Interview: John Corey Whaley, YA Author

John Corey Whaley is an American author of realistic fiction novels for young adults. His first novel, Where Things Come Back, was published by Atheneum Books in 2011 and won the Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association. Whaley was born and raised in Louisiana and splits his time between there and Los Angeles.

Visit him on his website.

JCWAuthorPicLet’s see how John Corey answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness is right when I get a new idea for a story––especially when I think I’ll never come up with anything I like again. Then it hits me, some new, weird idea, and I become obsessed with finding a way to make it work.

Which talent would you most like to have?

On what occasion do you lie?
On any occasion where lying spares someone else’s feelings.

What is your present state of mind?
I’ve just gotten done with revisions for my second novel, which has been a long time coming, so I’m relieved, but also nervous. I’m anxious to see how the risks I took with this new book, which is quite a departure from the last, pan out. Not anxious, actually. Terrified is more like it.

What is your motto?
Learn how to say no. The world expects more of you than you can give it, but if you learn how to say no without being a jerk, then it’s yours for the taking.

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it? 
Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie. I’m obsessed with many songs, but no matter how many times I hear this one, I have to stop everything I’m doing and sing along with my eyes closed. I saw Death Cab in concert a couple of years ago just to hear it live. Of course it was the last song they played, but it was worth it.

The first time I heard it, I was in college and it came on my school’s local radio station and I was hooked.

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
Humor. If you can make me laugh, you’re my friend for life. Even if that laughter is sometimes at my expense.

wtcbpbfornjWhich words or phrases do you most overuse?
I say “cool” more than I should. I’m always afraid it makes me sound too young or stupid. And as much as I hate it, I use “like” when it’s completely unnecessary. In my writing, I overuse “just,” “maybe,” and “so.” My editor (just) has to circle them and I know exactly what I’ve done.

What is your favorite journey?
For so long, I felt like I wasn’t moving at all. College, teaching school, trying to get published. But now, this one I’m on right now since my first book came out, that’s my favorite journey. I hope it never ends.

What is your favorite time of day?
I like when it first gets dark out and the world gets just a little bit quieter.

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. No question. 1) He would make me laugh 2) He would probably teach me more about writing and life in one chat than I’ve learned in 29 years of living, and 3) His is the one autograph I never got and always wanted.

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
This one’s tough. I used to think it was being a published author. Then I thought it was being a full-time author. And even though these things have made me a LOT happier, I’m not sure I could die happy tomorrow. I think when I get to a place where I wake up every morning and feel as if there’s nothing left to say, then maybe I’ll be ready.

Who or what is your first love?
As much as I’d like to say books were my first love, because that would make me appear smarter, I can’t. Movies were my first and true love. And still are. I fell in love with storytelling because of my childhood preoccupation with movies and this pushed me toward books and writing.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai (1833)

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai (1833)

Your favorite painting?
Maybe it’s cliche or whatever, but I’ve always been in love with Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. There’s just something about it. I get lost in it every time. I’ve still never seen it in person (because the Met never has it out when I’m there). But, I just added a scene with it in my next book so at least I’ll have it there.

What’s the last dream you remember?
Oddly enough, I was telling my editor about putting The Great Wave painting in my book and she was telling me she hated it. I’m serious.

What’s your madeleine?
Okay––there are these porcelain figurines that sit on a white, painted shelf at my grandparents’ house. And when you pick them up (if they haven’t been moved in a while), they make a little popping sound. I do it every time I go over there and have for as long as I remember.

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?


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