Interview and Giveaway with Andrew Smith

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Mr. Andrew Smith a few days ago and I was so excited because I am such a fan of his work, but after meeting him I became an even bigger fan. Why? Well, I was stuck in horrible SF, Bay Area traffic and was unable to make my assigned meeting on time, and despite my tardiness Mr. Smith graciously agreed to spend some time with me and allowed me to interview him after his event. This was a big deal because his son was visiting (he is a local university student) and they had impending dinner reservations.  Needless to say our interview was short and sweet and it gave me a bit deeper insight to an author that is not only amazing in his craft but is such a kind and humble person also.

Mr. Smith’s book launch event was held at Book Passage in Corte Madera and when I walked in all seats were taken, a very good sign. I took my place in the back and soaked in the evening’s event. It all proved to be very entertaining as I witnessed Mr. Smith talk about his writing evolution, then to hear him read from his newest novel, The Alex Crow, and then his Q & A session. It was great to see how Andrew Smith interacted with his audience and how his fans were so enthusiastic and asked him insightful questions.

From these questions I was understood that he initially got the inspiration for The Alex Crow from some of his foreign students that migrated from the Siria. Plus The Alex Crow was written differently from The Grasshopper Jungle in the manner that the story starts of wide, coming from different POV’s until they ultimately converge and join towards the end. He explained that he does not outline his stories but that he writes them along until they inevitably cross paths. A different format than most but he makes it work out beautifully. 

Although this event was for his newest novel, The Alex Crow much talk went into the upcoming movie adaptation of The Grasshopper Jungle. It was fascinating to hear about the entire process of how he was contacted to turn his novel into a screenplay and then how it was picked up by Sony Pictures and simply because the screen writer is so well respected. I also learned that it will definitely be an R rated movie because it could never be considered PG-13 because it has more than one swear word. Hahahaha! For those that have read The Grasshopper Jungle know that it is riddled with swear words and to take any of them out would be criminal.

I was able to get an audience questions in before my private interview.

“If you could be best friends with any of your characters? Whom would you choose?”  His response was Robby Bress from Grasshopper Jungle because he is truly compassionate and a cool kid and I believe it was very wise choice indeed.

Now onto my interview questions:

RR: The #KeepYAWeird has been spearheaded by Penguin for the entire month of March and your books have been in the forefront of this campaign. I believe this is a great idea and would like to know how you feel about it.

AS: Young Adult literature is so inventive and so unique and so great. Young Adult literature has been in a rut for a long time and a lot of that has to do with retailers dictating to the publishers that if you are going to publish Young Adult you have to have a cover with a girl and a prom dress on it and so on and we were stuck there for a really long time, or pictures of converses. But now publishers are finally starting to see, Hey! Readers are willing to take a chance on challenging themselves and going in new directions and experimenting with new kinds of content of format. This has just started and it is building a wave and I think Penguin has enough foresight to see it happen and have capitalized on it and encourage people to take a chance, step outside of their comfort zone. We’re not going to put converses on our covers, give it a chance and see what happens.

RR: I have read your novels and cannot seem to place any in one particular genre. Is this a planned effort or is this a more organic in nature.

AS: When I set out to write a novel I don’t go in with any expectations. I write books about teenagers, not books for teens. There is a difference.

RR: Why do you think stories with horror and fantasy elements are so appealing to readers?

AS: I think It is appealing to readers because it is a good escape from the darkness that presents itself in our reality. Because there is an emotional distance when you are dealing with monsters and vampires and things like that because they start to tilt towards the ridiculous. In light of the reality of multiple wars and the economic realities of the U.S. and the changing outlook for employment and the difficulty of getting into schools for education. It’s a relief to read about serial killers and things like that from time to time.

RR: What sparked the Idea for writing The Alex Crow

AS:  A combination of things, not the least of which was the fact that I work with students and when I started getting kids coming in from Syria I felt emotionally invested into why they came her and what they left behind and also what their experience was like coming to America. So, although I don’t specify in The Alex Crow where Ariel came from because I wanted his origin to be more universal, but he was inspired by teenagers that I knew that escaped the violence in Syria.

RR: Your Character’s has a strong voice and I was immediately drawn to him. Is there anything in particular that you thought about when creating him from other characters you have written.

AS: The thing about The Alex Crow in comparison to The Grasshopper Jungle I think the emotional extremes of the book from the really funny and bizarre parts to the really sad and disturbing parts is a lot wider than anything else I have ever done before in terms of the extremes and so it was necessary for me to create this character, Ariel who kinda almost has detached maturity in a way that he looks at the things that he goes through. Even as terrible as they are, his narration of them seems kinda like someways “zenlike” and detached and I thought it was necessary given the extremities of the distance between the sublime and the terrible experiences he had. 

Thank you, Penguin and Mr. Smith for allowing me to have this interview it has been a great pleasure

Now for the giveaway, all you have to do is comment and tell me what YA books that you think #KeepYAWeird and you will be entered in the contest for a copy of
GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE (paperback; February 17th 2015) and THE ALEX CROW (March 10th) as well as a Keep YA Weird button and tote bag



  1. Ohhhh YA weird.... I would have to say The Rotters is YA weird and of course the weirdest of all The Marbury Lens rollllllll tap tap tap

  2. I thought Splintered was pretty weird

  3. I think A.S. King's Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is definitely weird in a fantastic way. :)


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