Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nerds Heart YA: Interview with B.A. Binns

B.A. Binns is the author of Pull, a book nominated for Nerds Heart YA

Did you ever worry that your story would not be easy for many teens to relate to? Many YA readers may be shocked by how hard David has to work to support his family and how quickly he had to grow up...

I believe teens are aware of their world, even parts of it that appear different from their own lives. Mostly they understand universal feelings of familial love and worry about the future. My favorite reader quote came from a girl who “picked up the book because of the hunk on the cover” and then found herself relating to his problems with his loved ones. No, she said she wouldn’t make the same final choice that he did, but she completely understood him.

In that same vein, you had him make a very difficult decision between working out of high school or going to college. What made you decide to give David such a tough decision?

This story came to me in pieces, and the first piece was David as an adult who had made that tough decision, and managed to survive and thrive (He’s the future founder and CEO of Albacore Construction). I walked into this knowing David’s future, and that college at this point in time would have been difficult for him. The tough part came when I gave him the possibility of a scholarship, but that’s what I wanted readers to debate. I’ve seen too many people pushed into things they weren’t ready for, and I wanted to use David to give a voice to kids who have to make difficult decision.

David and his sisters grieve in different ways. Why did you not want them to all grieve together as a family the same way?

Different people are different. I don’t want readers thinking there is a right or wrong way to grieve. David, Barney and Linda had different experiences with loss. Their gender, ages and personalities play a part in how they handled that loss. Just like in real families.

Which character was most difficult for you to write?

Yolanda Dare. I knew so much about her and literally cried over her self-esteem issues. I needed her to be hard and vulnerable and sympathetic, to have a heart and the potential for being stronger than even she knew. And I needed to reveal this to the reader without ever getting inside her head. It was hard just letting her evolve through David’s eyes. I got my satisfaction when she finally realized she what she was really worth.

Why did you decide to write stories only with guy main characters?

That was not my original intention. What David says about girls being mysteries went double about guys as far as I was concerned. In order to write what I know, I had to learn about teenaged boys to have a believable teen male protagonist. I wanted him to be real, and I wanted boys to want to read him. The more I learned, the more important it felt that this story come 100% from him. In the end that not only led me to write first person, but to write the entire book from his POV.

I don’t think all of my books will follow this path. But I’m glad I did this one. I think there are more than enough authors writing the adventures of female characters. Guys bring a different set of issues, needs and quirks. They’re fun to write about, too. And they write amazing fan letters.

You write very vividly about David's construction experiences. Did you learn so much about construction by using first-hand knowledge or lots of online/literary research?

I lived in an area that had almost constant construction going on for a three-year period. Lots of research and stimulation and people to talk to, including one unnamed young worker who earned a spot on Pull’s acknowledgement page after we shared a pizza and his story.

You are currently working on a story featuring Malik, the main antagonist of the story. Do you foresee also writing about Yolanda Dare or a follow-up to David's story?

The story I’m working on now involves the further adventures of both Malik and Barney, they both have more growing up to do. Their paths are parallel in the book, but they don’t really intersect, so I need both of them as main characters. After that Neill gets a book. David and Yolanda will make an appearance in Malik’s story, and probably in Neill’s as well.
I felt Yolanda completed her arc and matured enough not to need her own spot, but I’ve had a fan ask for more on her, so I may rethink that.

Which of your characters do you relate to the most? What were you like in high school?

Linda. That may be why I didn’t include as much about her as I originally intended, she’s too much like me and I’m not yet ready to be autobiographical. I was the quiet kid in high school, the “A” student teacher’s pet, envious of the kids who had fun and the nerve to get in trouble, and perfectly content to sit at the loser’s table..

David and Yolanda really connect through a Marriage Class. Did you ever have to take one of those?

I didn’t, but my daughter did and her experience inspired that class in Pull. I have a sneaking suspicion that class is the reason she’s in no hurry to make me a grandmother although she’s in her twenties.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is "People think cakewalk means easy. But real cakewalks were difficult as hell according to my grandmother. They required endurance, balance and training, and only the best lasted until the end." Do you know how to cakewalk?

I don’t have the stamina. I saw one when I was little. We’re having a family reunion next month, maybe I’ll suggest we resurrect the practice. If so, I’ll contribute a cake, but sit out the competition.

Thank you so much Ms. Binns!