Describe Freak Magnet in fifteen words or less.
It's a story of weirdos finding love in a weird and difficult world, with food poisoning.
How does this novel differ from your previous works?
It differs quite a bit, in fact. You only live once, and I have no interest in writing the same story again and again, so I tend to experiment whenever I start on a new book. Freak Magnet is my attempt at an intimate teen romance. Or, it's what I believe an intimate teen romance would be in a sideways reality controlled by me, the Supreme Overlord of Awesome. It has dark humor, charming meet-cutes, family drama, and even a fancy party at the end of the last act. Except in my story, the girl doesn't end up with a young feathery-haired Andrew McCarthy. (I'm throwing the Pretty in Pink reference! Yes, I am old!)
You aren't old. Do you feel as though your writing has changed? How so?
Freak Magnet is certainly less cynical than my previous books, although I'd like to think that all of my stories have a hopeful ending, if not a traditionally happy one. What really stands out to me about this novel is that, from the beginning, I felt an unusual closeness with the characters. Freak Magnet is essentially a story of one relationship: the on-again, off-again friendship of Charlie Wyatt and Gloria Aboud. It's not always a happy story, but it's ultimately one about finding your way out of a very dark place.
Very early on in the writing process, Charlie and Gloria became dear to me as fictional creations. They transcended the page. And the more I wrote, the more I began to feel something I'd never felt before about a novel: as growing sense of responsibility. By creating these characters, I was making a commitment. From that point forward, I was on the hook for seeing Charlie and Gloria through to a certain end. Talk about pressure.
Looking back, I'm convinced that this pressure made for a better story. Sure, I cared for the characters, but it doesn't mean that I sheltered them from hardship. A lot of this book is a struggle for Charlie and Gloria. However, one of Freak Magnet's most powerful themes is of discovery, of improving your life by taking risks, even when risks have led to tragedy in the past. I'd like to think that the writing of the novel was my own way of sharing some of their pain and learning to move past it.
Has your writing routine changed? Do you have a writing routine?
Life only gets more complicated. I don't have the luxury of choosing when to work, exactly, or setting aside time to brainstorm, write a little, revise, and maybe respond to some emails. I am always desperately racing to produce anytime an opportunity presents itself, which doesn't happen too often. My routine could be that I am aware of the fact that each day contains 24 hours, most of which are already full, and few of which are reserved for the scant sleep I allow myself. As for the rest, go! They're up for grabs. Kill or be killed!
I prefer to write in the early mornings, but when you have kids that fantasy goes right out the window, because more often than not you're toasting waffles for a half-naked two-year-old at five in the morning with your dental night guard still in. That's what we in the parenting business like to call "quality time." Then it's off to the day-job office, where I can feel the stress of unfinished work building up on my shoulders, hunching me into oblivion.
Much to my despair, I often write after my family goes to bed, late at night and into the early morning. I also usually write over my lunch hour at my job. I'm known around the office for sneaking off to the bar to tap away at my laptop and be anti-social. Yes, we have a bar at our office. So maybe all of this is just the booze talking.
Yikes. Okay, back to Freak Magnet. Do you consider yourself a freak, a geek, both, or neither? I'm a geek (and a nerd) and proud of it.
That's a great question! I would say I'm two parts geek, one part freak. I'm not a nerd because I doubt I would pass their rigorous equivalency exam. I'm not in any way what you would call an intellectual. I leave that to my betters. Quoting stuff is not exactly my forte. I do, however, wear my freaky geeky badge visibly. It would be hard not to as a video game designer, board game collector, avid comic reader, and novelist. And there's no question about it, I'm infecting my poor daughters. They started reading comics as soon as they could hold a book. The amount of superhero costume paraphernalia we have around the house is kind of disturbing.
One thing I love about Freak Magnet is how lovable Charlie, the "freak" of the title, turned out. That was my editor's doing. Many of our earliest conversations focused on balancing his character, scaling back the creepy freaky and cranking up the mysterious, charming cute freaky. It's nice to see that reviewers are recognizing how carefully we toed that line.
The bio at your website is funny. How much of it is true? 10%, 20%, 90%?
I'd guess about 42%, possibly 44%.
Are you truly the CEO of a large software manufacturer?
Dude, I wish I were the CEO of anything. Then I could hire someone to write funnier and more fascinating answers to these questions, and test my food for poison. I get a lot of poison.
It's funny. I completely forgot that silly bio was up there. How's that for site maintenance? It is not real. There is the true bio, and the false bio. Maybe I should add a third option.
I do work a full-time job, and it's a hell of a job too. I'm a narrative designer for video games, which is a fancy way of saying that I help write the stories and dialog in games that require that sort of content. I love it, truly, but it's not easy, and the video games industry is notorious for its overtime and employee burnout. So yeah, I probably should have gone into a business with milder hours, like day trading, or armadillo wrangling.
I'll be honest. Life is pretty insane right now. When I do slow down and reflect, I wonder how I haven't exploded, or why my head hasn't split in two to reveal a pocket dimension. But what other choice do I have? I am extremely fortunate to have so many creative opportunities, and I know those doors won't stay open forever, so storming through them is the only option.
This brings to mind something my father-in-law said to me several years ago, when I was going through a particularly difficult time. He explained that this is the time of my life when I'm creating the foundation on which I will build my future. All of the long nights and tearful hours are helping me to move in the direction I want to go. Naturally, it's going to be the busiest time of my life, but it's also the most exciting.
And he would know. That guy is buds with Muhammad Ali, Sting, and Barack Obama.
What do you and your family like to do in your free time?
It may sound silly, but just being together is enough.
I don't think that's silly. I think that's sweet.
We're at a time in our lives when we're building - careers, a home, childhoods. So much of our time is spent on upkeep - whether it's on office work, our house, or our stupid cars - that there's always something to be done and never enough time to do it. That's a crippling feeling. Our ideal days and evenings consist of picnics, or lunches out, followed by a night of wine, Netflix, and a card game. When you spend twice as much time during your week with coworkers than with your own family, it's nice to just cherish those few, special hours.
Your daughters are little. Will you let them read your books when they are old enough?
My daughters are four and two. Thanks for asking about them. I don't get to talk about them nearly enough.
No problem! Hope they are doing well.
I will most certainly allow them to read my books when they're old enough. In fact, I will be eager to find out what they think. I've been blessed with a very creative family, and I can already see the patterns in how my girls parse and absorb information. It's amazing how family members, parents and children, share behaviors and interests; but even more fascinating is how they differ from one another. My older daughter is already flirting with narrative in interesting ways, with role play, writing, drawing, and even song. She wants to tell stories, but she's still experimenting with the method. It's an amazing thing to watch.
One of my fondest memories of graduate school was when author James Howe came to visit and gave a reading with his daughter. It was such a memorable experience, a celebration of his wonderful work heightened to an unexpected degree by this powerful energy the pair generated together. Everyone in the room - audience members and readers - felt connected to a completely impromptu community for that single hour. I'll never forget it.
I want that creative dynamic with my own children. Someday we, too, may work together as fellow artists, sharing that gift together.
I look forward to interviewing you three about your collaborative work in the future! Last but not least: What are your ten favorite books of all time?
This question is impossible, and you are cruel for asking it. Let me see. Okay, try these ten, in no particular order:
The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Young Adult Novel by Daniel Pinkwater
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Blankets by Craig Thompson
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull by John Bellairs
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Thanks for having me on the site, Little Willow. It's been fun. And with this period, I declare an end to the Andrew Auseon blog tour.
As of...now! Period!
Visit website and blog.