Monday, November 15, 2010

Ten Questions with ArchVillian author Barry Lyga

1. Why do you write?

It's always been a compulsion of mine. It's less about the actual act of writing, for me, and more about the idea of telling stories. My most vivid memories of childhood all relate to telling stories in one way or another. And now I get to do it for a big audience...and I get paid for it!

2. What's your writing process? Do you used pen and paper(at any point), outlines, note cards etc..? How many hours a day? Basically any details you like to share about your writing process.

Pen and paper still have a place in my workflow: If I'm away from the computer and inspiration strikes, I may use pen and paper if I don't have easy access to my cell or my iPad. But I also print out everything I write and edit it with a pen; it's the only way I can do it.

My actual writing process is outlined on my blog:

3. When you get an idea for a story what's the first thing you do?And where do the ideas come from?

When I get an idea, usually the first thing I do it...ignore it! Seriously. Ideas are cheap and easy. The tough thing is finding GOOD ideas. So when an idea pops into my head, I turn it over a few times, think about it a little bit, and then forget about it. If it's a good one, then it'll keep nagging at me until I finally sit down and pound out some notes on it. If it's a bad one, then I'll forget all about it and never waste another moment on it.

As to where they come from... I don't know. I feel like ideas just float around in the air and sometimes I bump into them.

4. What made you delve into young adult fiction, and how is it
different from writing adult fiction?

Well, I delved into YA because a bunch of friends suggested I try it. So I wrote my first book -- The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl -- to see if I could write for that age group and surprise, surprise! I loved it!

The only real difference -- for me -- is that the main character and most of the supporting characters have to be kids. So the focus has to be on them, not on the adults. Which is fine, because I enjoy writing from the point of view of kids.

> 5. What's your breaking in story? (Comics/novels)

Well, I wrote my novel, but first I had written a lot of other stuff -- short stories and some other novels -- that wasn't all that good. So by writing the stuff that wasn't good, I learned how to improve and how to hone my skills. It took a long time, but I eventually got to the point where I wrote a novel that I knew was good. I went to a writers' conference, where I met my agent and that's when I broke in.

6. The protagonist in your story, Kyle plays a lot of pranks where
did your inspiration for the pranks come from?.

I just tried to think of things that kids would do -- like pantsing someone -- and then gave them a special adding a laser!

7. Kyle definitely makes some morally ambiguous choices in the novel.
As a writer how do you address that and still have your audience have
empathy for him?

The trick is to have those choices be understandable. So that the audience thinks "Well, he did the wrong thing there, but I understand WHY he did it." It's also important that Kyle tries to do the right thing in some cases and it backfires on him. That makes it a little more understandable that he would sometimes make the wrong choice, because doing the right thing didn't really work out for him, so why not try something else?

8. You use several familiar superhero tropes, what's their
inspiration and are any heroes that Kyle and other characters in the
story are based on?

The basic inspiration was as simple as this: What if you got superpowers...but you couldn't tell anyone? And what if you ended up with everyone thinking you were a bad guy? I just started from there and ran with it. Of course, I was inspired by a lot of superhero tropes, but there's something like seventy years of comic book superheroes out there -- it would be tough to narrow down or explain all of the inspirations! I just try to have fun with Kyle and his world.

9. What writers have or still do inspire you?

As a kid, I was really inspired by comic book writers like Alan Moore and Paul Levitz, but also by genre writers like Stephen King and Joe Haldeman. Later, I was inspired by classic literary writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and John Milton. Really, it's just a question of reading stories that made my imagination go wild. I'm inspired by any writer who can take a story I've seen before and do something amazing and unexpected with it.

10. You've taken the traditional superhero story and turned it on
its head. What do you think your story has to say about the Super Hero genre?

Oh, I don't think it has anything to say about the superhero genre, unless it's that I really, REALLY love superheroes. :) I'm not trying to comment on the genre or deconstruct it or anything like that. I'm just using the tools people have used for decades and trying to have some fun and do something unexpected. If I do my job right, hopefully people will be really surprised as the story develops.

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