So I'm back with another great author for the YA Reads Debut Authors Bash, Lance Rubin. Lance Rubin is the author of Denton Little's Deathdate, a book that I just loved to death, and if you didn't already, you can go read my review of it HERE. I had his book as my staff rec for a couple months this past fall because I loved it so much. For my post today, I gave the author my favorite interview questions, which you can see his answers to below!
Author Bio (from Goodreads.com):
Fans of John Green and Matthew Quick: Get ready to die laughing.
Denton Little’s Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day on which they will die. For Denton, that’s in just two days—the day of his senior prom.
Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle—as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend’s hostile sister. (Though he’s not totally sure—see, first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton’s long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters. . . . Suddenly Denton’s life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.
Debut author Lance Rubin takes us on a fast, furious, and outrageously funny ride through the last hours of a teenager’s life as he searches for love, meaning, answers, and (just maybe) a way to live on.
1. What does your writing process look like? Do you know the whole story when you start? Or do you just start writing and go with it (seat of the pants writing)? If you plan it out, how do you do that? Outline, note cards, post-it notes, etc.?
My writing process looks like a very confused miniature zebra. (I know that’s not what you meant. Though, that is kind of what I imagine my process would look like in animal form.) Jokes aside, I definitely fall into the seat-of-the-pants category, or, as I’ve heard many people put it: I am a pantser. I know some things when I start, usually broad ideas about where the story is going and who the characters are, but for the most part, I am fumbling forward in the dark with a tiny flashlight. (And a tiny zebra.) This does not always seem to be the most efficient way to write a first draft, but I’ve found it’s what I like best.
In the case of my second book, I wrote 25,000 words of a first draft and then realized I didn’t like the direction I’d gone in at all. I scrapped it and started over, keeping some of the sections I liked but mainly writing all new things. It was a little disheartening, but I really believe I needed to write those scrapped words to understand my story better.
In the case of my third book, which I’m currently working on, I wrote 40,000 words of a first draft (about 160 pages), and then felt like I couldn’t go any further until I assessed what I had. Now I’ve been rewriting the pages I have and trying to understand my story better, after which I’ll move onward and complete the first draft. It feels really odd, since I didn’t do that with my other books, but I’ve found that each book has had its own unique process; the more I can listen to my gut and not force myself to do it a certain way just because it worked with previous books, the better off I am.
2. How do you come up with your ideas for your stories?
I think I generally end up writing about things that fascinate me, that I’m passionate about, that I find thought-provoking. For example, the idea for Denton Little’s Deathdate came to me because I love to think about time. I often find myself thinking about the passage of time, about what’s changed in my life in the past year, the past two years, the past five years. One day, the thought occurred to me: I wonder how much time I have left? From there, I thought of what it might be like to know my deathdate, and then I thought, What if everyone knew when they would die? So it’s usually one thought that snowballs into a bigger idea.
In general, I’d say a big part of idea-generating is observing and listening to the world around you and reading lots of things. And I find taking a shower, going on a run, and lying in bed as I’m trying to fall asleep at night are great times for creative thinking.
3. How long have you been writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but interestingly enough, I only started to identify primarily as a writer in the past few years. From the time I was five or six, I always thought I was going to be an actor, so for much of my life, the writing I did was in service of my performing, whether it was comedy sketches/videos or the solo show I performed my senior year of college. There was other writing, too—including a humor column called Random Thoughts that I wrote for my high school newspaper—but mostly, I was writing things that I could perform.
In early 2011, I became disenchanted with my acting career (which is my nice way of saying I’d just been dropped by my agent and manager in the same month and I was feeling unfulfilled and miserable) right around the time I read and loved The Hunger Games. I’d been sitting on a screenplay idea for a while, and I thought, “Maybe I’ll take that idea and try writing it as a YA novel.” It was a leap, as I had no clue if the writing chops I’d honed from other mediums would apply to writing fiction. That idea, of course, was Denton Little’s Deathdate, and several years (and more than several rewrites) later, here we are.
So, to recap: I’ve been writing things since I was really young—mainly comedy sketches and creative AIM away messages during college--but I didn’t start seriously writing fiction until five years ago.
