Interview with Antony John and Giveaway *ENDED* of Thou Shalt Not Road Trip {#JustContemporary}

Today I have the pleasure of having Antony John on for Just Contemporary {more about this event HERE}.  I loved Five Flavors of Dumb and was tickled pink when he agreed to an interview and a giveaway of an ARC of his newest book, Thou Shalt Not Road Trip {out in April, 2012}. I’m so jealous of who ever wins this cause I WANT! 

Thou Shalt Not Road Trip

When sixteen-year-old Luke’s book, Hallelujah, becomes a national best seller, his publisher sends him on a cross-country tour with his unpredictable older brother, Matt, as chauffeur. But when Matt offers to drive Luke’s ex-crush, Fran, across the country too, things get a little crazy. Luke thinks he’s enlightened, but he really needs to loosen up if he’s going to discover what it truly means to have faith, and do what it takes to get the girl he loves.

 Five Flavors of Dumb

The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band’s manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she’s deaf?

Piper can’t hear Dumb’s music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.

 Diversity in YA is important but it seems like it tends to focus on people of color and GLBT (which is good!) and other things really don’t get any focus at all.  So when I started reading Five Flavors of Dumb I was excited to see that the main character was deaf.  Why did you choose to write about a deaf person?  Do you have any personal experience with a person who is deaf?

The decision to write from a deaf perspective came about in a conversation with my wife. I desperately wanted to write a book about music—I have a Ph.D. in music—but there are already a lot of YA books about rock music out there. So my wife suggested that I challenge myself by thinking about music from the point of view of a deaf person. As soon as she said it, I thought: I have to write this book.

At the time, I didn’t have personal experience with deafness (deaf family members, friends, etc). But when I decided to write Five Flavors of Dumb, I knew I needed to do a LOT of research. Four months later, I’d sat in on an ASL class, spoken to audiologists, and befriended two deaf people (one teen, one adult) who kindly chatted about their experiences growing up deaf and also critiqued drafts of the manuscript for me. It was invaluable.

That’s great that you did so much research!  And it totally makes this book stand out on another level.

Why did you choose to write a female character instead of a male?  Have you written books with a male as an MC?  

I’m asked this a lot, which is interesting to me. Writing from a female perspective was new to me (obviously!), but then, so was writing about someone who is deaf. Come to think of it, I never attended high school in the USA either, and my school in England wasn’t co-ed, so I guess Piper and I have almost nothing in common at all!

As for why I wrote from a female point-of-view . . . it’s because Piper came to me fully formed as narrator of the novel. This was her story from the outset. I couldn’t have written it with any other narrator. But all my other books have a male narrator, so it’s a one-off for now.

Well, I love male narrators too (actually I’m constantly seeking out more of them) so that excites me too!

Piper has a pretty strong family.  They have their issues and that was part of the story.  It seemed like you wove all her issues together so well that none was overwhelming another and although her family issues were there, they weren’t the main focus.  Finding a family in YA that is close like hers is, is fairly difficult.  I think that authors have a hard time with families being part of the plot.  And while it’s more common in contemporary, it still seems like it’s not there as much as I would think.   Okay, so onto the question- do you see any of your own family in Piper’s?  Did your own family experiences or people come into the story?

Ooh, interesting question. I must admit that I can empathize with everyone in Piper’s family. There’s the father whose identity was wrapped up in his work and who is now the default stay-at-home dad, and the mother who is forced to compensate by working harder than she ever wanted to. This means that the roles they’ve assumed within the household are not the ones they originally envisaged for themselves. While this situation is not based on my own family experiences—I was a stay-at-home dad for six years, but I loved every minute of it—it wasn’t difficult for me to imagine how hard it would be, and also what a toll it would take on their relationship with their smart (and increasingly independent) daughter.

What Piper’s family does have in common with my own family growing up, is that they are genuinely supportive of one another. And as with my own family, music is one of the things that brings them together.

Piper manages a band in the book, what was your experience with bands as a teen?  Were you in one?  

No, I wasn’t in a band. I loved rock music, but actually I was obsessed with classical music. So I played in several orchestras, sang in choirs, etc. But I still kind of wish I had been in a band. (Hey, it’s never too late, right?)

Well, that’s what books are for!  You can live vicariously through them 😉

In the book Piper is brought to Kurt Cobains house as well as Jimi Hendrix’s old house.  It’s part of trying to get her to ‘get it’ (the music, I mean).  I know you visited these places yourself.  What sort of experience was that?  What did you feel?

Visiting these places was really powerful for me, and even changed the direction of the book. Before I visited Kurt Cobain’s house, I was fairly sure that Piper would remain cynical and be dismissive of the notion of a pilgrimage site for a suicidal rock star. But just sitting there—as Piper does in the novel—and reading all these eulogies written on the park benches, I realized how much this meant to some people. I don’t think you can read all those heartfelt sentiments and not be moved. And I realized that Piper would feel the same way, in spite of herself.

