Monday, August 6, 2012

Author Interview: John Vorhaus

Author Interview with John Vorhaus

Release Date: April 23, 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

Hi John! Thank you for taking the time out to answer some questions about your new book! So let's start with: who the heck are you?
My name is John Vorhaus. I’m the author of several fun novels, including the con-artist adventures The California Roll and The Albuquerque Turkey, and the brand-new young adult title, Lucy in the Sky.

Tell us a little about your latest book. 
Well, Lucy in the Sky is a coming-of-age tale set in Milwaukee in the 1960s. Our hero is Gene Steen, an earnest young teen who wants to be a hippie in the worst way. He doesn’t know what that means, exactly. He just knows that hippies are scarce on the ground where he is, and laments his life in a cultural wasteland. Then, on the first day of summer, 1969, into his life waltzed his incredibly hip, very wise, spiritually gifted, hot and sexy 17-year-old girl cousin, the eponymous Lucy. Good news, she’ll teach him how to be a hippie; bad news, she’s his cousin; good news, things are not always what they seem. 

Do you have any advice for young writers?
In addition to writing, I travel the world, teaching and training writers – 28 countries on four continents at last count – and here’s the best, simplest advice I ever got, gave, or heard: If you want to get better, write more; if you want to get a lot better, write a lot more. Beyond that, remember that even a bad day of writing is a good day of writing, and a necessary one, since every writer must serve an inevitable apprenticeship of indeterminate length.  It’s not helpful to look for, or even seek, quality early on in one’s career. The first years are just for learning the craft. Quality comes later – and it will come!

What do you see as the writer's role in society?
A writer is a subversive who uses entertainment to instruct.

What do you think the job of young adult fiction is?
To inform without preaching. To me, growing up is about learning how to make choices. Books should not impose choice on any reader, especially a young reader. Rather, books should illuminate the process of choice, thereby giving insight into, well, how to live a productive and effective life. In Lucy in the Sky, my hero learns that being a hippie is not about love beads and peace signs but about the choices you make and the chances you take. I think it’s an important distinction.

What is your working environment like?
Entirely filled by a fourteen-pound dog. When he decides it’s lap time, it’s lap time. When he decides it’s walk time, it’s walk time. This is good; otherwise I might never leave my desk. I have all the coffee and music I need right here, and a monitor that stretches into the middle of next week. Comfy chair, loving dog, words on the page – life is good.

Do you believe in outlining?
I hate outlining like a cat hates baths. If I know too much about where the story is going, I’m not motivated to write it. I like the surprise and discovery of “throwing it out the window and seeing if it lands.” That said, there’s a risk in working this way. I often have to go back and do major revisions, just to clean up the mess I made along the way. That’s a price I’m willing to pay for the chance to confuse and astound even me. But I understand – and admire – writers who outline heavily. 

What's the best piece of advice you ever had on writing?
“Keep giving them you until you is what they want.”

What are some of your hobbies?
I’m passionate about poker and ultimate Frisbee. I’ve written ten books on poker, including (with Annie Duke) the groundbreaking Decide to Play Great Poker. I have written no books on ultimate yet, but who knows? That could be next. It’s a beautiful sport, and totally and completely addictive.

What is your favorite word?
My current favorite word is “ameliarate,” to vanish or disappear like Amelia Earhart. I made it up. I make up many new words every day: for fun; for an ongoing book project called 1001 New Words by Christmas (of an Indeterminate Year); and to feed my twitter stream @TrueFactBarFact. I believe that one of a writer’s responsibilities is to keep the language fresh, new and dynamic. I’m pleased to have given the world “sadlarious,” “harasshole,” “slobnoxious” and many, many other virgin words.

What is the biggest mistake new authors make?
They forget to keep writing. The point of the first book is just to learn and make mistakes. The point of the second one – pretty much the same thing. Once you get to your third or fourth big project, you’re starting to hit your stride, figure things out, and get good. You’re also building a body of work, which is critically important. So keep writing! Everything else will work out fine if you just do that one thing. Remember, you’re building a lifelong practice of writing. The bad news is that this takes time and effort, but the good news is you have an abundance of both, if you so choose. 

What else about you should we know?
I’ve written several books on writing, including The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You're Not, which is especially helpful to new writers. Many of my novels are available in author-narrated audio, which I think is fun and kind of special. I’ve also created television shows in Nicaragua, Romania, Switzerland and many other far-flung locales. I recruited and trained writers for the Bulgarian version of Married…with Children, which looks great – albeit a bit odd – on my résumé. My philosophy of life boils down to this: “Walk down the beach, pick up everything you find, and turn it into a party hat.”

Once again, thank you for sitting down with us & good luck with your new novel!
And check out my review of Lucy in the Sky next week. 

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