Thursday, February 9, 2012

Author Interview & Giveaway - Antony John!

After I gushed to my sister about how much Katelyn (my daughter) and I loved the book FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB by Antony John, she introduced us via email.  That girl knows ALL the best people, I swear!  Antony very graciously agreed to do an author interview as well as a giveaway for a signed ARC for my blog - here's how it works:

1 - for one entry for the signed ARC, simply comment on this interview and tell me your favorite band and how they've moved you. :)

2 - for a second entry for the signed ARC, hop on over to Antony John's facebook and 'LIKE' his page, I'll be keeping track!  Here's the link: 

3 - the contest runs from today through midnight on Friday, February 17, 2012.  The winner will be chosen and announced on Saturday, February 18, 2012.

Now, on to the interview!

You've had a lot of interesting jobs, which one (besides writing) was your favorite? (While my jobs weren't as cool as yours, my favorites were Skate Guard and Fudge Queen - although that sounds a bit dirty!)

I’d have to say that my favorite was teaching undergraduate and graduate music courses—geeky, I know—just because it allowed me to indulge my obsession with music without people pointing at me and making crazy faces.

But I also loved being a chauffeur in Switzerland. Waking up every morning and watching the sunrise over the snowcapped mountains was a sublime experience. I wish everyone had the chance to do it for a few months.

How did you research Piper's character in FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB?  I mean, since she's deaf and you had to learn about the community and the culture. (Katelyn and I are both in ASL classes, so the book was doubly fun for us)

As soon as I decided to write from the point of view of a deaf teen, I knew I needed to do a TON of research. So I started by reading books from the library, watching DVDs, and browsing websites, etc. Then I sat in on an ASL class to get a feel for signing, and interviewed an audiologist about the latest hearing aid and cochlear implant technology. Finally, I 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. I could never have written this book without all the support.

In FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB: the scenes where the kids talk about Jimmy Hendrix and Kurt Cobain brought tears to my eyes.  Who are your favorite musicians? (we're going with the Beatles to start with!)

I’m so glad you enjoyed those scenes. I have to admit that, going into the book, I was kind of skeptical of the whole hero worship thing that surrounds both men. But reading biographies of them really changed my perception of who they were. And visiting their homes brought everything into focus. My appreciation for both Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain grew along with Piper’s.

In terms of what I like . . . yes, the Beatles are right up there, along with The Rolling Stones. But like a lot of people these days, I have pretty eclectic tastes. The last three songs on the mix I’m currently listening to were: “People are strange” by The Doors, “Sk8ter Boi” by Avril Lavigne, and “La jument de Michao” by Nolwenn Leroy. I doubt that many of your readers have all three of those on their iPods.  (I'd love to know if anyone actually does!  Katelyn has the first two, but not the third.)

Tell us about THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP coming out this Spring?  It's not a subject matter I've seen approached much in YA, I'm really looking forward to it!

THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP is the story of 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.

The reason I wrote it is because I love road trips, and the idea that a literal journey can also be a metaphorical journey. I also wanted to write something in the same vein as FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, which balances serious and humorous elements. Finally, Route 66 runs through St. Louis, and I figured it was about time I set a book (partly) in my adopted hometown. (There aren’t enough YA novels set in St. Louis, in my opinion!)

I hear you've been super busy and you also have a series called ELEMENTAL coming out in the Fall of 2012.  Can you tell us about that too?

Yes, I’m crazy excited about ELEMENTAL. It’s my first foray into fantasy, but I feel like I accomplished everything I set out to do, which is really cool because it’s an ambitious project. Anyway, here’s the cover copy, which pretty much sums up what it’s all about:

Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an Element—earth, water, wind or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.

In the wake of an unforeseen storm, desperate pirates kidnap the Guardians, intent on claiming the island as their own. Caught between the plague-ridden mainland and the advancing pirates, Thomas and his friends fight for survival in the battered remains of a mysterious abandoned settlement. But the secrets they unearth will turn Thomas’ world upside-down, and bring to light not only a treacherous past but also a future more dangerous than he can possibly imagine.

What is your favorite food?

That’d have to be a tie between Thai (no pun intended) and Italian. I cook way more of the latter because it’s easy and quick, but a good Thai meal just rocks my world. Actually, eating in general rocks my world. I eat a lot.

Who is your favorite YA author?  Your favorite other author?

Oh wow, it’s SO hard to pick a favorite. There are literally dozens of YA authors around at the moment whose work I completely adore. I truly believe we’re in a golden age of YA novels, where no matter what genre you prefer (contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, etc), you are spoiled for choice.

That being said, I have a particular obsession with Meg Rosoff’s books. Her debut, HOW I LIVE NOW, just blew me away when I read it, and every book since has confirmed my suspicion that she’s a complete genius.

