the king abides.

During my cyberstalking researching of Barry for this interview, I learned that he is a fan of Stephen King, especially the Dark Tower series. I, too, am a fan of the Dark Tower series, although I do think King lost it a bit when he wrote and released the final books in quick succession following his car accident. I will forgive Stephen, however, because that is what one does; he is the Jeff Bridges of horror fiction, and the King abides.

The thing about the Dark Tower books, though, is that it isn’t simply a 7 book series. There are related short stories scattered hither and yon, and characters from many King books make an appearance in or are referenced to in the Tower books (although King never brought back the characters from The Eyes of the Dragon in the big way that I was hoping, and I still cry about that sometimes–oh, Steve, why must you make a librarian cry?).

Barry is doing something similar with his Brookdale novels, albeit on a much smaller scale, but the effect is the same. By having a common location, and a time frame that overlaps, we are reminded that stories do not take place in a vacuum, and that even though most of the time we are caught up in our own little dramas, everyone around us has their own dramas as well, and events make an impact. The introduction to the short story “Her Decade” has the most information about Barry’s Brookdale world, if you’re interested.

Enough of my blathering on; how English major of me. Here’s the original question:

I read that King’s Dark Tower series is one of your favorite extended pieces of fiction. You’re sort of creating your own King-like universe by using Brookdale as a setting and having characters from different novels and short stories pop up in different places. Was this a conscious decision, and do you think your Brookdale will ever reach King-esque proportions? Do you think some day someone will write a Barry Lyga/Brookdale concordance?

Barry’s answer:

I think mentioning my work in the same breath as King’s Dark Tower is a stretch, to be honest with you. He’s working on a whole different kind of canvas than I am, at least with respect to the complexity and diversity of the Dark Tower stories. Honestly, with Brookdale I was reaching more for Faulkner* and Yoknapatawpha County, with the idea of stories that stand apart, but are interlinked in the backstory. And, God, I just realized how unremittingly arrogant it sounds to compare myself to Faulkner! I’m not saying I think I’m as good as he is –just that he sort of inspired the move to connect the stories. Well, that and comic books, of course. Just about everything I do probably connects to comic books in some way, shape or form, whether I realize it or not.

As to the proportions Brookdale will reach… I don’t know. It’s strange to think about because I have some other things I’m branching out into right now, new universes to play in, so Brookdale is sort of off to the side temporarily. There are at least a half dozen other books set in Brookdale knocking around in my head, though, so once I have the time to write them, we’ll see how much broader that particular world becomes. I never know these things until they actually show up on the page.

And hey — if someone wants to do a Brookdale concordance, I’d be tickled!

I say give Barry ten years, and there will more than likely be a demand for a concordance.

We’re reaching the end, friends. I think all that’s left is one more Chicago question from Barry to be answered…and then he will actually be in Chicago, if I haven’t soured him on the idea entirely. Just don’t try to park anywhere and you’ll be fine, Mr. Lyga.

*I haven’t read as much Faulkner as I should, so I was only dimly aware of this Faulkner world of related characters/incidents. I read As I Lay Dying in college, though, and my professor, Rich Martin, told us a great story about how the first time he read As I Lay Dying, when he got to the chapter that consisted of the sentence “My mother is a fish,” he threw the book across the room and didn’t pick it up again for a week. I’d love to write something–anything–that would cause the reader to forcefully fling the book across the room. The power! bwa ha ha….

play-ing, with friends

Let’s get down to it, kids. I’ve been posting these Barry Lyga interview installments at a much slower pace than I’d like, because At&t is made of fail and I haven’t had internet access at home since the end of January, so I’ve been trying to steal time to work on the blog whenever possible. But we’re here, together, at the moment, so let’s enjoy it, shall we?

[Barry, y]our story “Her Decade” reminded me of the play “Rabbit Hole” by David Lindsay-Abaire (similar plot points of kid kills someone while driving drunk, runs into the family). Which made me think: what would a play by Barry Lyga be like? Would you ever write a play, or would you ever like to see one of your novels adapted for the stage? Maybe Fanboy and Goth Girl: The Musical.

I actually started writing a play in college. It was a one-man show, inspired in some ways by The Canterbury Tales and the Decameron. The idea was it was a guy trapped in an asylum, telling himself stories as a way of trying to stay sane. I never finished it, but now that you’ve brought it up, maybe I will!

Fanboy and Goth Girl: The Musical is one of those ideas that’s so wrong, it just might be right. I can’t imagine how that would work, but I would love to see someone try.

Any time I think of this question, I get the Batman tv show theme song stuck in my head, except I substitute “Goth Girl” for “Batman.” Not really a promising start to a musical, but stranger things have happened. I mean, have you seen some of the musicals getting produced these days?