Same with Jimi Hendrix’s house. It was a tiny clapboard house, and the family must have been living on top of each other. It was a poignant reminder that genius can come from anywhere, anytime. (Unfortunately, the house has since been destroyed.)

I visited Kurt Cobains home in Seattle as well and was very moved {but I’m a ginormous fan}. 

So are you a fan of Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix?  

Oh, yes. I love their music, the intensity of their performances, and the fact that they put themselves fully into their music. I know that a lot of people are cynical of rock stars, but both of them had terrible experiences as teens and fought through them to become global icons. I have a lot of respect for that.

Any favorite songs or albums?

For Jimi Hendrix, my favorites songs are the ones that “appear” in Five Flavors of Dumb: the consecutive performances of “Star-spangled banner” and “Purple Rain” from his set at Woodstock, 1969. Genius.

For Kurt Cobain, I particularly enjoy listening to the two versions of “Where did you sleep last night” that he recorded. One is early—just him and his guitar and an amateur recording device; the other is from the very end of his life—Nirvana’s unplugged performance on MTV. The first is rough around the edges, the latter very polished, but you can tell that Kurt remained essentially unchanged from one to the next. In spite of all the turmoil in his life, these performances remain utterly uninhibited. And that climax . . . wow!

Nirvana Unplugged is my absolute favorite!  I went through many many tapes of that Unplugged in NY I loved it so much.  

What kind of music do you listen to these days?

Like a lot of people, I have very eclectic tastes. I’m also continually getting recommendations from my brother, whose knowledge of rock music is encyclopedic. Current favorites are English band Mumford and Sons, French ensemble Paris Combo, and US retro folk band Plume Giant. I particularly respect groups that really know how to play their instruments, and all three are quite virtuosic in that respect.

I also listen to a lot of classical music. Sometimes I find it puts me in a better frame of mind for some types of writing. (Almost every book ends up with its own exceedingly long playlist.)

The cover of Five Flavors of Dumb is quite eye catching and I think it ‘fits’ the story within quite well.  Did you have any input in it?

No, I didn’t. But I LOVE it. I had visitors when the cover was first emailed to me, and so I opened it up in front of them. All of us just went: Whoa!

Everyone adores the cover, and I think it’s partly because of the layers that the designer Kristin Smith built in: Piper (the cover model) dominates (as she does in the book), but the band is there, plus the chaotic world of indie bands, and a grunge feel infuses the whole thing. It’s hard to imagine a better cover.

Were you much of a reader as a teen?  Any favorites from back then?

No, I’m sorry to say that I was NOT a reader. I read for school (and enjoyed those books very much), but I was a chronically slow reader, and so I tended to use my free time doing other things, mostly music. Even now, I have real sympathy for slow-reading teens; people who read quickly have no idea what life is like for us!

When I did read for pleasure, I was pretty obsessed by S. E. Hinton. Books like The Outsiders and That was then, this is now were completely outside my realm of experience and I found them captivating.

Oh, I was obsessed with S.E. Hinton too! 

What about now, any favorite books you find yourself recommending a lot?

Loads of books, to be honest. YA is in a terrific place right now, and every month I find myself recommending a new book. Actually, one of the perks of being an author is that I receive a lot of ARCs to read, and the last three have been awesome:

I just finished a terrific dystopian thriller called Legend by Marie Lu, which will be coming out in November. It’s such an adrenaline rush, and I think it’s that rare book that will appeal to boys and girls equally.

Another is Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, about a girl preparing for an international violin competition. The author was formerly a professional violinist, and you can really tell. The details just immerse you in what that world would feel like, in all its excitement and claustrophobia. Brilliant book.

Finally, there’s Katana by Cole Gibsen. It doesn’t come out till next spring, but it’s gripping and hilarious, and will appeal to all fans of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod and Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. (Oh, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans should pre-order a copy too.) Anyone who can balance humor and kick-ass fight scenes in the same chapter is a genius in my book.

Totally loved Virtuosity (and heard Jessica play when I met her and she’s amazing!).  Can’t wait to read Legend!

What’s the best part of being you?  (This question is taken from Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando. It’s a fabulous book and you should read it 😉

Yes, I should read it. I’ve heard great things about Dreamland Social Club. I even have a copy at home, which shows how much I want to read it. If it weren’t for that pesky slow-reader condition (see above)!

The best part of being me . . . hmmm, that’s tricky. Because, truthfully, I love everything about being me. I feel insanely fortunate, I really do. I have a wonderful and supportive family, an agent and editor and publisher who are determined to help me become the best writer I can be, and the opportunity to write full time. Perhaps the best part about being me is that everything feels as though it’s in perfect balance right now. That’s a rare gift.

