Saturday, April 16, 2011

Interview with Chris Rylander author of THE FOURTH STALL

I was lucky to be offered a copy of THE FOURTH STALL by Chris Rylander from the publisher as one of my Debut Author Challenge 2011 books I wanted to read. Even better, I was asked to be part of Chris' blog tour for the book. I love it because first of all, the book was great; second, Chris is a hilarious, fresh new voice in middle grade books; and third, it's a book that gets boys hooked and I was able to get my students involved by having them ask the questions. If you're looking for a funny, boy book with heart - go get THE FOURTH STALL. You can read my review post here.

Now for my students' questions and Chris' answers:
- What inspired you to write this book? What made you think about the idea of this book?
Well, I wish I had a cool story of some sort to answer this question, like that it came from a dream, or that it really happened to me in middle school, or that this talking tree in a park near my house told me to write it or that an alien and Mickey Mouse visited me one night and implanted the idea into my brain against my will.  But, in fact, it was nothing quite so interesting.  Basically it was just me sitting there, thinking, “Hmm, what would make a really cool middle grade story?  What adult genre could I put a kid-friendly spin on that I haven’t seen done before?”  Of course it has been done before, but I didn’t know that at the time.

- Where did you get the idea for Mac's office to be in a bathroom?
Really, it just seemed like the most logical place for his to office to be located.  I mean, it’s the one place in a school where the teachers almost never go.

- Why did you choose to put the story in a middle school instead of a high school?
I just thought that doing a kid-friendly take on organized crime would lend itself better to middle grade.  For YA, I think it would need to be even grittier and therefore would end up being a lot more of an imitation that its own thing.  That’s not to say that it can’t be done well for YA. I also felt like middle grade would offer me the chance to be a little wackier and that it might serve my humor better.

- Why did you pick Illinois as the setting for your story?
I never did actually ever pick an exact setting.  I like to keep that vague for some reason.  However, I do know that I wanted it to be somewhere in the Midwest because that’s where I was raised and went to school and so it’s what I’m familiar with.  Also, I felt like it should probably be near Chicago to help explain why there are so many Cubs fans in the book.

- What did Staples do to become bad?
He didn’t really do anything to specific to become bad.  Sometimes the situations people grow up in can lead them to do bad things.  And also some people are just born with a bigger mean streak than others.  But I don’t really see him as a totally bad guy… he’s not very nice, and he does some bad things, sure, but he’s not totally evil.

- Where did you get the ideas for all of the characteristics of the nine bullies?
I’m not even sure!  Sometimes things just come to me and I don’t really ask why or how, but instead just start writing!

- How did you think of all the funny stuff that went into making the book?
That’s similar to my previous answer.  As for being funny, that’s something that’s hard to try to do and be successful.  I mean, I think humor comes naturally.   If you’re trying hard to be funny, then chances are you’re probably not being funny.  I usually just write stuff that makes me laugh, and then I can only hope it will make other people laugh as well.

- What was your favorite part in this book?
My favorite part is probably Mac and Staples first meeting in Mac’s kitchen, or the introduction of all of the bullies.  But it’s so hard to pick favorite parts!

- Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
This is the same… it’s so hard to pick favorites.  I really like the bullies because they’re so weird.  Great White because he’s British and Kitten just because he’s such a psycho.  I think it’s funny for such a little and well-mannered kid to be a complete whacko.  I also really like Mac and Vince of course, because they’re the most like me, and I even Staples because the “bad guys” are really fun to write.

- Can you tell us anything about the sequel?
Well, I can say that it involves a mysterious girl.  And a whole bunch of other mysteries.  And also it directly involves the school itself, a lot of strange things are happening at Mac’s school.  You’ll have to read it to find out more, I don’t want to spoil anything!

- How many times did you have to revise your book (gee, can you tell we talk about this a lot in class)?
A lot.  Probably five or six times.  But I didn’t mind doing it because I knew that with revision the book was only getting better and better.

THANK YOU SO MUCH CHRIS!!! I know my students were excited to get to "talk" to you!

Check out Chris' other Blog Tour Stops to read more of his perspectives on writing and THE FOURTH STALL and watch our for his sequel coming soon!

The Fourth Stall Blog Tour: Second Week Stops:
Monday 4/11 – Review and Giveaway at A Reader’s Ramblings
Monday 4/11 – Review and Giveaway at Kid Lit Frenzy
Tuesday 4/12 – Guest post at Milk and Cookies: Comfort Reading
Tuesday 4/12 – Giveaway at Alison’s Bookmarks
Wednesday 4/13 – Interview at Alison’s Bookmarks
Thursday, 4/14 – Interview and Review at Eve’s Fan Garden
Friday 4/15 – Review and Contest at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Friday 4/15 – Interview at A Reader’s Ramblings
Saturday 4/16 – Interview at Teach 8 YA book Blog
Saturday 4/16 – Review and Giveaway at Tracey Edward Wymer’s Blog
Sunday 4/17 – Interview at Kid Lit Frenzy
Monday 4/18 – Review and Giveaway at Read Now Sleep Later

The Fourth Stall Blog Tour - First Week Stops:
Monday 4/4 – Interview at Cynsations
Tuesday 4/5 – Guest post at My Friend Amy
Wednesday 4/6 – Review at There’s a Book
Thursday 4/7 – Review/Giveaway at 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday 4/7 – Interview at Anita Laydon Miller’s Middle Grade Blog
Friday 4/8 – Fourth Stall editor Jordan Brown interviews author Chris Rylander at Alice Pope’s SCBWI Children’s Market Blog
Saturday 4/9 – Review at Bri Meets Books
Sunday 4/10 – Guest Post at 5 Minutes for Books
Sunday 4/10 – Review at Alison’s Bookmarks

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