves. I love being in the ocean more than anywhere else.

Describe the typical day-o-Greg.

Wake up, get my daughter and wife up and going and off to school (she works at a university). I'm online for an hour or so, reading, blogging,emailing, drinking coffee. Then write. On most days I have until 2, when I pick my daughter up. But I'll get or 2 days where I can work til 6. If I'm writing a first draft, I have to write 3 pages a day. Even if I have 6 in me, I force myself to stop. Those remaining 3 pages rewrite themselves in my head overnight, so sometimes, the next day's writing may only take a half an hour to get down. It makes the writing much easier, instead of writing yourself out, then struggling for days to come up with the next chunk. I read a lot in between and at night, and stay up late watching my never-ending supply of DVDs. And of course, the rest of the time is spent with my family.

I hear you like food fights. There's a rumor you flung lasagna at sweet Carrie "Supergrover" Jones. Is this true?

Completely false. The only food fight I ever participated in was in first grade. It lead to an all out war where the whole cafeteria broke down intoan Animal House type frenzy. Needless to say, I ended up in the Principal's office.

Do you think we should start food fights on our SURF SEA MULES world tour? It could be our 'thing' like smashing guitars or biting the heads off of live doves...but you know...not as violent or gross.

Oh, I like that idea. Um, but we might not get invited back anywhere...

You create in many different genres of art. If an evil genie reared its evil head and made you CHOOSE ONE, of your talents to focus on, which one would it be?

a) drawing
b) writing free verse
c) writing prose

Right now at this moment, I like writing prose. But I may change my mind after these revisions...

I'm going to borrow one of your questions: how has being a parent affected your work as a writer?

Oddly enough, it hasn't. When I was an illustrator, none of my ideas were inspired by my daughter. Though she loves to draw and we draw a lot together. My teen stuff is dark and edgy. By the time she's a teenager, she may regret having a dad who writes books about sex, drugs and rock n roll. Or it'll be the coolest thing ever. Or more likely, I'll have to go into hiding and avoid her principal.

I think it's hysterical that we share the same editor at Putnam, both went to UC Santa Cruz, have been lj (and email) buds for awhile yet did NOT run into each other at SCBWI L.A. How did that happen?

I don't know! I was out in the open the whole time and even up on stage a few times. Where were you??
You're working on a fourth book now, right? What is it called andwhatis it about? Has your agent shopped it around yet? It's a novel for boys called CAUGHT and is, of course, controversial. My agent is reading it now and that's all I can say!

If you could cast SURF MULES yourself, who would you cast?

I actually wrote it with 17 year old versions of Luke and Owen Wilson in my head. Seriously. So, I guess we'll have to go back in time to make it.

Who are your favorite writers?

LA writer John Fante is my writing god. He has a simple, stripped downprosethat is funny as hell and deeply emotional at the same time. Plus, he captured the real LA better than anyone. I also love Peter Lefcourt,Salinger, and a bunch of new writers: Dean Bakopoulos, Mischa Berlinski, and Scott Snyder. As far as YA, I'm digging John Green, Melvin Burgess, Sharon Flake, K.L. Going, and all the Class of 2K7 writers I've read so far (six and counting).

How did you get your ideas for a) CHESS RUMBLE, B) YUMMY and c) SURF MULES? Did you do a lot of research?

a) Chess Rumble was inspired by many of the black chess mentors out there running chess programs for inner city kids. The way some mentors applied chess strategy to real life was inspiring and something I personally believed in. Having worked myself in programs like that with kids in South Central and East LA, I know it can have a huge impact. But it takes a lot of work and there's a lot of heartache as well. I dealt with a few kids who were the big and silent type. They kept everything bottled inside of them and it came out in ugly ways sometimes. I thought a kid like this up against a tough love mentor in an urban setting would be rife with possibilities.

b) Yummy is based on a true story about an 11-year-old kid from the Southside of Chicago, who made the cover of TIME magazine when he accidentally killed a 14-year-old girl. Yummy, so called for his love of sweets, was in turn assassinated by the gang he was trying to impress because he had become too much of a liability. It was a big story and the central question became: was Yummy a cold-blooded killer who deserved what he got? Or was he a victim because he'd been abused and abandoned from the age of 2. The story is seen through theeyes of a neighborhood boy trying to figure out where the truth in all this madness lies. There was a lot written about this story to draw upon and I went to Chicago to see what it was like in that neighborhood. Haunting stuff.

c) Surf Mules was inspired something I stumbled upon. One day I wasvisitingmy old haunts in Manhattan Beach and I came upon a scene that became thefirst scene of the book: In the distance I saw a large crowd on shore, alllooking out to sea. There were lifeguard trucks with their lights blazing and in the ocean were about 50 people on surfboards, with a couple coastguard boats blasting their water cannons into the air. My first thought was a whale had grounded itself and all these people were trying to get him out to deeper water.

But it turned out, a young popular surfer had died and they were having a funeral at sea. There were four generations of surfers, from age 6 to 70. I couldn't get it out of my head, so I started writing that scene, wondering who that surfer was and how he died. From there, it morphed with an old screenplay I had written years before with a buddy, about drug trafficking surfers. And yes, I did do a lot of research, none of which I can talk about, unless I want to go to jail.

What would you be if you couldn't be an artist/writer?

I don't know, an adventurer? A forest ranger? The third member of Flight ofthe Conchords? I've been so many things in my lifetime, I know something unusual would pop up. It always does.

For more about the talented (and let's not forget hot) Greg Neri, please visit his site at: www.gneri.com. And look for CHESS RUMBLE in bookstores everywhere in early November!
And visit his blog, gneri, to find out more and read his interview with me up right now!!


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 19th, 2007 03:20 am (UTC)
Surfing? In Florida? (teehee)...Love the interview. Can't wait to read more...
Oct. 19th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
The coolness factor is sky high here. G. and Heidi... It's just too much.
Plus, the Wilson brothers. My heart is all pitter-pattering. Your editor is lucky to have you two.
Oct. 19th, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
and now it's even higher now that you came by!!!! you're the best...
Oct. 19th, 2007 09:35 pm (UTC)
And I'm still saying he's a good lasagna thrower... a champion.
Oct. 19th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
i knew he was lying! food fight!
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 23rd, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)
Really? He has my title tattoo'd on his arm?

That would be pretty funny...
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


My cover!
Heidi R. Kling, Author of SEA, June 10, 2010
Heidi R. Kling/SEA June 10, 2010


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