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"Andrew Smith's The Marbury Lens will own you, mind, body and soul. You can't put it down, but you'll want to. You'll want to put it down and walk away but that is not happening. The Marbury Lens crawls inside your head and won't leave. Scary, creepy, awful and awesome. What a cool book!" -- Michael Grant, author of Gone and Hunger for The Marbury Lens
Goodreads description: Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.
There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them. Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind. Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay. But it’s not. Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds. The Marbury Lens pub month: November by Feiwell and Friends an imprint of Macmillan. Ages 14 and up.
Not so Scary INTERVIEW with ANDREW SMITH
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up. The problem was, growing up when I did, most families were overly-concerned about having stable futures and working in industries that would always expand – like warfare and stuff. After all, I am a child of the Cold War. So my parents were not very enthusiastic when I revealed my future aspirations to them. In fact, I think I recall them saying something like, “But what do you really want to be?”
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer/illustrator?
I always liked it when my teachers would give creative assignments that dealt with writing stories or illustrating things. And I actually am a pretty decent artist, although I really wish I could paint better. But becoming a writer probably became a certainty for me when I was in high school.
What’s your most embarrassing childhood memory?
When I was in Kindergarten, I sat next to a boy named Chip. Chip had to pee really bad, but he was too afraid to ask the teacher, Mrs. Bailey. So Chip just peed under the table, all over the floor, and, of course, he denied it was his. I was ethically torn by the situation. We were sitting two-to-a-desk, Chip was my friend, and I had an irreconcilably feverish crush on Mrs. Bailey.
As a young person, who did you look up to most?
When I was a kid, I looked up to my brother, Patrick, the most. He was older, and we shared a bedroom (there were four boys in my family) until he enlisted in the Army – when he went off to fight in Vietnam. Patrick drove a 1959 Cadillac – a gift from our aunt – and he used to drive the three of us younger boys around with him and his tough-guy high-school friends on their crazy adventures, and we listened to AM radio stations and daringly used words like “bitchin’” when we talked.
What was your first job?
My first real job – where I actually collected a paycheck – was writing for a local newspaper in Southern California. Beginning reporters are called stringers, and in those days, stringers got paid by the inch of copy we wrote (newspaper columns, typically 2-inches wide, had about 50 words per inch). I often say that getting paid for writing by the inch is very likely the origin of my predilection for big words and long sentences.
How did you celebrate publishing your first book?
It honestly wasn’t much of a celebration for a couple reasons: First, publication takes such an interminably long time. From the time you get an offer to when you actually sign contracts may take several months. Then, when the book is actually in the stores is usually more than a year after that. But the biggest reason for a non-celebration was that I wrote – and continue to write – in secret. Nobody knew what I was up to, so my family and friends really didn’t believe much of anything had actually happened. In fact, I didn’t tell my wife that I had written a book until after I received an offer for representation from my agent. And when I finally told her, she was so relieved because she thought I was having some kind of online affair due to the hours and hours I’d been spending quietly working on my computer. Now, I think my writing is more of a bother to my wife and kids. Maybe they’ll want to celebrate when I decide to quit.
Where do you write your books?
I write my books in my upstairs office at home. It is a perfect writing place. It has a deck and lots of windows looking out at mountains and trees and my horses. When I travel, I carry a laptop with me and I work on my writing by emailing bits and pieces of my work back and forth to myself.
Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Inspiration is a moving target. If you sit still, you’ll never find it, and you’ll get really old waiting for it to bump into you.
Which of your characters is most like you?
Well, to some extent, all my protagonists are part “me,” but if you had to isolate one individual character, I think there’d be no doubt about it: I am most like Simon Vickers, from In the Path of Falling Objects. He always takes risks without seriously considering the consequences, and I think he has an attitude – maybe due to naivete – that nothing bad will ever happen to him. He likes to push buttons and then acts indignant when the people around him get pissed off. Yeah… that’s me.
When you finish a book, who reads it first?
When I finish a book, I read it first. That’s when I try to read it like I didn’t have anything to do with it’s having been written. I am not a writer who shares what I write with friends and family, though. So, when I finish a book, I usually send it directly to my agent, Laura Rennert, and my editor, Liz Szabla. Then, immediately after that I get sick and start asking, “Why did I send that to them? Why? Why? Why?” And I start calling myself every version of stupid I can think up. Then I get really grumpy until I hear back from them – an interminable and agonizing wait, even if it’s only a few days long.
Which do you like better: cats or dogs?
I am entirely a dog person. Still, we do own four cats who are all very good at keeping down the rodent population around the house and then making little shrines of death on our front walkway.
What do you value most in your friends?
I like my friends for their intelligence and sense of humor. I also truly value the fact that my friends understand that I am a fairly quiet and reserved person who can go for long stretches of time rather quiet and isolated.
Where do you go for peace and quiet?
I live in a very peaceful, quiet location – and I really couldn’t have it any other way. Although there are certain cities that I absolutely love (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, London, to name a few) my ideal getaways usually take me to secluded places that are not very crowded.
What makes you laugh out loud?
