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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Marbury Lens Giveaway - Interview with Andrew Smith

Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.
There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them.
Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind.
Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay.
But, it’s not.
Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds.

benvenuto, Empfang, Καλωσόρισμα, välkomnande, bienvenida, ようこそ, accueil
Welcome to my blog, Andrew.

1.       I’m just going to put it out there right away, about The Marbury Lens. Do you wanna give us the deets on The Marbury Lens and how much of it is fiction and not? Are you ready to give that info up?

So far, I suppose I haven’t written a single thing that isn’t somehow connected to real-world experiences I’ve had. I hope that, at the very least, the connection between my prose and my life allows for some element of realism in my narrators’ voices.

I’ll leave it at that.

It’s a question that I get asked – and evade – frequently. But I will add that writing The Marbury Lens troubled me quite a bit. I had terrible nightmares throughout the process, especially in the beginning, when I had intended to take the story in an entirely different direction. The nightmares became part of the narrative, too. Then I got particularly stressed and panicky right when the book came out. Just ask Liz (my editor) or Jean Feiwel (my publisher). I went insane, I think, and it had nothing to do with the typical writer’s book release jitters. Honestly, I don’t know how those two remarkable women put up with a basket-case like me.

2.       When you wrote Ghost Medicine and In The Path Falling Objects were those novels loosely based on life events as well or just stories made up in your head?

As I mentioned above, yes… all my novels have a great deal to do with things I did and went through in my own life. A lot of Troy Stotts’ (he’s the narrator in Ghost Medicine) story were things from my own life. I mention as much in the acknowledgments from In the Path of Falling Objects, too – how I once took a road trip with two of my buddies through the Southwest, and I had to sit in the backseat beside a life-size tin statue of Don Quixote, always thinking to myself how one day I’d write a story about that situation. Also, when I was very young, my older brother served as a soldier in Vietnam. A lot of the letters he sent home became the basis for Matthew’s story in that novel.

3.       How long did it take you to write The Marbury Lens? During that time did you come across any blocks/times that you couldn’t write?

It seems like such a long time ago. I’ve written three complete novels since I wrote The Marbury Lens. But, I believe, it took me about 3 months to finish Marbury. I’d sent the first portion of it in to my editor, Liz Szabla, before I was anywhere near finishing it. And, to be honest, I haven’t yet encountered a time when I couldn’t write.

Sometimes the writing goes slower than others, but I always have an idea about what’s going to happen next. Just knowing that kind of forces me to get through the tougher, more uphill, portions of the journey.

4.       Is there a living Conner?

Conner is a lot like most of the guy friends I had when I was younger. Well, actually, he’s a lot like the guy friends I have now. Although I frequently “name” characters after people I know, I never actually make a character who serves as a representation of anyone specific. Except the bad guys. Usually, my bad guys are more like real people who I actually do know.

5.       I learned this recently in the video about warning labels, but wanted to know for a long time so will still ask for others, how you do you feel about your own children reading The Marbury Lens and if in fact they have read it? (The video can be found here)

This question has a couple separate parts to it: First, I don’t feel uncomfortable about my kids reading pretty much anything they want to. I’d be hard-pressed to specifically name anything you could get that I’d want to take away from my son (16) or daughter (13).

That said, everything I’ve written was produced with my son in mind. I realized when he was younger that a lot of the books that found their way into his hands had some weaknesses – in my opinion – as far as being “good” books for boys. For one thing, the books he was exposed to at school, to me, had a kind of anti-boy bias – an agenda – to them. I wanted him to read stories about REAL boys – kids who have to deal with difficulties, who make mistakes, and who sometimes fail, without having super powers or magic. So, all my stories kind of hover in that atmosphere. They’ve also grown up as he has – from Ghost Medicine to The Marbury Lens. And yes, he was the first person, besides my editor and agent, to ever read that book.

6.       Do you still work with a YA Lit group? Wanna give us the basics with that?

To be honest, I don’t do groups very well. I’ve never found one that I fit into, and the ones I’ve made an effort to participate with invariably make me feel like an outcast. I don’t like politics and cattiness, so I prefer my uncomfortable isolation. I do, however, coach a group of young writers who range in age from 15 to 18 years old, and this is one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences ever. It’s not about giving anything up or trying to fit in, and I can only hope I’m helping the kids discover – on their own – how to be better writers, help one another, and discover their own creative instincts.

