Johnny Dale, The Darling Budds
Interview PT 2
7. Who most influenced you?
My biggest influence as a YA author is easy to answer: when I read M.T. Anderson's FEED, it totally opened my eyes to what a YA novel could be. I love how the book seems to be one thing at first, based on the premise and the language, but through the course of the book Anderson's deeply humanizing take on the characters makes the story beautiful in its own way, and also just achingly sad.
I also have a handful of YA novels that have influenced me simply by being so bad and written with such laziness. They drive me to want to write a better book just out of spite. I probably shouldn't name any names, though.
8. Did you ever think of just writing the whole story out and submitting it to a publishing house or did you always want to “swim” on your own first?
Honestly, I can't remember. I think the idea in the beginning was that it would just be a novel, not a serial.
But as I started working on it I got excited about what I was doing and I wanted some friends to read the first few chapters, so I put it online for them to read. They liked it and sent the link to a few other people, and the next thing I knew I had a fan base that were waiting for the next "installment."
So once I had a steady readership, what was I going to do? Take it away from them just so I could query it and maybe find an agent and maybe get it published and then maybe have people could read it?
It seems like doing it this way is much more satisfying: I feel like I'm really in touch with my readers and we're a part of each other's lives. Okay, so I don't have a book I can show off to houseguests, and I guess I've lost out on some money from a publisher, but I really feel so much more at peace with being in charge of every aspect of my story and exactly how it's presented to the world as it plays out.
I'm not ruling out having the book published one day--though so many publishers look down on Internet publishing that they've probably ruled it out for me--but for now I'm perfectly happy to continue down this path. It's hard, it's frustrating, it's a hustle, but by God it's mine and mine alone.
9. So we can look forward to maybe seeing a Darling Budds paperback sometime in the future? How about a movie or TV show?
Ha ha…well, let's focus on getting the thing done first. Even if I have to have it made myself, there will be a book eventually, when the story's finished. The full text will always be available online for free. The book will be a keepsake for people who'd like to have physical copy, not a replacement for the website.
As for a movie or TV show, yes! There's a Darling Budds movie coming out next summer. I think fans of the serial are going to love it. I mean, of course they've made a few changes to the story; for example, the story is now about a teenage vampire wizard living in a dystopian future who discovers that he's the Chosen One who can save the world. And it stars a cast of 30-year-olds playing all the teenagers, and it has a soundtrack full of slick modern-rock songs that have nothing to do with the movie, and it'll be in 3D, but…yeah, it's pretty much the same book. It's gonna be awesome.
10. How were you able to give a “voice” to your entire main and sub-characters? I could hear each one of them in your story, they felt like real people.
Oh, thank you…that's so nice of you to say. It was really important that I get all the characters' voices right from the very beginning, so I did a lot of "pre-writing"…stuff that might end up in the story, but probably wouldn't. If you do a little digging, you can find a lot of that stuff over in the Encyclopedia Buddtanica.
I also kept files on each one, where I could plot out their history and where they were going, and as stuff occurred to me about them--the kind of music they liked, who they had crushes on, what their favorite food was--I'd jot it down in their files.
After a while, though, I found that I didn't need to write stuff down any more, I just knew who they were so well that I didn't need to remember anything, they were just "alive" in my mind. In a way, it really is like if I have a question about their character I can just ask them and they'll answer me. Well, most times. Sometimes they're stubborn.
11. What advice do you have for a new or aspiring writer who is stuck or doesn’t know how to get started?
Really, the only advice I can give is the advice that everyone's already heard (and probably given themselves) a million times already: write every day, set a daily word count goal and try to hit it every single day, etc.
Simple, right? Well, simple to say, but—as I'm guessing everyone reading this knows already—hard to do. So really I guess my advice is just: do your best, try hard, don't beat yourself up on the days you miss. Don't write 3500 words in one night to make up for a week of missed work. The writer's life is a marathon, not a sprint.
And, finally, remember always the advice that Saul Bellow gave to those with writer's block: "Plenty more where you came from." That sounds really negative, but it's actually almost freeing: nobody's waiting on your book, nobody cares if you write…it's entirely up to you. Do you have what it takes to sit down at that desk every day, to write in the face of overwhelming odds, to prove to an indifferent uncaring world that you're capable of creating something beautiful and powerful that has never existed before you summoned it to life?
12. The Darling Budds can be pretty daunting to new readers. How do you recommend they get started?
Well, just like any book, you can just start at the beginning and go from there.
But if you wants to get an idea what the story is like and if it's for them, they can always read random excerpts from the story. Basically, a few of my readers pulled out their favorite short bits and I set it up so they show up at random, just like flipping through a book.
Another place to get a feel for the story is to click around in the reference guide I mentioned earlier. The whole thing is written so that there are aren't spoilers, so it's pretty safe to read without ruining the story.
But really: just jump in. If you like it, keep reading. If you don't, eh…at least it was free,
I hope everyone enjoyed Johnny Dale, The Darling Budds Interview PT1 and PT2. I would like to give another thank you to Johnny Dale for taking the time out to allow me to interview him and for giving us a closer look at himself and his amazing creation!