I most often find myself laughing out loud at things we say when I’m hanging out with my wife and kids – or when I’m joking around with my very funny friends: John, Casey, Brian, Steve, and Jeremy.
What’s your favorite song?
I wonder how many people can confidently answer that question. My favorite song changes about every other week. But I can offer, as a means of getting around the question, that if there ever were perfect “soundtracks” made for Ghost Medicine and In the Path of Falling Objects, I would like to have the following artists contribute: The Felice Brothers, Bob Dylan, Bon Iver, and Johnny Flynn. Now, if there were a soundtrack made for The Marbury Lens, I would like to hear what Radiohead, The Cure, and maybe a reunited Pink Floyd would come up with for that monster.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
“My” favorite fictional character is, naturally, one of my own – a kid named Stark McClellan. You haven’t met him yet, because he’s in a book I wrote, called Stick, that is not yet published. But the reason that I like him so much is that he has this really dry (but definitely not cynical or sarcastic) sense of humor in the way he looks at things, and he has this remarkable ability, I think, to see a kind of wonder in everything – even if he’s surrounded by cruelty and ugliness. I admire people who are like that.
What time of year do you like best?
I definitely prefer summertime. Still, there is a lot to be said for sitting by a fire while snow falls outside, reading a great book.
What’s your favorite TV show?
I do not watch television at all. I am incapable of sitting still and having information, noise, and visuals pumped into my skull. I know this is a shortcoming on my part, and that I am missing out on something, but I just don’t ever do it. My friends think I’m a snob, but it has nothing to do with my looking down on the medium. They’re all dumb, anyway.
If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want for company?
A television. Just kidding. There wouldn’t be anywhere to plug it in. This is a trick, right? You left out the phrase “besides your wife,” right? Okay, so if I couldn’t have my wife OR my kids with me, then I’d probably be just fine by myself. I am an incurable loner at heart.
If you could travel in time, where would you go?
I would very much have liked to live in California during the 1880s. I know that’s a random choice, but I’ve always had a fascination for that time period, which is only part of the reason why I set a portion of The Marbury Lens in California during that decade. There were so many interesting political, social, and religious movements in America at that time, and those tremendous transformations in the ways that people looked at themselves and the universe – coupled with the anxious feeling of being right on the razor’s edge of this incredible twentieth-century future – really made for some potentially amazing adventures.
What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
People who make it a practice to give advice about writing tend to give the worst possible advice. Here are my top three pieces of idiotic nonsense people will tell you about writing:
- You have to have a thick skin.
- “Show” don’t “tell.”
- Don’t quit your day job.
Those are all really wrong and meaningless, in my opinion. The only rule in my writer’s code is there are no rules.
What do you want readers to remember about your books?
I want my readers to find some personal connection to what I write. It’s hard for me to say just how much it means to me when I get letters or email from readers telling me how they’ve been impacted by one of my books. That’s the greatest thing in the world, and it seems like every one of those letters always tells me something different about how that connection was made.
What would you do if you ever stopped writing/illustrating?
I would probably be an inconsolable grump, the worst neighborhood grouch in the history of neighborhood grouches. I can’t see myself quitting.
What do you like best about yourself?
I’ll tell you what I like least about myself: I take everything personally. I know that’s a critical weakness for someone who writes professionally, because everyone in the business seems to repeat this you-need-to-have-a-thick-skin mantra (see above), but I can’t help it. I actually lose sleep over the littlest things people say or do.
What is your worst habit?
Evasiveness. When I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll craftily change the subject. My sixteen-year-old son, who is afraid of insects, is far braver than I am when it comes to riding on roller coasters.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Here we go again with the “bests” questions. I think I am a good father. I believe my kids will look back on some of the things we’ve done together as a family as some of the greatest memories in their lives. That said, I am also very proud of all the books I’ve published – as well as those that will be coming out in the future.
Where in the world do you feel most at home?
Oddly enough, I feel most at home at home. I am a bit of a recluse, I suppose, and I greatly prefer the quiet of the countryside (where I live). I have never been able to understand the “dream” of living in a house that sits in a tight row of clone-houses, surrounded by row upon row of other houses, in a neighborhood where you constantly hear the sounds of traffic and sirens.
What do you wish you could do better?
I wish I could speak Italian better. When I was a child, my mother could not speak English, and I spent many years in Italy, so I naturally picked up the language when I was young. Now, it’s difficult for me to quickly form the words I want to say, although I still can understand it very well.
What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
When I was a little kid, my family lived in a very old house that was actually haunted. And to be completely honest, I frequently saw the ghost of a little boy in it, but never told anyone until after we moved away, and then my mother told me that she saw ghosts in it all the time, too.
Meet Author Andrew Smith.
Read more about him here: http://www.ghostmedicine.com
Read more about him here: http://www.ghostmedicine.com
Andrew has generously donated an autographed ARC to one lucky reader who loves a riveting, page turning thriller. Perfect for older teens and adults! Leave a comment for a chance to win The Marbury Lens. The drawing will take place on November 9th! Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your world with us.