7.       What are your feelings about blame and innocence from your youth? (Marbury) Do you still have any that you harbor over?

I thought about this for a long time. There were four boys in my family. My parents were very strict, but we had nothing to compare our upbringing to, so there was really no questioning the system (and this, by the way, is a big part of the storyline in my upcoming novel, Stick). But it was like there was this general expectation that everything we ever did was bad and wrong. As a result, I think that as I grew up I naturally began to assume not only that I was a bad person, but that anything negative that happened to me was my fault and that I deserved it. I guess for readers of The Marbury Lens, this may echo as something very familiar in Jack’s narrative.

8.       We never hear about your wife? Does she just prefer to stay behind the lines? Does she have an opinion of The Marbury Lens?

Ha ha! I only see my wife when I put on this special pair of glasses I keep on the stand next to my bed.

She was, I think, a little shocked and stunned after reading The Marbury Lens. To be honest, I don’t think she liked it. But I don’t expect everyone to like everything I do. In fact, I suppose I truthfully expect very few people to like the stuff I write. And, by the way, I never allow anyone to read my work until it actually comes out in published form, as an ARC. So, my family generally knows less about my forthcoming projects than people who read book blogs like yours.

I have modified my tight-lipped demeanor in recent months. I’ve allowed a few friends to read initial drafts of Stick, and I sent a final-draft copy of another novel I recently finished, called Winger to an author friend, too.

9.       Do you have a tour schedule started for Stick yet? Any idea if Atlanta will be on there?

Nothing is scheduled in permanent marker yet, but I’d really like to get out to Texas for TXLA this spring. People in Texas have always been so great about my books. But I am definitely doing some Marbury/Stick appearances later this month and in April around Southern California, including the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I am tentatively scheduled to go to Chicago in November. And I really want to get to Atlanta and a few places in the Midwest that have really supported my books tremendously. Then, of course, there’s the ALA gathering in New Orleans this summer, too. All of this may change, depending on my state of mind. I can be pretty unpredictable when it comes to certain things involving the writing career.

10.    Please list ten random likes; then do the same for dislikes, go way random.

Random Likes: (this sounds like a singles survey) Thunderstorms in summer, running in the hills around my house, meteor showers, my sauna, kayaking, going to bed early and waking up at an outrageously early hour, watching snow fall and having a fire going, traveling to somewhere I’ve never been.

Random Dislikes: Putting my contacts in backwards, the weird guy who drives a white truck and looks like a murderer, people who follow too close, people who walk too slow, television, exclamation points, emotions, and text speak.

11.    Stick, your 4th published novel will be out this fall correct? Care to elaborate?

To say that Stick is like nothing else I’ve written is kind of vague, because if you look at the body of my work, I think one thing that stands out is that not one of my novels is even remotely similar to another. That said, Stick involves some experimental-type narrative structure that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any other novel (which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m the first writer to try something like this). But here’s what I wrote as a description (also very vague) of the plot:

Stark McClellan (“Stick”) hears the world in a different way. He is surrounded by cruelty and ugliness, but holds on to a powerful sense of wonder, faith, and love for his best friend, Emily, and the most important person in Stick’s world -- his older brother, Bosten, who happens to be gay. When the boys’ father throws Bosten out of their home, Stick steals a car and takes off on a three-state odyssey to find and rescue him.

12.    Still keeping hush, hush on the sequel to The Marbury Lens?

Yes. I am. I promise it will come out eventually, and I will tell something about it very soon.

13.    Is there anything that you’re working on that we need to be looking out for?

I’m contracted to write a short story for an upcoming YA anthology that includes authors Michael Grant, Carrie Ryan, and Neal Shusterman. It will be coming out in 2012. I had a tough time letting go of my submission because I wanted to turn it into a novel (which I did) as opposed to keeping it as a short story. In any event, the story I wrote will be my submission to the project, but there is also a novel about the same characters that goes into much more detail about the story arc. The anthology, to give you a hint, is about YA Dystopian fiction with a romantic/love interest (oooh!), and the story I’ve written – that is also a current novel-in-progress which, hopefully, will be completed by April – is called Once there were Birds.

