Interview with Stefan Petrucha.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stefan Petrucha has written a crazy amount of novels and graphic novels, and the list just keeps growing. His latest novel The Rule of Won has been widely read and loved by a large percentage of the blogosphere. Including me. (Check out my review here). Want to know more about him? Check out his website here.

What was your inspiration for The Rule of Won?

Going back to my teen years, I’ve always been fascinated by New Age ideas. More recently, I was stunned by the popularity of The Secret, especially since, far from being “secret” in any sense of the word, it seemed to be just a collection of old ideas in new packaging. But Oprah endorsed it, and it’s sales were practically propping up the publishing industry for a year or so.

What do you think of ideas like The Rule?

Positive thinking’s great. Believing in yourself, believing the world is full of possibilities can open you up in a life-changing way. On the flipside, not believing in your own potential can shut you down, make it practically impossible to accomplish anything.

So that aspect’s terrific, useful and healthy, but when you take it to an extreme, when you argue that the universe somehow has to give you whatever you ask for, that people who are starving or dying of disease do so because deep down they’re asking for it, that’s something else entirely. Aside from being irrational and utterly narcissistic, it’s dangerous. You can’t have everything. As the current economy is pointing out to peple all across the globe right now, real life is full of tough choices. Having to make those choices defines what we are.

Did you learn anything interesting while you were studying for The Rule of Won?

Aside from reading The Secret and some of the books it was based on (which go back to the 1910s), I did come across a particularly fascinating story about a panel conference in the eighties, where the idea of the Rule of Attraction was being discussed by believers and critics.

It kind of summed up some of my ideas on the subject when at one point, a gentleman held up a picture of a baby with a horrible both defect and said, “Are you telling me this child wanted to be born this way?” One of the believers coughed nervously but finally said, “Yes.” It’s stunning how far some people will go to defend irrational beliefs.

Similarly, writing the novel gave me a chance to go back and watch Mondo Kane, which is mentioned in the book. It’s a really garish, dated documentary, but it did have an interesting section on the cargo cults of the Vanuatu, a tribe that built fake airports from bamboo in the hopes of attracting cargo planes, which they believe carry gifts from the gods.

One song that you think describes or suits The Rule of Won?

Well, there’s the one I wrote, “The Rule of Won” available on iTunes and Amazon, and as a free download at my website,! Past that there’s that old song recently re-used in a children’s commercial, “Gimme that, gimme that, gimme, gimme, gimme that.” Don’t know who recorded that one. And maybe the George Harrison tune off the Beatle’s Let it Be album, I, Me, Mine.

Why do you write for YA?

They pay me! :) But seriously, I broke into writing doing comic books (aka graphic novels), so in some ways teens have always been a big part of my audience. Writing YA seemed a natural. I also write for “adult” markets, but don’t really see it as all that different, other than generally having a teen main character.

If anything, a lot of YA is actually far more inventive, engrossing and edgy than what you’ll find in the mainstream fiction sections. I’ve always been a big fan of M.T. Anderson for instance. Feed, and his more recent Octavian Nothing books are nothing short of brilliant.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Well, some writers advise you to write what you like, and that’s good advice for being happy, but to be a professional writer, to sell something, you have to write what other people like, and that’s not always the same thing. With that in mind, my advice is to read everything you can get your hands on, even stuff you don’t like, and try to figure out how and why it works. In the end, I think it’s more about developing great taste then writing what you like. Writing is communication, and communication is only half about you, the other half is about the person/people you’re trying to communicate with.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m very pleased to be working on a vampire thriller for the mass market that takes place across about a century. It starts in 17th century America and ends in 19th century Europe, during Napoleon’s reign. As a result, I’m reading a lot of interesting historical material, including a book from a very strange children’s series from the 1890s called Young Puritans in King Philip’s War. I’m also reading some fascinating material about the discover of the Rosetta Stone by French workers after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt.

Fiction wise, the last story I read was a science fiction piece called Lobsters by Charles Stross I was at a Boston science fiction convention a few weeks back and it coming up on everyone’s must-read list. It did not disappoint.

What are you working on now?

For Papercutz, the edgy tween graphic novel company, I continue to script the Nancy Drew graphic novels with my wife, Sarah Kinney. I’m also penning a few stories for their Tales from the Crypt series (including a Twilight satire co-written with my daughter Maia!)

Past that, I have two mainstream adult projects I’m currently working on, the vampire thriller mentioned earlier, which I think will be my best work to date, and a non-fiction project based on a popular paranormal reality show that I’m having a great time with. The contracts for those aren’t signed yet, so I can’t say much more.

I also recently completed my third book for Walker, Split – about a teen who leads two very different lives – and so far reaction from my publishers has been terrific. I’m very excited about that one as well. It looks like a great coming year for me, writing wise. And hey, thanks for having me!

Thank-you so much for stopping by Stefan! :)


1 Listener(s):

Ms. Yingling said...

Mr. Petrucha is not only an awesome writer, but a great guy. Thanks for this fun interview!

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