4. What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Jumping off my last answer, I would say: don’t pigeonhole your creativity! Do lots of creative things; experiment with lots of forms. If you think of yourself as a novelist, try to write a song! Try to write a play! Try to make a sculpture! Nothing you make will go to waste; it’s all educational, and it all informs who you are as an artist and person. If you’d told me ten years ago I’d now have a career as a Young Adult author, I would have been shocked and confused. But, the truth is, it’s been an unexpectedly great creative fit for me.
My other big piece of advice is this: if you’re hoping to have a career as a writer, it absolutely has to start with you taking yourself seriously. If you don’t, no one else will. Don’t wait for people to ask you to make things or to assign you projects; make the things you want to make TODAY. Operate with a professional mindset: establish writing routines and work even on days you don’t feel inspired (which, honestly, will be most of the days). The more you write, the better you will become. That’s a fact. The bad writing you do will generally teach you more than the good writing, which is a freeing thing to realize because it means you can’t lose! If you write something bad, you know it’s gonna help you to become better. If you write something good, then congrats, you’ve written something good! Either way, keep writing.
(It’s worth mentioning that I’m delivering this advice so enthusiastically because I’m also saying it to myself. No matter how much I know this stuff intellectually, I struggle with it daily. We’re all in this together.)
5. Does Denton Little resemble you as a teenage boy in any way? What parts of the book do you feel come from things in your life, or are there any?
Ha, yes, Denton Little resembles me as a teenage boy in lots of ways because I totally used me at age seventeen as the foundation for the character. I figured it was intimidating enough to write a novel at all, so I wanted to make it as easy for myself as possible.
In the same vein, the primary foundation for Denton’s best friend Paolo is my close friend and comedy partner Ray Munoz. He and I have written a few two-person comedy shows together, so I infused the general vibe of our comedic banter into Denton and Paolo’s friendship. The rest of the characters in the book are imaginative amalgams of people I know, but none correlate as directly to real-life counterparts as those two.
Other things in the book inspired by details from my life include Denton’s made-up New Jersey town, Marstin. Though it’s not a real place, I was very much thinking of my New Jersey hometown Matawan when I wrote about it. In Matawan, for example, there’s a place called Eli’s Bagels. In Denton’s town of Marstin, there’s a place called Harold’s Bagels. (See what I did there?)
This is all to say that I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to write any more books because I’ve probably used up all my material.
Some fun questions:
This is such a common answer, but man, my love for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is boundless. Those really expanded my idea of what storytelling can and should be.
Other books I love include Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier and Clay, Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge, and John Irving’s The World According to Garp. YA that I love includes Coe Booth’s Tyrell, Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up, Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, and Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle. (But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.) And my favorite books about writing are Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Stephen King’s On Writing.
Movies/TV Shows –
My favorite movie of all-time is Back to the Future. It was a huge influence on Denton. Others I love very much include Bottle Rocket, Waiting for Guffman, and most Pixar films. Favorite TV shows of all time include The Office (BBC version, though I also love the American one), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Friday Night Lights, and Freaks and Geeks. Most recently, I absolutely loved Master of None. And Nathan for You makes me laugh harder than most things.
I really love 80’s music, and I often end up listening to that while writing. Just this morning, “Luka” by Suzanne Vega and “I Want to Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston were in the rotation, and they both made me very happy. Other artists I listen to a lot include Ben Folds, Mates of State, the Weepies, Lord Huron, Jack’s Mannequin, and Passion Pit. Recently, I’ve been loving the new album by CHVRCHES. All stuff that’s pretty poppy.
Food/writing snack –
I often get a bowl of yogurt, granola, and fruit at the coffeeshop where I write. That, or a frittata. I also drink water or tea. This answer is pretty boring.
Social Media Site –
- One signed Denton Little's Deathdate audiobook (which is narrated by author), only open in the U.S.
- Copy of Denton Little's Deathdate, International if The Book Depository delivers to you!
The author is providing the audiobook for US entries, and I will be providing a copy of the actual book for International entries.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Click on the button below to go to the schedule for the other Debut Authors participating!