14.    Where do you come up with the names for your characters in the novels that you've written?

I used to worry about character names because I know too many people and I had this insane assumption that characters should never have the name of anyone you know in real life.

Maybe that's why so many people want to write fantasy: you get to make up totally bizarre names that you'd never hear in the real world. The bottom line is you'll never be able to write for any length of time and NOT have a character name that isn't attached in some way to a real flesh-and-bone person that you've known in your life. So there are many characters in my books whose names I've "borrowed" from people I know. In fact, sometimes, I'll write a scene, give a character a name that just doesn't sound right to me, then I'll change it to the name of one of the first people I talk to that day.

The catch is to not have characters that ARE real people (or, to make them just different enough that only you will know for sure who they are). But the bad guys in my books... they all are really people that I knew. Really.

15.    Tell us about the biggest challenges you face in your writing process.

I have a few challenges, I think, that make my process quite a bit different from most of the writers I know (and certainly different from the handful of writers I can honestly call “friends”).

First of all, I never sell things before writing them. I don’t think I could respond properly under that type of pressure. I know most writers do this, but I feel like I would always suspect my judgment and creativity if I ever got a contract on the basis of I am going to write a novel about…

So the challenge is that I do invest a lot of time and energy producing things that are very personal, and for ME only, before I ever take the risk of submitting them to anyone. And I have lots of stuff that is just sitting there on my hard drive. My agent, and other people in the business, tell me I’m too prolific. I know that already. I’ve considered taking gigs as a ghostwriter, but I couldn’t stand myself if I did something for another person’s brand.

The other challenge for me is that I really don’t have anyone I can talk to about the job part of writing. I don’t belong to any writers’ groups, and I live in a very remote location, so I don’t hang out with people at all where I live. I have a couple friends whom I’ll sometimes ask for advice by email, but I rarely do that because I’m more of a say-nothing kind of person. I most appreciate my friendship with author Michael Grant, because 1) he’s a guy, and 2) he has absolutely no qualms at all about being brutally honest with me. He has a wicked sense of humor, too. Wow, I guess this sounds like an ad for a dating service or something.

But I never talk about writing with my wife or kids. I’m not a bring-the-job-home-with-you kind of guy, for one thing. And, to be honest, I think my wife and kids secretly hate the fact that I’m a writer. So I shut up about what I’m doing and what I go through (sometimes writing is really very painful, and it can make me insanely moody) around them.

On the other hand, I do talk to my son about his writing. He is an amazingly talented writer – much better – by light years – than I ever was at the age of sixteen. If he keeps it up and seriously pursues the craft, I have no doubts that you’ll be hearing his name soon.

Bedankt, merci, ringraziamenti, Multumiri, Şükürler, спасибо, ありがとう, gracias

Thank you very much, Andrew.

Are you open to Q&A if bloggers have questions for you or about The Marbury Lens?

Yes, yes, yes!!!! Absolutely. And thank YOU, Amy.
(Andrew, four exclamation points? dude, I didn't do that) <--- That was only for Andrew.
Sweet! So, if any one has questions for Mr. Andrew Smith please don't be shy. Just make a comment on this post and he will reply.
Welp, I have lots of goodies to give away. Yep! Lots. Thanks again to Andrew and Liz Szabla at Feiwel & Friends. I'm going backwards in order with reading Andrew's books. I started with The Marbury Lens, you can read my review here, I just finished with In The Path Of Falling Objects (and can you say hello, Mitch is a freaking whacko!) and will be posting a review next week sometime. I have Ghost Medicine and will be starting it soon. Now. Goodies! I have several hard cover copies of The Marbury Lens & signed book cards to give away! Cha-Ching.

Lady Reader's Giveaway Deets:

1. Open to everyone. Yay.

2. Must be a follower of Lady Reader's Bookstuff via Google Friend Connect.

(I'd abso LOVE it if you'd follow on Twitter, FB & Networked Blogs too! **This is NOT a requirement, I just heart friends)

3. Leave a comment with your email addy so I can contact the winner.

4. Giveaway starts at February 14th 12:01 am(est) and ends at February 28th midnight (est)

Groovy. If any of y'all would like to check out Andrew's blog, it's way cool, like cool enough to go back almost a couple times a week even! So I will put the links up for convenience. I'm pretty cool like that, too. haha.