And before you leave I must ask, what’s next?  What’s your next book?  Anything you’re working on that you can share with us?  

Absolutely! My next novel, Thou Shalt Not Road Trip, will be released in April 2012. It’s about a 16-year-old boy who writes a spiritual self-help book that becomes a bestseller. When his publisher sends him on a promotional tour along Route 66, things start to get crazy, especially when a former crush hitches a ride.

Then, in fall 2012, the first book in my ELEMENTAL trilogy comes out. It’s set in a dystopian colony of the United States where everyone is born with powers of the elements—earth, water, wind, and fire—except for one boy who is powerless . . . or is he? I’m so psyched about it I can barely see straight.

Thanks so much for being on and I can’t wait to read more from you!

Thank you for having me along today, Candace. And thanks to all your readers!

Please visit Antony’s webpage:
The Giveaway:ENDED
One ARC of Thou Shalt Not Road Trip to one lucky person!  *Provided by the author.*
Open to US only.
Must be 13 or older to enter.
Ends December 10th, 2011

To Enter:ENDED
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  1. I love roadtrips!! There’s always plenty to talk about. I can see why there’s a book :) Sounds like a very enjoyable read.

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  2. Wow what a great interview Candace! He really is an amazing author. LOVED Five Flavors of Dumb. The upcoming Roadtrip sounds hillarious and super fun to read! And I can’t wait for his dystopian bk! It sounds like its gonna be EPIC!

  3. I loved his first book that I read a few weeks ago and I can’t wait for his new one! Plus, it’s a road trip book and I love books like that!

    twilightforever.edward at gmail dot com


  4. wrote a MASSIVE comment yesterday but apparently it didn’t got published ):

    oh well, but it went something like this:


    Yeah something like that, and something about how weird is that Antony and Piper have nothing in common yet he wrote her MASTERFULLY. Serious talent there.

    and there was also me saying something about how I was agreeing with all your comments on Antony’s answers, like “yes, that’s my favorite too!” or “I love that too!”

    And something about being extremely excited for the new dystopian trilogy!

    Yeah, things like that 😉
    Thank you so much for the interview, Candace! (and Antony too)

  5. Thanks for the giveaway. The interview regarding Five Flavors was wonderful. It’s so great to have strong female lead characters that highlight diversity-a deaf band manager. Road trip sounds like a lot of fun too.

    mljfoland AT hotmail DOT com

  6. Great interview, and Antony John is awesome. And thanks for the giveaway!
    I love Dumb, and am so excited for Road Trip!

  7. Great interview. I love hearing about how the author was able to write from a deaf female’s perspective. That was also cool to hear how the cover was created. Glad to hear that the cover artist, Kristin Smith, was able to capture the novel very well and made the author happy. :)

    I can’t wait to read Legend. Glad to hear that it was good.


  8. Awesome interview! I also love reading books with diverse characters. The one that comes into my mind most is Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly. I love that you wrote a character that has nothing in common with you, quite brave!

    Looking forward to Thou Shalt Not Road Trip!

    candicerjames [at] gmail [dot] com

  9. Awh, it’s sad to hear that Antony wasn’t a big reader as a teen, but I’m going to assume that he sure does know how to write good books! Plus, the covers are so cool. :)


  10. I picked up a copy of Five Flavors of Dumb specifically because I fell in love with the deaf culture when I took asl as my language in college. There aren’t very many books that feature a deaf character, which makes me sad especially after working with a few deaf teens at an old job. They all wanted someone to relate to (it would have been awesome if they all came in at the same time because they all had the same struggle). I haven’t had the chance to actually read Five Flavors of Dumb but it is definitely moving up in my reading cue.

    Starr.k.griggs (At)GMAIL(DOT)COM

  11. yay. S.E. Hinton for the win. I agree The Outsiders was captivating. Katana also sounds really interesting. I will have to check it out along with Thou Shalt Not Road Trip of course.

    leyser73 at yahoo dot com

  12. I keep seeing this book in stores and come SO CLOSE to buying it, but reason with myself that I’ll get it next time instead. It looks so good… but I don’t have money to spend :(

    You didn’t have anything in common with the main character of your book? That’s very bold. This book keeps looking better and better.

    Thanks for the chance!

  13. I read Five Flavors of Dumb a few months back. I loved the world Antony created and the emotions and frustrations he brought. It was definitely an inspiring novel. I can’t wait to see what he brings with Thou Shalt Not Road Trip! From the summary he gives, it sounds like a crazy trip lol

    This is the first time I’m hearing about his new trilogy! Loving fantasy books right now so looking forward to it!


  14. Thanks for the giveaway! I really enjoyed reading Five Flavors of Dumb; Piper is different from most YA girls I’ve read about and very courageous. I’m interested in reading about the new characters Antony John has created in this next book!

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