And now for a very funny interview with Sean Beaudoin, author of Fade to Blue and the recently released You Killed Wesley Payne!
I would say that most of your novels are certainly out of the ordinary, which is a good thing! Where do you get all your unusual ideas from?
Costco? Genetics? My hive mind? Airplane glue? I have no idea. The stuff just pops up, and I either write it down or let it haunt me.
How do you name your characters?
They sort of seem to name themselves. Dalton Rev was such a Dalton Rev, you know? A couple of other characters might have changed during edits, but not many. Lester Bucharest was born to be Mole.
How did the philosophical brain in a vat theory* influence the development of Fade to Blue?
The Brain in a Vat theory, as an encapsulation of skepticism, is indeed one of early pillars of Fade to Blue. At least as my adolescent brain floated in its smaller, acne-ridden vat, when the concept first both confused and exhilarated me. Of course, back then it was called Descarte's "evil Daemon," which at the time I took to be a brilliant and highly likely explanation for my Chemistry teacher. I believe this was even written on the cover of one of my texts, right under Led Zeppelin Rules!:
- If I know for sure Mr. Pork is Random Value D, than I cannot be a brain in a vat, since then I would not have to sit through Mr. Pork's lectures.
- However, I do not know for sure that I am not a brain in a vat. If fact, I frequently feel moist and disembodied.
- Therefore, I do not know that Mr. Pork is not Random Value D.
- The vat is pure wishful speculation.
- When does Morpheus show up?
And everyone should read more Daniel Dennett.
Another main focus of Fade to Blue is the concept of the virtual world. What inspired you to write about this?
Well, The Matrix gets most or all of the credit for popularizing the conspiracy mindset behind the idea of computational reality, but for me it goes back to the novels of Phillip K. Dick. Anyone interested in anything more complicated than an English muffin should immediately go read The Man in the High Castle. At any rate, Dick’s books alternately fascinated and terrified me as a teenager, and I don’t think I ever recovered. I was also very taken with the question of defining humanity as raised in Blade Runner (loosely based on Phillip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep). Why, after all, did Rutger Hauer stick a nail through his palm? And could a humble YA novel called Fade to Blue answer that question thirty years later?
Why did you choose to take the power of cliques in high schools to the extreme in You Killed Wesley Payne?
I didn’t have to go very far. The power of cliques is already extreme isn't it? We all hold onto slights and scars accumulated during high school. For some people, those experiences entirely inform their adult lives. The playground shove, the hallway love, the elation of popularity, the misery of ostracism, the depth of friendship—it’s all very profound. Or, maybe I’m just a sensitive flower.
You Killed Wesley Payne comes with all sorts of little goodies in addition to the actual story, such as a glossary and a “Salt River High Clique Index.” How did you choose what extras you wanted to include, and how do you feel that added to the overall book?
Oh, they had to cut me off after a while. The extras were really fun to write. I think the case could be made that all of them are pretty essential to a full understanding of the story, but I could have slammed another 50 pages in there, easy. Mostly I just wanted to find a way to use the fake book title The End of Everything is G.
What is the most interesting thing you have learned while writing any of your novels? (This can be about yourself, about writing, or anything at all).
I guess that writing, which I used to think was about wearing a fancy hat and going to the right parties, is really about personal discipline. Sure, it requires inspiration and talent and The Muse and all that falutin stuff as well. But writing over the long term means conquering self-doubt, as well as the inherent tendency to shirk what doesn’t come easily. Gaining a level of creative self control is exhilarating, in a way I imagine people reach through ballet and meditation. Sitting down and focusing unreservedly for many hours at a stretch, and then having a few pages to show for it, is the best possible intoxicant.
What is the most rewarding part about being a young adult author?
When someone sends me a letter saying that one of my books helped them survive junior year. It reinforces the notion that all the work that went into getting the book out into the world has meaning beyond ego, royalties, or the mechanics of publishing.
If there was one thing you could change about any of your novels, what would it be?
I'd rewrite all of them and make them better if I could. I'm a big reviser. I do it right up until the end. It drives my editor crazy. I don't really think any book is ever done. Mine or anyone else's. Most people are probably just better about letting them go.
What are you working on next?
My next book is called Wise Young Truck. It's a sort of band tour diary, and apropos of your comment about unusual ideas above, is by far the most straightforward thing I've ever written. No brain in a vat in this one. It’s going to go over huge with the low expectations crowd.
*For those who are unaware of the philosophical “brain in a vat” scenario, the intro section of this article provides a great overview: http://www.iep.utm.edu/brainvat/