As I said when writing my previous interview from last week (Darren Shan), every book-loving teen has authors who shape those years with the words and images they put onto paper. Barry Lyga was one of those writers for me when I was younger. In fact, I can honestly say I reread Hero Type for the umpteenth time two months ago!
Barry Lyga is a New York Times bestselling author for young adults, older teens and children alike with his numerous novels (a few of which I enclosed photos of). His novels Boy Toy and The Astonishing Adventures Of Fanboy And Goth Girl were controversial and yet easy to relate to, dealing with sex, drugs, suicide and depression.
Yes, Mr. Lyga also deals in humor and comic books. Yes, comic books. In fact, one of the things I liked when I picked up Fanboy when I was about thirteen or fourteen was that it involved a kid who loved comic books, which is what you'll find a lot of in his writings.
I am honored to have been able to interview Mr. Lyga, who has always been kind to his fans (I should know!) and who has written so many amazing novels that kids, teens and even adults can enjoy.
I hope you all like the interview; it was a dream come true to do this!
1. Why did you choose young adult fiction as opposed to other genres/styles?
It wasn’t really a conscious choice. I just wrote a book about a teenager and then had ideas for more books about teenagers. I’ve also written middle grade and will probably have an adult novel out fairly soon.
2. You touch on some serious issues in your novels: murder, suicide, statutory rape, etc.. What do you want the readers to take away from your work about such things?
I don’t want to moralize or be pedantic about any of these issues, or about any issues at all. I write stories that I hope will make people see the world from a different perspective. And since those topics are pretty extreme, I hope that they will jar people out of their own viewpoint and make them receptive to seeing the world through new eyes.
3. Your books crossover from YA to being more universal. Was that your intent--for adults to enjoy them, too--or was it a surprise to you?
I never really think about the audience when I write, but of course I was aware that my books were being tagged as YA, sold in YA sections, sold to teens, etc. Given that all of the marketing and promotion was geared towards teens, I was very pleasantly surprised to find adults discovering and reading them, too!
4. Many of your novels revolve around superheroes (Archvillain) or, at the very least, superhero-lovers (Fanboy And Goth Girl) and you have claimed to be a comic book fan. What were your favorites and do you still enjoy comics today?
My favorite comic as a kid was LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, which, sadly, has just been canceled. I still enjoy comics today, but not with the obsessive verve of my youth!
5. Kirkus reviews called you a "YA Rebel Author" at one point. Do you think of yourself as a rebel to the common YA novelist?
I think if you start calling yourself a rebel or thinking of yourself as a rebel, that automatically disqualifies you. I was surprised when Kirkus said that. I just sort of keep my head down and write the stuff I want to write. It’s for other people to decide if I’m a rebel or not. I guess I should buy a cool leather jacket…?
6. Each character you create has his/her own distinct look, personality and thought process. Were any of them based on real people or did they come straight from your head to the page?
Most of them have at least some basis in a real person, but there are certainly characters that popped right out from my head. Fanboy is pretty much me at that age, and Kyle Camden is a grotesquely exaggerated version of me as a young kid.
7. Out of your eleven novels, do you have a favorite story and/or favorite character? Why?
I tend to like the extreme characters, the uncomfortable ones. So Eve from Boy Toy and Billy Dent from I Hunt Killers rank up there. So, too, does Kyra [Sellers, the anti-heroine of Fanboy And Goth Girl and Goth Girl Rising].
8. A bulk of your stories takes place in the same high school in Maryland. Why did you choose to have the stories all use the same town, school and teachers (thus giving them a common link though the stories were different)?
Easy answer: I thought it would be fun! I’m a comic book guy, so I’m used to stories that interconnect and cross into each other, and I thought it would be fun to build my own sort of universe. When readers discover the little references, they get that same little thrill I used to get when I would recognize a comic book character from one book crossing over into another. And for the readers who haven't read enough of my books to get the "joke," it's harmless -- they don't know they're missing something.