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Kids' Q&A

Dale E. Basye

Describe your latest project.
The title is Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go. I called it that because that was its name. It is my first novel and — in many ways — always will be. Here is what is about, off the top of my head:

When Milton and Marlo Fauster die in a marshmallow-bear explosion, they get sent straight to Heck, an otherworldly reform school. Milton can understand why his kleptomaniac sister is here, but Milton is — or was — a model citizen. Has a mistake been made? Not according to Bea "Elsa" Bubb, the Principal of Darkness. She doesn't make mistakes. She personally sees to it that Heck — whether it be Home Ec class with Lizzie Borden, Ethics with Richard Nixon, or Gym with Blackbeard the Pirate — is especially, well, heckish for the Fausters. Will Milton and Marlo find a way to escape? Or are they stuck here for all eternity — or until they turn 18, whichever comes first?


  1. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go
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    "[U]proarious....The author's umpteen clever allusions...make this book truly sparkle." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    "Humorous chapter titles, sly banter between characters and a richly imagined world ought to make this a hit for the intended audience. In tribute to old Blackbeard, who puts the 'scurvy dogs' to work in one scene, rate this 'Arrrrrgh.'" Kirkus Reviews


What is your favorite family story?
The one my dad would always tell when he'd come home late.

What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He could teach me how to fly, I would live on the beach (my favorite place), and he would keep the scary real seagulls away from me, the ones that are really vicious and squawk and are missing limbs and eyes and are just really mean and have thick, nasty poop that never, ever comes off and makes you smell like rancid chowder.

If you could choose any story to live in, which story would it be? Why?
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust, because then I could live forever, or at least it would seem like that.

Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
Kelly Link is the first author in a long time who inspired me without making me want to give up. She's just so beyond good and so unique that you don't feel bad for not being her, but she butters your metaphysical toast nonetheless, smoothly, not with the big lump of semi-melted butter in the center, waiting like a heart attack. She makes you feel like it's OK to be anything but. I'm also a huge fan of Trenton Lee Stuart's The Mysterious Benedict Society, Jon Berkeley's The Palace of Laughter, and Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday.

Describe your most memorable teacher.
Ms. Giobbe, my sixth-grade Language Arts teacher. I don't really know if she taught any differently than some of the other teachers, but she took me and my friend Gary to a big science-fiction convention on the weekend. I don't think teachers are allowed to do things like that anymore. Mr. Van Dyke, my 12th-grade English teacher, was OK, mainly because he actually had a Van Dyke. Ms. Stover, my seventh-grade teacher, was not only beautiful, but she let me make Super 8 movies instead of reports. The Super 8 films were only somewhat connected to the subjects we were studying, but allowed me and my friends to perfect our Monty Python accents. God, there is so much in this answer that makes me want to beat myself up.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
I don't think this is appropriate. It is not mine to give.

What is your favorite literary first line?

Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass

Oh, and...

"When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing."
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

...and one last one:

All children, except one, grow up.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
I downloaded Kelly Link's' first book, Stranger Things Happen, from her site. While I appreciate the fact that I didn't have to pay for it (plus that is was actually available), I must say, reading something as a printout leaves much to be desired.

Do you read the Sunday funnies, and which are your favorites?
Yes. Prince Valiant, because the humor is so subtle.

What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
It used to be Cap'n Crunch, but I realize now, years later, after the roof of my mouth has healed, that the cereal doesn't naturally sport a coppery taste. I try to eat healthier now and enjoy a bowl of Puffins, though I was really disappointed not to find "auk seabird" on the list of ingredients.

What was your favorite story as a child?
I really enjoyed the Little House on the Prairie books, which is weird because I was a boy, now a man, and was really into Star Trek and sci-fi. Perhaps Laura Ingalls Wilder's prairie was so far removed from my own personal experience that it seemed like science fiction. Maybe baby Carrie was a cyborg all along, and Pa a time lord from another dimension, sent to Kansas to fulfill a mysterious destiny! Anyway, I found the series — and still do — to be immensely engrossing and affecting. For a while, I was almost physically attached to Frank Herbert's Dune series. I was scary into it.

What do you do for relaxation?
Worry and obsess to a lesser degree than usual.