Ghost Medicine - Andrew's blog
Andrew's website
Andrew's FB page
Andrew's Twitter page

This was fun Andrew. Thanks for spending all of your time with us and taking the time to come back and answer questions for our friends and other bloggers. I look forward to reading something from your son in the future.

Happy Reading


  1. Great interview!

    I just bought this book last week and hope to get a chance to read it soon. One of the reasons I picked it up is actually what Smith said in the interview about having good books for boys - I don't feel that my brothers get enough strong male protags in YA lit these days, and I'm always on the lookout for something to fill that void.

  2. This is amazing! I follow Andrew's Blog Ghost Medicine and I am highly!!!! intrigued to read his work! Thank you so much for sharing a great interview Amy and Andrew!!

    Follow on FB name Kristen Ceci
    Twitter handle @kritenceci

  3. Please count me in for the giveaway!
    I would love to read this:)
    GFC follower.

  4. Your answer to number 7 reminds me a great deal of Seth for some reason, Andrew.

    Excellent interview, thank you both!

  5. Thanks for the kind comments, all. I hope the book doesn't disappoint, Amanda.

  6. This book sounds great. I donate YA books to the local library and I'm always looking for ones with male main characters. I'd love to win this to donate. Thanks for the giveaway chance.
    I follow on GFC and NB

  7. Hello Andrew, well now I'm curious, what did your son think of The Marbury Lens? Was he a very critical reader?

    Would love to enter this contest too :)
    follower on GFC
    FB and NB(carla costa)
    twitter @jen7waters

    thank you;)
    jen7waters AT gmail DOT com

  8. I work at a reading young adult books then offering them to the students I work with.

    nowakoski at sbc global dot net

  9. Awesome interview. Loved every bit of it.

    Thank you for commenting on our interview with Sharde Richardson. Means a lot

  10. Thanks everyone for your comments and taking the time to read the interview and get to know more about Andrew and The Marbury Lens.

    I'm so excited to see that a couple of you would like to donate the book after reading it if won. I have several books and Mr. Random is generous as am I. (Amazon loves me!)
    Who knows how many I will actually give away/donate?

  11. I would love to read this book! I've heard SO MANY great things about it!!! I'll be checking your blog out too Andrew! Great interview! uniquelymoibooks at att dot net

  12. this interview was kinda funny! Don't ask me why, but the random likes and dislikes were really lovely!
    Anyway, this book sounds really cool and I guess both me and my brother would enjoy it, so I'm entering.

    I'm a GFC follower and twitter follower ;)

    aliasgirl at libero dot it

    Oh, hugs from Italy!

  13. Thanks again everyone. And Jen, your question about my son's reaction to the book made me want to write a post about it on my blog.

    So, I'm going to answer your question tomorrow morning at

  14. Awesome interview! I love authors and artists that stay close and interact with their fans.

  15. This is so cool! I think its so neat to have an author take time out to do an interview and be so nice and fun about it.

    You can enter me.


  16. I am so intrigued! I have never heard of this author before, but The Marbury Lens sounds AWESOME.

    And great interview!

    bookluv @ ymail . com

  17. Awesome interview plus the book sounds very interesting and different! Count me in the giveaway! :)

  18. Andrew always delivers a great interview and I'm a huge fan! The Marbury Lens is a book like no other...I almost dare people to read it. So good! I gave away my copy so maybe I should enter this one....hmmm.

    We would love to see you in TX in April for TLA!

    jenbigheart at yahoo dot com

    Congrats on Stick, Andrew!


  19. @Andrew Oooh, nice. *goes to read the post*

  20. Please count me in!!

  21. Fab giveaway, Amy! I think this book would be a great break from my regular stuff :)

    Of course, I follow you everywhere, so I'm good on that requirement. lol


  22. Ok after reading I am now completely intrigued. Great giveaway Amy and count me in.

    GFC follower, twitter follower and all that jazz

    miranda_lynn2001 at live dot com

    Pick me pls :) lol

  23. new follower!

