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Paranoid Parkby Blake Nelson
Author Q & A
What made you decide to write Paranoid Park?
I wanted to put a real teenage boy into a difficult moral situation, and then let him find his own way out. That was the whole point of the book. Not what an ideal teenager should do. But what an actual teenager would do. I didn't make any decisions for this character. I just listened to him as a person, and moment by moment, I let him do what felt right to him. That might sound weird to people who don't write. But really, as a writer, when you get a good character, they will tell you what they want to do.
Were you a skater in high school?
I was. The technology was slightly different but the basic idea was the same: cruise around, learn to work with different terrain, try to look cool while you’re doing it. Also there's a loner aspect to skateboarding, that I always liked. It's a solitary sport. A zone out sport. It's like writing in a lot of ways.
The main character is never given a name. What made you decide to do this?
I didn't decide that right away, I noticed when I was about half way through, that I could keep him anonymous. I liked the feel of that. He could be any kid.
The quote from Dostoevsky in the beginning of the book is very telling as there are similar characteristics between Raskolnikov and the main protagonist. Was this your intention?
I have to admit, from very early on I was thinking of this as my "Crime and Punishment" book. I even took a major plot point from that book, which is the appearance of the Detective and the fact that the kid and the detective come to like each other and share a certain simpatico.
Do you believe character is fate?
Yes. And especially if you're a character in a Blake Nelson book! But all kidding aside, I really do think that's true. Especially over time. The good news is you do have a little influence on your own character. Especially when you're a teenager. There's still room for improvement.
Do you think that everyone experiences a moment when innocence is lost? Can it ever be regained?
Yeah. I think everyone has those moments. The thing I find interesting is that boys often lose their innocence through actions that they initiate themselves. And often those are actions that society frowns on, situations where they're being reckless or overly aggressive (or perhaps going to war.) So they often are forced to suffer through these moments in a vacuum. It's not something they can share. They have to make peace with themselves first. Then they can worry about the rest of the world. I think girls often go through these situations in a more social context. Not that I'm a child psychologist or anything. But that's just my feeling of it.
What adjectives would you use to describe Paranoid Park?
Spooky. Dark. And heart-breaking in a way. This poor kid! And I love how the girl he likes kind of saves his sanity. Someone told me the other day: all your books are love stories. I started to argue. But then I saw that they were right.
Is there anything else you would like to tell readers?
I suspect some people won't like the lack of a "clear message" or "moral instruction" in Paranoid Park. To me, that's what books are for. Books aren't supposed to be simplistic. TV is simplistic. Movies are simplistic. Books are supposed to be challenging and complicated. As complicated as life itself. That’s what I was going for.
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