A couple weeks ago I was invited up to Seattle to take part in the YA Book Club hosted by University Book Store. The book club was reading and discussing Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin. It worked out that I could attend, so I drove up there and stayed the whole weekend with my aunt and we did lots of fun things. But this post is about the book club and I'll fill you in on the other fun stuff another time.
This was my first time visiting University Book Store, which is kind of sad really, considering I visit Seattle a couple of times a year at least. It was nice to see it, it was pretty large with a nice open floor plan and easy to find sections. I ran out of time to browse much, but I did walk through most all of the store and I really liked it.
I hadn't had time to pick my winner for the giveaway I had posted so I did that while I waited (the winner was Kimba!) and contacted her. The plan was to interview Sean but once we started chatting and I started taking notes it became clear that I probably had plenty of material already. So here's how it all went, the short, condensed version. ;) (Which is not so short, at all. I apologize.)
We started off introducing ourselves and telling everyone what our first show (concert) was. It is a book with a music theme, so perfect! We got to know one another pretty well with that as well.
Caitlin started it off by pointing out that she noticed a character, who was a bad guy from Sean's first book, made an appearance in this one. Still working at the same place... Sean said not many people noticed that, so good catch!
The next little discussion was about the cover. The ARC had a different cover from the final. Everyone was mostly in agreement that the original cover they had didn't really fit the story. Sean told us that he really didn't care for it and made a bit of a fuss and actually made the cover he thought it should be and it was what it actually became, there were only some slight changes.
The next discussion was about mispronouncing names. Beaudoin is not an easy name to pronounce. If I were to guess I would say it's Bo-deen, but it's actually Boh-dwen.(And I did clarify that!)
Someone asked, was Wise Young Fool autobiographical? Well, yes and no. Out of all of his books it's the closest. There are bits he's taken from real life, but then they've been changed and twisted and in the end it's quite different. But yes, parts were originally taken from some real experiences. You know, bits and pieces, not the whole story or anything. (This is from my notes and is probably quite different from what he actually said, but the gist of it anyway...)
Someone asked something about if he felt that this was the common male experience, I think she meant regarding a romance or sexual encounter, and Sean said yes, that he felt it was. BUT then went on to say that things have changed so much since he was teen. Now that everyone has a cell phone, and social media, it changes the dating game/romance scene drastically and it's harder for him to relate to how things are now, compared to how they were then.
How hard was it to write female characters? He said it was easy for WYF, but when he wrote a female POV in a previous book it was much more difficult.
When discussing writing to a particular audience, Sean said that he writes what he does, and how he does, because that's him. He can't write to a particular genre or audience, he just writes what he has the urge/ need to write.
When asked about the content in his books we got two things. First up- the content that was changed or removed was when people he mentioned died, or when natural disasters hit areas after the book was wrote. For example, he had mentioned a country in a book and before the book was published a natural disaster hit that country and caused catastrophic damage. The mention of that country was then removed. (Isn't that interesting?)
As far as profanity in his books- it was up to him. He chose to keep it real and include the profanity, maybe not being so concerned about it not being included in libraries in certain areas of the country. This of course led to the subject of banning of which he replies "Please ban my book!" because we all know that the kids want to read the books they aren't suppose to read, same as listening to the music that has been deemed for inappropriate. Tell a kid what not to do/read/listen/watch and you can be sure they WILL do it!
Still along the lines of content is "does he feel a sense of responsibility to his readers". Like that he should set a good example or have some 'messages' in there. He says yes, he does. He feels a sense of responsibility while still wanting to keep it real. There's a bit about drinking and driving, in which he kept it realistic while still showing us that it's a very bad idea, bad things happen when you drink and drive, but it's not preachy, it's just part of the story- he shows us WHY it's a bad idea.
This led to talking about the fact that the main character's mother is lesbian and has a girlfriend, but this is not an issue in the book, it's just there. It's real and it's something that happens, but it doesn't have to be an issue, it just IS. This was something I was excited about- I want it in YA a lot more. Diversity in general, without being an issue.
We talked about issue books a lot. Sean said he didn't really want to read issue books himself, though it's clear that he's open to any kind of book, he doesn't judge. Personally, I prefer a book with balance. 'Issue books' tend to be hard for me, but I like a book that deals with issues while still having funny and romantic bits. I just need some balance is all. Wise Young Fool is definitely that middle kind. There's issues, but there's funny as well.
Someone asked what he read in high school and he replied that his parents read a lot and he read a lot of their books. Some a bit too racy but he didn't understand it all. Some he recalls reading are S.E. Hinton (me too!), VC Andrews (me too!), Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, and Basketball Diaries. Back then there wasn't really YA but all these authors would probably be considered YA if they were published today. In my library S.E. Hinton was in the kid section, but VC Andrews was in the adult section. These days you'll find VC Andrews books in the YA section at bookstores, at least the new releases (that aren't actually by VC Andrews at all).
That bit led to talking about how he doesn't like boxes, doesn't like everything being labeled. People tend to find a genre they like and they don't really read outside of it. They say if it's YA they aren't interested and don't really think outside of what they think they like. We need to be willing to try new things and explore other genres. He also says he doesn't judge anyone about what they read, which led to much joking around about Gossip Girls, which some of the girls had read/watched (I haven't, but I'd give it a shot!).
Sean started writing in high school but couldn't finish a story. He did music instead. In college he started writing again, mainly for the courses he was taking. But then he put out a fanzine with short stories and the repetition made him realize he could do it. An agent liked his voice when showed one his short story collection, and told him that he should write YA. Now it's been years but his short story collection has had some interest lately.
When asked what he's reading now he replied Bobcat and other stories by Rebecca Lee and Busy Monsters by William Girardi.
Someone asked if he was for or against getting an MFA he said he was against. Well, not exactly- he doesn't really think it's necessary to spend all that money on getting educated and then not really having that high of a chance of being published. However, there is structure and critique with getting an MFA, so there are positives, just personally he doesn't think it's that necessary.
Next we talked about community. Having a community of writers is important. Sean had lived in San Francisco and thought it wasn't too bad but now that he's lived in Seattle for awhile he sees that it's so much better. There's a great group of authors and they are all supportive of each other. He tours with Cat Patrick, Kevin Emerson and Martha Brockenbrough, but the community of authors is quite close.
I feel the same way with the Portland authors. At book signings other authors show up to show support and there are lots of writing groups. It's a pretty tight knit community.
Last question- what is Sean working on now? Cornelius Wrathbone is scheduled to release in 2015 and it's about Big Foot. Not A big foot, but a whole community that comes out and lives among us. Very interesting... very interesting indeed!
Each month there's a YA book featured for the YA book club, make sure you check it out each month as it's a lot of fun! It looks like Cinder might be the book featured for September and that's a great choice! Unfortunately I can't make it up again so soon, but if you are in the area and would like to cover it, please let me know! (candacesbookblog(at)yahoo(dot)com)
Be sure to watch the Event Calendar for future events at University Book Store as well!