SD: First, tell us a little about yourself. A brief history if you will of why you started writing and why you continue today.
SBP: I wrote my first book, Just Morgan, my last semester of college (NYU). It was published when I was 22, and I never looked back. Since then I’ve written over 70 books, all for children and teenagers, and can actually claim to never having had a day job.
I’d always wanted to be a writer, and have been incredibly fortunate to live my dream.
SD: What are you currently reading? What’s your favorite book?
SBP: Right now, I’m between books (I finished one on Friday and spent Saturday reading newspapers). I’ll probably read a fairly junky novel next, and then I think I’ll read a book about Alan Freed and the radio payola scandal. I read a lot more non-fiction than fiction.
I don’t really have a favorite book, but Long Day’s Journey Into Night is probably the twork of art that’s had the greatest influence on me (not that I’ll ever write anything that good).
SD: When you see people reading one of your many books, what do you think?
SBP: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone reading one of my books. But thanks to the Internet, I get to read people’s comments about Life As We Knew It. As long as the comments are favorable, I love it!
SD: What exactly sparked you to write Life As We Knew It?
SBP: I’m embarrassed to admit it was watching the movie Meteor one Saturday afternoon. It got me thinking about what an end of the world story would be like from a kid’s point of view.
SD: Life As We Knew It is a science fiction book, but at the same time it is a very real book. Unlike a lot of science fictio ntoday, though, it doesn’t need the presence of science in order to work. There is the whole problem with the moon forced into a different orbit and screwing up practically everything normal about earth, and then you have the physical effects on your characters–starvation, illness, etc. Did you have to do a lot of research before writing it?
SBP: Not a lot. Some of the things I put in the book, I knew before, from a casual interest in astronomy and world catastrophe. My brother supplied me with a few details–the off shore oil rigs going down and the communication satellites, and the dormant volcano in Montreal (he lived there for a while).
A lot of it was just common sense. If there’s not enough oil, then trucks can’t run. If trucks can’t run, food can’t be moved. If food can’t be moved, people’ll be weak and more susceptible to illness.
SD: Was there any point in which your characters did something you hadn’t expected?
SBP: I don’t think so. I do a lot of pre-writing before I ever start a book, and even though I don’t know all the stuff that’s going to go into the middle of the book (I’d be too bored if I did), I keep a day or two ahead of the book at all times. There may have been some small things (and dialogue almost always happens spontaneously), but nothing major.
SD: Do you intend to write more books in the science fiction genre? Why or why not?
SBP: My next book, The Dead & the Gone, is a companion volume to Life As We Knew It. It starts at the exact time the asteroid hits the moon, and follows a teenage boy in New York City and what he and his family go through as a result. So I guess that qualities as another sci fi book.
The Dead & the Gone will be published by Harcourt spring 2008.
SD: This is probably a rather generic question that you’ve probably been asked before, but seeing how I am part of TeenageWriters, a forum for young writers, what advice would you give to other writers out there, young and old, about their own writing?
SBP: I can only suggest what has worked for me. Find the themes that resonate most within you, and never lose sight of them. For me, the themes that are most important are families and consequences. Life As We Knew It focuses on both and was a joy to write.
The great thing about themes that resonate is you can use them in any genre or any story. A western can be about a father who’s a gunfighter and the effect on his son. Or it can be about the consequence of a gunfight, which starts the story, and then the plot moves from there.
Those are my themes. But everyone has one or more.
SD: And for a rather random sort of question, what is one phrase you would like to be quoted by?
SBP: Well, it’s not original with me, but I am very fond of Impeach Bush.
Thanks so very much to Susan for doing this interview and I hope you all enjoy it very much!