Describe your latest project.
Swoon is the story of a girl, a guy, a ghost, a golem, a terrible betrayal, a quest for revenge, an entire town run amok, possession, obsession, corruption, destruction, the past, and the present — y'know, your basic love story.
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
For the most part, I read dead people. Flannery O'Connor — that genteel Southern genius who is not only dead but died young — is my favorite author, the unsurpassed master of the short story. Read a story, any story, by Flannery O'Connor and, halfway through, you get the unpleasant sensation that something very bad is going to happen. You want to stop reading, but you cannot. Even if you close your eyes, you're still reading. You get to the end, exhausted, wondering, "Why? Why?! WHY!?" Then you're kind of glad Flannery O'Connor didn't write long stories (AKA novels), since after one of her short stories you can put the book down and go eat ice cream or play with the cat or do whatever to make yourself believe maybe life is not always such cruel torment. I own The Complete Stories, which I highly recommend, followed by rocky road or perhaps pistachio.
Describe your most memorable teacher.
Marcia Cooper was an English teacher at South Shore High School in Brooklyn, New York. She had big eyes that were brown and wet and sort of bulgy; she had an amazing smile — a little twisted, a little shy. When she smiled at you, it made you feel brilliant. She encouraged me, she challenged me — she "got" me.
Why do you write books for kids?
While I often write what's categorized as "young adult" (as opposed to what — old adult?), I do not write books for kids. Rather I write books about kids. That's because the people who camp out in my cranium and tell me their stories tend to be teenagers. I'm not sure why — you'd have to ask them. Could be because although I am technically, chronologically, quite ancient, my emotional development reached a plateau at around age 14 and a half. This is known as arrested development. I am fortunate to have turned it into a job skill.
What's your clean, kid-friendly curse word substitute of choice?
"Dang" (like d-a-a-a-a-a-n-g) happens a lot, but more as a term of respect and admiration than a curse. I am, however, quite partial to "phooey" as an expression of disgust. I enjoy old movies, especially old detective movies, and there's this one — I cannot remember the name — in which every other word out of this tough guy's mouth is "phooey!" That's right, the ph-word. It's pretty effective, and fun to say. Try it!
What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
Dorian Gray would be a lot of fun to party with. Oh, sure, he's stupid as a stump and intolerably vain, but he could abuse himself terribly, merrily, and show no ill effects. Of course, I probably wouldn't last more than a weekend with him. My stamina isn't what it used to be.
What three things would you bring to a desert island?
If it were truly a desert island, I'd bring water — lots and lots of water. Next, groceries. Finally, a cat for company (in case it was deserted as well). There are humans whom I love, but I wouldn't inflict the isolation of the island upon them. So long as the cat had water, groceries, and me, he'd be cool.
Name the best Simpsons episode of all time, and explain why it's the best.
You know that one where they each get their own postage stamp? Come on — the Simpsons, on stamps. Hilarious! I just don't know how they come up with this stuff!