Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Author Interview with Molly E. Johnson
I asked a couple of questions to the author, of Spartacus and the Circus Shadows, Molly E. Johnson and here is the full interview.
What should readers take out of Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows story?
Under all the ridiculousness, there is kind of an adult message: not everything is always as it seems, and that includes people—even people you think you know really well, like family. This is something I think we’re constantly learning, over and over again, but no one really emphasizes how important the message is: Knowing that you could be wrong doesn’t mean failure; in fact, it opens your world up to every sort of possibility.
What inspired the world of Spartacus and the circus?
The locations came from places I’ve been or lived. I moved to a small Oregon town when I was twelve. I created Brenville to match the views I had about the town when I just moved there, before I figured out there were people—and more than one radio station. And because I grew up with an older brother much like Spartacus’s brother, I definitely knew what it felt like to be trapped in the middle of nowhere with someone who knew I was very gullible. That being said, most of the running away parts came from daydreams I had as a kid, of escaping home with a bag of essentials. In the daydreams I was always part-spy, part-ninja, part-action hero. I tried to feed that longing into Spartacus’s character.
And as for the circus, I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, and that’s the feeling I was hoping to give to Bartholomew’s. I always liked the allure of regular circuses, even as a kid. But to me, it was really just the idea of a circus that was more romantic and interesting than the actual event itself. The striped tents, the travelers, the fake glamour with a dirty underbelly. A circus was a place where you could go as a kid where you knew there was more happening than you could comprehend. There was something happening behind the scenes and if you were clever enough, you might be able it figure it out. Like being seven and watching a mall Santa from a distance—there must be some trick, but what is it??
If you were to give an advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
I know this seems lame there is so much to be said about putting your head down and just writing. I can’t say how much time I’ve wasted, wanting to be a writer but simply not writing like someone who wanted to be a writer. So write. And when you’re done with one thing, start something else. And when you’re done with that, find a fellow writer you trust you give you feedback. Rewrite, edit, and repeat. And repeat…
What are your rituals (if any) you follow during writing, editing, revising?
I can’t ever sit down to something I’m in the middle of without revising what I wrote the session before. With a clear head, you can see flaws you didn’t see before. And while this sometimes (often) leads to me not creating anything new during that session, it really tightens the writing for next time.
But I enjoy being in the middle of something. I like having something to work from—which means I really hate starting new stories. It actually scares me to sit down and start something new. I know, unheard of, right? And if I do start something, I’ll more than likely spend a good part of the writing session deleting. Since I have no editing/revising self-control, I’ve started writing new stories on a typewriter. That way, I can’t go anywhere but forward—and there is nothing better than giving into that sweet, sweet typewriter flow. After a few hours, I’ll have written maybe thirty pages and will have created at least one idea, one conversation, or one character that I like. I then use the best parts of that writing session to start from the next time I write.
'It's up to Spartacus to be the hero'... what quality he needs to become a hero to find his mother?
I know this is generally not listed amongst traits of middle grade heroes but the key to finding his mother is critical thinking. Spartacus is walking a tightrope of trust issues (trusting himself, his best friend, and strangers), while juggling bravery and his gut feelings that something is wrong—but without the ability to logically think things through, he’d never have a chance to save anyone. This is something he begins to develop toward the end of the book, but as with all of us, it's a work in progress.