Tuesday, September 25, 2012

1/2 Dozen with Ned Vizzini

Here's a Q and A with Ned Vizzini who writes essays, novels, and also for television. His latest novel has JUST hit stands this week. And It's Kind of a Funny Story, the film  starring Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts, based on his novel came out in 2006. 

So below find a shaved head, some weapons, some love advice, writerly advice and lots of Vizzini who is not anything-ish -- not at all. 

I despise the pervasive myth of inspiration – the idea that an entire book can exist simply because of an accumulation of inspired ideas – but I don’t deny that inspiration exists. There are things that have no other explanation. Was there a singular moment of inspiration for this book?

The initial moment of inspiration for The Other Normals happened in high school when I was out in the park with two friends -- both Russian kids (I hung out with a lot of Russian kids in high school).  One of them, whose name is Owen in my book Teen Angst? Naaah..., was shorter than me and kind of wily-looking.  The other was tall and very strong -- with a shaved head.  And I realized that in a fantasy world, my shorter friend would have the dagger, and my stronger friend would have the axe, and I would get the sword.  And I thought, What a fun way to look at the world. I wanted to write a book through that lens.  It took me more than a decade to get there.

Some writers hate to write. Other writers love being engaged in the creative process. How would you describe your relationship with the page?

Writing is tough.  But as my wife tells me, "That's why it's your job."  I always get freaked out when I sit down to do it and then I eventually get into it and it's an escape.  It's when I'm not doing it that I become un-moored and depressed.

What’s your advice to someone who’s fallen in love with a writer?

If you're in love with a writer, be prepared for big ups and downs.  There are tremendous moments of victory but also a lot of jealousy and self-hatred.  You will need to provide emotional stability -- and possibly financial stability, unless the writer you love really hates him or herself, in which case she/he might be able to make some money.

Tell us a tale from the publishing world – something, ANYthing about that process from your perspective.

Sure, I have a publishing tale -- it's about the cover of The Other Normals.  HarperCollins came forward with this great concept -- the 15-year-old hero, Perry Eckert, as a fantasy miniature.  But in the book I make it clear that Perry has a bowl haircut, like in this image by Jordan Saia (who did the map in the book).  My editor told me that it would actually be very expensive to get a guy with a bowl haircut on the cover -- and that anyway, the cover should be "aspirational." 

This was a new concept to me, but the idea is that a book cover shouldn't represent the way your characters look -- it should represent the way they want to look.  Because if the book actually shows your main character in all of his/her ugliness, fatness, insanity, etc., people aren't going to pick it up.  So in a way, when you look at book covers, you are looking at what the main characters dream of looking like.

Are you bloggish? Why?

I'm scared of the word "-ish".  I don't have anything against people who use it, but every time I see it I just feel old and stupid.  But yes, I have a blog, and I put something new up every whole month!

What other jobs have you had -- other than writing or teaching writing? Did one of these help shape you as a writer?

I had a job for two weeks as a bike messenger in New York City.  It shaped me like this: one of my fellow bike messengers was an actor.  He told me he was jealous of me for being a writer.  I was at a bad place in my life (I was working as a bike messenger) so I didn't understand why.  But he told me, "To do what you do, all you need is a paper and a pen.  I have to find a show, and a director, and audition..."  That really hit home.  For all the difficult things about writing, it's something that you as the writer control completely.  You have no one to blame but yourself if it's bad -- but no one can take it away from you if it's good.

Ned Vizzini is the author of It's Kind of a Funny Story, Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah.... He has written for the New York Times, Salon, and the L Magazine. In television, he has written for Season 2 of MTV's Teen Wolf and currently writes for ABC's Last Resort. His work has been translated into seven languages. His next novel, The Other Normals, will be published on September 25, 2012.