What is your idea of bliss?
To be at ease with myself. To be making music with my son. To go to the movies alone. To spin around and around and around until ketchup spurts out of the walls.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be Captain James T. Kirk. Not simply captain of the Enterprise, mind you, but to be him. When that particular vocation seemed somewhat out of my means in attaining, I settled for veterinarian. That is, until I saw some stupid TV show at a friend's house where a vet had to give an injured harbor seal a shot, and it cried, or at least seemed to, because I don't really know if seals cry or not. Maybe that's why the ocean is salty: sad seals. In any case, I didn't want to make seals cry, so I kept my options open in terms of earning a living. I still do. Every five years or so, I'll become disenchanted with what I'm doing and explore veterinary schools, ultimately getting a brochure in the mail that ensures that the dream is unfeasible in terms of investment in both time and money.

Why do you write books for kids?
I don't really write for kids. I write for myself, and my psyche just so happens to have been frozen at about 12 years old or so, like Walt Disney's head, only just the inside, and much younger and without all the creepy talking animals and the absent father figures. Sure, I have to restrain the innuendo and avoid the sick places my mind stumbles to — like the one cul-de-sac right behind my left ear... I never go there alone, especially after dark, and if I do, I always think about pepper spray — but I just seem to write for kids naturally. I also think you can get away with a lot more than you can writing for adults, not to mention have a profound effect on someone's life as kids haven't built up walls in their imaginations yet. They are eager to explore, open to just about anything, and if they are treated with respect, they will remember your story for years, maybe even incorporating some of what they've discovered into their personal, psychosocial Pee Chee folders. Or not. I just think it's a lot of fun. I suppose I could write scholarly works on the nocturnal habits of Uzbekistanian jam jars, but for now I'm happy to leave that stuff to professors or other people who wear tweed jackets with leather elbow protectors. For now I'm content writing about life-challenged children toiling in the netherworld.

Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
I have yet to experience an interesting experience with a reader. The word "interesting" scares me, though, as it is usually uttered after someone sets his or her fork down having sampled your Lime Jell-O Quiche with Candied Bacon Bits, or upon reading one of your poems. Let's just say that I look forward to positive, mutually gratifying experiences with my readership, or as I like to call them, the invisible people on the other side of the page.

Tell us about your pets.
Apart from many peeves, the only pet I am currently responsible for is a 13-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Simon Corn Colonel Happy Tails Basye, aka Ticky McGoiter, for his apparent deliciousness in blood-sucking-parasite circles and his propensity for developing large lumps on or about his body. He is only now calming down. He is intensely irritating, but I can't imagine life without him. I like the way his paws smell when he comes in from the rain. He also has a good sense of humor, if a dog's smile can be believed.

Name the best Simpsons episode of all time, and explain why it's the best.
The one where they go to Tijuana on a court-ordered family vacation, and Homer swallows the worm in his Tequila Slushee, embarking upon a psychedelic dream quest involving the restless ghost of Bobby Darrin and foul-mouthed burros covered in razor-sharp quills, only to awaken to a mob of local children gluing scraps of multicolored crepe paper to his head, then circling him — drooling — wielding (oddly) cricket bats. Meanwhile, Bart becomes an underground transit system for the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is continually filled with commuters bustling from one destination to the other, trying their best to distract themselves from the fact that they are actually traveling beneath a body of water, that they live on the San Andreas Fault line, and that the rail cars have a peculiar habit of groaning "cowabunga" during rush hour. Lisa, after an accident involving a more-ambitious-than-necessary Wet Willy, is taken to the hospital and converted into a cumbersome, outmoded personal computer targeted toward the business market with protected memory, cooperative multitasking, and plenty of expansion slots. Maggie develops Tourette's syndrome, though no one notices, and Marge climbs her own hair to steal a talking harp from the giant that lives just north of her bangs. I only saw this episode once, after passing out from snorting Pixy Stix, and it's never in syndication.

What's your favorite holiday and why?
Halloween, because it's dark, you can dress up however you want, and there are blessedly few expectations.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Nikola Tesla, because of his really cool name, his ability to memorize complete books, his synesthesia, and that coil thingie he invented. Also Mozart, because of the music and the wigs. There is also one other, but I won't tell you about him. Mainly, because I am that person — or was — and it would adversely affect the flow of time if I told you. Sorry. I was pretty freaking cool, though! Let's just say that if you have an affinity for chicken fingers, you owe me, big time.

If you could be someone else, who would that be, and why?
I'd like to be the person that everyone thinks I am. He seems pretty cool, much cooler than who he really is.

If you could pick anyone to illustrate one of your books, who would it be and why?
Probably Picasso because, wow, would I ever sell a lot of books by somehow resurrecting Picasso from the grave to illustrate one of my books!

Make a question of your own, then answer it.

Q: What's that terrible smell?

A: Whatever you want it to be, my boy... whatever you want it to be...

÷ ÷ ÷

Dale E. Basye lives with his wife and son in Portland, Oregon.

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