I’d also like to give a BFF charm to Heather Brewer (whose work you know rather well, I think J), for not only writing scintillating books and being so supportive of other authors, but for using her influence to bring attention to the huge problem of bullying in schools. It’s easy as an author to get caught up in your own head and forget that your audience (teens) faces real issues every day. Heather never forgets, and her minions love her for it.

You've done so much already, what is one thing you'd really love to do?

There are a gazillion things I want to do. I still have several continents to visit, and I need to learn to cook properly, amongst other things. But one thing near the top of the list is . . . *cue drum roll* . . . dunking a basketball. Okay, I know that sounds lame, but I’ve come so close without ever quite making it. Now I think my time may be up.

Failing that, a yearlong round-the-world trip with my family would be rather awesome. Unlikely, but awesome.

Did you ever think that you would be this popular and famous? 

Uh, well, that kind of implies that I’m famous, which I’m definitely not. However, I will admit that I could never have imagined how successful FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB would be. It’s sort of like The Little Engine That Could, because it continues to grow in popularity long after it was released. It truly is a word-of-mouth success story, and you can never anticipate that as an author. You just have to be grateful and hope that readers will follow you as you explore new topics (THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP) and genres (ELEMENTAL).

Does your family still live in the UK?  What do they think of your success?

They do live in the UK, and they love seeing what I’m up to these days. I was blessed with enormously supportive parents who pretty much told me to do what I loved, as long as I worked hard at it. So they took great pride in seeing me pursue a career as a composer, and now they take pride in what I’ve done as an author. It’s also a fantastic talking point at family gatherings!

Thanks for having me along today, Dawn, and a big hello to your readers!

Thanks so much, Antony, for a lovely interview!  Readers - you can find Antony online at Antony John


  1. Awesome interview! I love it when I'm reading interviews and the author has so much to say that I can actually relate to. Love Skater Boi and I'll have to check out the other two songs! The Doors are amazing :)

    I'm excited to read your books both of the new ones sound awesome, and I am especially excited for Elemental.

    And as for favorite YA authors, great pick. I have stuck mainstream for my favorite (Sarah Dessen) but Meg Rosoff is amazing and I feel she, like many other authors, doesn't get enough praise for her work. Her writing is disconcerting but brilliant. I love my copy of How I Live Now, and Just in case was really good as well.
    I still have to read her third YA novel and I'm excited to do so.

    Thanks for sharing with us! And I am liking on Fb - Mera Sampson

    mirrrormera92 AT aol dot com :)

    ~Mera @ Mera's YA Book List

  2. Wee! I love this interview, Antony always gives the most entretaining answers! I'm so obsessed with FFOD, I love getting to know something new about it. I have the first two from the playlist too, but not the last one O: must check out!

    I must also check out Meg Rosoff. If you three like her books then they must be really something.

    As for my favorite band, is it without a doubt, MCFLY. I love those boys so much, I've spent all of my teen years growing up with them, and their several music phases have matched mine too. I adore them.

    Thanks for the chance to win a -signed- ARC.


  3. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming books! As a teacher/librarian at a school for the deaf, I LOVED "Five Flavors of Dumb," and I've shared the book with several students who also loved it. The thorough research definitely paid off; the issues related to deafness were handled amazingly well.

    As for a favorite band (and my chance for an ARC!)... I don't really have a favorite group; I tend to prefer single artists. And (with some embarrassment) I admit that my all-time favorite is Madonna. In junior high and high school in the late '80s-early '90s, her music was my "safe place." Being a fairly goody-goody nerd, I loved the virtual escape of identifying with someone so scandalous. And I admired how she set her goals and never gave up, no matter the challenges she faced.

  4. Thank you so much for this interview! Antony is such a humble guy, and I can't wait to read the new book. I had the honor of spending a couple of hours with him at MASL, and the librarians loved him, of course!
    Favorite musician by far is Sir Elton John. I've loved him since the 7th grade, and he still is by far my favorite. Nolwenn Leroy? Guess I better check him/her out.
    Another great MO YA writer? Brian Katcher!

  5. Thanks for the awesome comments, folks. I love your band selections. As for Nolwenn Leroy, she's a French singer who won one of those competitions (think "X factor" or "American Idol") and took off from there. You'll probably have to check out "La Jument de Michao" on YouTube, but it's ridiculously catchy, so don't say I didn't warn you.

    Nancy - Thank you for sharing my book with your students. I'm thrilled that they enjoy it. It couldn't have been written without the support of the Deaf community, that's for sure.

    Laura - Yes, EVERYONE should check out Brian Katcher. Awesome writer, and awesome guy. Can't use enough superlatives when it comes to Brian.

    Melannie & Mera - Yes, Meg Rosoff is awesome. Actually, I should've mentioned Sara Zarr too. Although a completely different writer, she seems to me to be at the very top of her game in every book. Everything she writes is thought-provoking and beautiful.