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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Blog Tour: GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith [Author Interview, Book Trailer + Giveaway] #unstoppable

Author: Andrew Smith
Genre: Fiction | YA | LBGT
Release Date: 2/11/14

Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He is stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann.

Ultimately, it is up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

This is the truth. This is history.
It’s the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
You know what I mean.

Q: Grasshopper Jungle is such an honest look at what it means to grow up, what do you hope readers will leave Grasshopper Jungle with?

Smith: Well, I have a few hopes for my readers: First, I hope they have a good time with the book. I hope they come away with a sense of wonder about the connection between our past and our present. I hope they maybe start to question some of the things we humans have been doing that are probably not good ideas. I hope they pause and think about the lack of compassion for the poor and unfortunate that is at the dark core of our "American Spirit." And I hope my male readers worldwide will avoid that one disastrous small town blunder that only guys can make, and that I get a ton of emails from them with the following subject line: I HAVE COME UP WITH TWO PERFECT NAMES. Yeah. All that shit would be fine with me.

1. From the release of your debut novel Ghost Medicine-to your upcoming release of Grasshopper Jungle, you as a young adult an author have gone from strength to strength in your storytelling, particularly in the content and characters you respectively write about. What would you say have been the highlights and lowlights of your career thus far? Have they helped you hone your storytelling in any way?

Smith: My storytelling is deeply rooted in personal experience, and I think this is where the strength of my characters originates. As for highlights and lowlights, I can say this: I never intended to be a published author. I had always written only for myself. It was a fluke in which a dear friend (a published author) dared me into publishing something that got me into this. I always dreaded people reading what I'd written, so it was hard to get over when I realized the first thing I ever submitted--Ghost Medicine--was going to be published. There came a time when I felt very unhappy about a lot of things. I parted company with my agent and decided to quit writing professionally. That was when I wrote Grasshopper Jungle, which I never intended to show to anybody. Then I became friends with Michael Bourret, my current agent, and he talked me down off the ledge I was on and asked if he could see what I'd been writing. Oops. 

2 2013 was the year of Winger—it basically is, considering Winger has been popping up on a number of top books of 2013 lists. Did you ever expect your sixth novel to do as well as it has been doing? 

Smith: I don't know. I think I'm never happy with what I've done. I think I was raised to believe that nothing I did was ever good enough, and I find myself constantly dissatisfied with my work.

3. Where do the ideas for your stories initially manifest from? A character? A thought? A scene? A theme?

Smith: I've answered this question many times, and I always say this: I honestly do not know where stories come from. In the case of Grasshopper Jungle, I made up the title and I thought, hey, that would be a cool title for a novel. Then I sat down and wrote the opening lines. And it just kept going from there. I do not plan or outline. The stories just come.

4. Leading on from the previous question, how do you decide how a story should be told? (I ask this as many of your novels feature content that may not sit well with conservative parents, teachers and librarians, and possibly ambivalent teen readers themselves.)

Smith: Can I be a little harsh here? What are you afraid of? I just write what I would like to read. I am not afraid of any words or content that I dare to commit to the page because the intent behind them is honest and good. Words are empty vessels that are filled with intent; just like a crystal wine goblet can be filled with piss. I am not writing for ambivalent or conservative people. Ambivalent and conservative people should probably move to Iowa or into a cave or something. Whenever I write, I want to do something that nobody has ever tried and that people have maybe never thought about. That approach is the exact toxin that will destroy conservatism and ambivalence, so those types should probably avoid coming into contact with my words, unless they want their tight little brains to dissolve.
5. A reader walks into a bookstore and sees a fluro-green book sitting on a Young Adult shelf. "GRASSHOPPERS!" they scream, "I LOVE GRASSHOPPERS!" If you were the reader's conscience (oh my, Jiminy Cricket...), sitting on their shoulder as comfortable as one can be, how would you describe to them what Grasshopper Jungle is about, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation?

Smith: Grasshopper Jungle is about connections. That's all it is. Everything is connected: our past to our present, urinal factories and Catholic saints, war and sexual confusion. If more people were considerate as far as the connections that crisscross at our feet, we would probably be a bit more cautious about pursuing some of the idiotic ideas that human beings seem to want to do over and over and over again.

6. Austin is a history buff. Are you as interested in history as Austin is, and what particular time or event in history are you most interested in? If that history was incomplete, how would you complete it?

Smith: Of course I am interested in history. And I'm afraid we've gotten most of it all wrong. That's what Austin finds out. If I could go back in time to any recorded event, though, I would want to be inside that cave in Altamira when the painters decorated the wall. I want to know why they did it.

7. How a story was written and the intentions of the author are often perceived differently – or even misperceived – by [various] readers. Were there elements of Grasshopper Jungle that your editor and publisher had questioned and/or asked you to change or delete? And how, as a writer, did you respond to those comments?

I loved working with Julie Strauss-Gabel (my editor). Good editing is all about questions, and never about imperatives. Julie helped me to see the things that needed to be added and the things that could be omitted in my work, but this was a voyage of mutual discovery, I think. It was perhaps the greatest editorial experience of my life working with her. Look, the book is a risk-taking work. People have called it a "game changer," perhaps both for the content as well as the structural/lyrical style. I poke fun at "concrete thinking" in Grasshopper Jungle. There's plenty of reasons for that. I expect my readers to be able to deal with that, and I definitely do recommend reading the book more than once because there's an awful lot going on in it, isn't there?

Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year”) and The Marbury Lens (A YALSA BFYA, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist).

He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle, coming February 11, 2014, is his seventh novel. He lives in Southern California.

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For those of you that purchase a copy of GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE any time during the month of February will receive a one of a kind #unstoppableprizepack filled with lots of goodies.

To qualify you must send proof of purchase dated before 3.1.14 to amydelrosso(at)gmail(dot)com. This can be the receipt, a screenshot of your online order or you can be creative and take a photo of the green pretty out in the world. There may happen to be a special prize for the most creative photo. Have fun.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. There's a lot going on in this post. But some great answers from Andrew, as usual.

  2. What an amazing event Amy! (I am also a sucker for t-shirts so I totally entered the giveaway!)