05 September 2007

Author Answers with Scott Westerfeld

This week's author is YA and sci-fi writer Scott Westerfeld. His next book will come out in October, the latest in his Uglies series.

For more on Westerfeld, check out his website.

WN: Your new book, “Extras” comes out in October. On your website, you describe it as a companion novel to your Uglies series. What do you mean by that and how does it fit with the other books?
WESTERFELD: Extras takes place a few years after the events of Uglies/Pretties /Specials. It's from the point of view of a new character in Japan, a 15-year-old girl named Aya, who's watching the end of the prettytime in her own city. The old regime of uglies and pretties is over, so I thought it would be good to see from a new perspective how Tally and her friends changed the world.

WN: You’ve got quite the list of appearances scheduled. Do you like the opportunity to interact with readers and if so, why?
WESTERFELD: Teens are very intense readers. They're willing to tell you what they liked, what they didn't like, and how they would have ended your book. Because their feedback is much more honest than that of adult readers, it's much more exciting (and nervous-making) to hear what they have to say.

WN: Why did you make the switch from writing adult novels to YA novels? Is one harder than the other?
WESTERFELD: I got an idea (for my Midnighters series) that featured a bunch of teenage protagonists, so I wrote the book as a YA just as an experiment, to see if I could. I soon found that I really liked the "YA voice." The teenage years are much more intense and fraught than adulthood, with opportunities for a lot more drama, which I love to write. On top of that, younger readers don't let you get away with as much waffling, so I think it sharpens my writing to keep the narrative focus they demand.

One thing I didn't expect about the shift was how welcoming the world of youth librarians and teachers turned out to be. It's wonderful and humbling to have a whole new set of champions helping readers find my work.

WN: What’s your writing process like?
WESTERFELD: I used to write manically, but as I get older I'm much more of a tortoise than a hare. These days I try to write about a thousand words a day, quite steadily, without any bursts of hyper-activity. Every day starts with a few hours of editing, usually the stuff I've written over the last few days, to get me warmed up before I start on new scenes. The most important ritual is that I always start right after breakfast, before there are too many other thoughts in my head.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid… what turned you on to reading/writing books?
WESTERFELD: I read a lot: under the covers, on the bus, during class. I don't actually remember how that started, except there was a teacher who read to us in second grade who had the best voice ever. I think a lot of readers start off as listeners.

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
WESTERFELD: I like always having something complicated to think about. My novels are around 80,000 words long, and when I'm thoroughly into a book, that vast presence is in my head all the time, demanding to be shaped and crafted. It's a very rich thing to carry around in your mind.

The most challenging part is the blank page, when there's no characters or voice or setting yet. It's a very lonely place.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
WESTERFELD: I don't really have an answer for this one. Sorry.

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