    Andrew, how long did it take you to find an agent? How many tries and rejections??

  24. Thanks for all of the new entries, comments and questions! I'm excited. The date is getting closer.

  25. Hello(: I'm really interested in reading your works. My list of books to read has over one hundred books on it but The Marbury Lens is definatly at the top.

    I did it Amy! I did it!

    I follow on Twitter


    (lol it's super immature, I know)

  26. great competition. thanks for making it international

  27. trochea at pbclibrary dot org

    If you're ever visiting South Florida, Andrew and want to do a "Meet the Author" event with teens at one of our libraries please let me know!

    -Aramis, thirdmusket on twitter

  28. awesome interview! im a follower (which i kinda mentioned already, but yeah...) and here my email 'addy':
    i really want to read this one! :)

  29. +JMJ+

    I found the interview thought-provoking and wish I could ask Andrew more questions about portrayals of boys in YA novels.

    But perhaps I should read his books first? =P

    To be honest, I haven't really had Andrew Smith on my radar, and it's the fact that he's going to have a short story published in an anthology with something by Neal Shusterman (whom I love and think is woefully underappreciated) that is making me think I'm missing out by not having read him yet.

    Thanks for the giveaway!


  30. I agree with Andrew. There should be more books about real boys out there.
    I'm looking forward to reading this book. Thank you for the interview and giveaway :)

    (I'm a follower)
    entrelibros_blog at

  31. Great interview. For Andrew: You wrote your books from what you know, events that closely followed your own life. Did this make it harder to tell the story or easier on some fronts. I know the general rule is write what you know. I wonder if this in fact makes it a more difficult process. Thanks! (Hugs)Indigo

    Google and Twitter (sageraven) Follower.

  32. Great interview.
    Did you have to do any research for your novel? Did this research take you out of your normal genre/ comfort zone?

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  33. Incredible interview, I think it's amazing that Andrew has the ability to write novels that are so different from each other.


  34. This is the first time I have really seen this book before. Does any one know if it is out in Australia yet?

    Ar wait I've answered by own question: it is out here! YAY

    thanks for the interview and the great answers. Reading about authors almost inspires me to writing something of my own :)


  35. Putting my contacts in backwards is a bad habit of mine! I thought I was the only one who did that! Great interview!

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

  36. I follow via GFC. I hope I win, thank you!

    annabell_lee_dk (at)

  37. Thanks so much for the interview :D

    I have a question for Andrew : What is your writing mantra in 15 words or less?

    I'm a GFC follower.


  38. Great interview! It's very interesting to hear how much of the author's own experiences and work they put into their books. The Marbury Lens sounds very unique and original. Thanks for the interview!

    I'm a GFC follower.

  39. Great interview, I really enjoyed The Marbury Lens and how he left it off is perfect for another world and another book.

    Thanks for the interview.

  40. Did you feel like you had to do an excessive amount of research to write this book?
    thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

  41. Sounds like a great book! Thanks for making it international


  42. Um... I think the only research I had to do for this book, disappointingly enough, was having lived a life that was eerily similar to Jack's.

  43. For Llehn, my writing mantra is

    If you have to make readers care about your story, you're probably not writing the truth.

    Damn! That was 16.

  44. For the agent question: I didn't know what I was doing. When I was TOLD I was writing YA (see my blog today), I got the first (top-notch) YA agent I queried.

  45. ...I'm jealous of those group of writers Mr. Smith coaches. D: So jealous. Just saying.

    And, okay, this interview just made me even scared of contact lenses. Bad enough that you have to stick your finger in your eye, bad enough that the lens can slip off center (and get stuck; people tell me that that's impossible, for a lens to actually get stuck though), bad enough that you have to do some weird thing to get the contact out; and now I learn you can actually stick a contacts in *backwards*.


    Okay, one question, and it's not so much to do with TML than In the Path of Falling Objects: Was there a reason why the book was re-covered?


  46. Great Interview! Having just read The Marbury Lens..I can't wait to read his other stuff! And I really hope he comes to Atlanta!