Anyway…. on to the collaboration question:

Since you’re friends with David Levithan, do you think you’ll ever follow in the steps of Rachel Cohn and John Green* and write a collaborative work with him? How do you feel about collaboration in general, since typically writing is often seen as a rather solitary profession?

David and I have actually joked about this in the past. In a way, we ARE collaborating right now because he’s the editor on ARCHVILLAIN. Collaboration sounds like an amazing experience to me, but I have some pretty serious control freak tendencies, so I sort of fear for the sanity of anyone who collaborates with me. I’m actually collaborating on my first graphic novel right now, but that’s different because I can’t draw to save my life, so I have no choice but to cede complete control over the artwork to the amazing, wondrous Colleen Doran.

But, yeah, I’d like to take a crack at collaborating with another author some day. It’ll probably just take a while for me to get to that point. Plus, I’m pretty busy right now — I don’t really have the time anyway!

Barry’s not kidding about being busy part. In addition to Archvillain and the graphic novel, Barry is working on a project called I Hunt Killers, about a boy who is working on solving murders by making use of a “killer instinct” he’s inherited from his serial killer father.  Doesn’t that sound completely awesome?  Barry’s shown us his ability to handle dark themes a little bit in Hero-Type and Boy Toy, so I’m really looking forward to his handling of this macabre material.

Speaking of macabre, did you know that Barry is a Stephen King fan? In our next installment, you’ll read about that, and I’ll expound on the origins of Chicago. Or, knowing me, I’ll wander completely off topic and you’ll have to send out a search party. We’ll see.

*I can’t wait to get my hands on Will Grayson/Will Grayson. *bounces with excitement to the great annoyance of all around me*

chicago: the cubs, heroes, and playlists

I don’t care much f or sports. I recently watched a football (rugby? It was Brits; I rooted for Liverpool, per the instructions I was given) game, and I greatly enjoyed myself (the pot of tea I had helped with that), but generally I don’t get excited about sports. If I were to call myself a fan of anything, however, I’d call myself a Cubs fan, in honor of my grandmother Theresa who was one (it would be interesting to see how many Cubs fans are fans because of a family history). Since I lack the fervor of a true fan when it came time to answer Barry’s taunt question, “As a lifelong Red Sox fan, are there any words of hope or comfort I can/should proffer to Cubs fans?” I was stumped.

I decided to ask my coworker, Miss Stephanie, who is a fervent Cubs fan, but all she could say was “THE RED SOX GET EVERYTHING.” Then she hid in the back room for a long time. She’s okay now, though. I think.

Then I sat on it for a long time (I began this post on March 4th), until finally, this morning, I remembered Steve Goodman and his two songs about the Cubs, “Go Cubs Go”, and “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request”. What this tells me about Cubs fans is that it is not about winning (although they’d love to) or losing (which they are tired of), it is about the traditions, the experiences, and the communal joy in rooting for a common cause. Which I suppose is true for any fan of any team, really.

So Barry, there are no words you can offer–Cubs fans already have all the words they need, and set to music, no less.

Another of Barry’s questions was, “If a friend was considering moving to Chicago, what would you tell him/her to seal the deal?”

I wish all of my friends lived in Chicago, because wouldn’t that make life easier for me? But if someone was unsure about whether or not to move, I’d tell them all about the thriving theater scene (there’s a theater company for every man, woman and child in the city), the music scene (there’s a ukulele for every 4 people, and an open mic for every 3), and my god the FOOD. Dieters should not come near or reside in Chicago. The deep dish alone will kill you on sight.

Although, since I am a nice Midwestern folk type person (as many Chicagoans are), I would have to warn my friends about the Cook County sales tax (highest in the country, I believe), the insane parking box situation (75 years worth of money mostly GONE), and the WINTER, omg the WINTER (never ending, brutal, and exacerbates existing stupid parking situations).

On a somewhat relate note, the John Prine song “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore” is a perfect seed song for a playlist to go with Barry’s novel Hero-Type. Anyone have any songs to add?

Still to come….talk of novels turned musicals/plays, and collaboration!


(Villain is a hard word to spell. I keep wanting to put the “i” somewhere else)

Anyway, in this post Barry talks a bit about favorite archvillains, in honor of his new project, Archvillain, a new series he’s writing for middle-grade readers.**

The question I posed was:

One of your upcoming projects is Archvillain, wherein a 12-year-old kid who gets superpowers ends up being a supervillain instead of a superhero, which I think is a great twist. Do you have any favorite super-villains or anti-heroes, either fictional or real?

Barry’s answer:

Well, in terms of supervillains, I would have to say that I always liked Lex Luthor, just because he was the one guy who tried to outthink Superman AND actually had a decent shot at doing it. I also liked the supervillain Darkseid, before he became so egregiously overused. Oh, and Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. The Flash was my favorite super-hero as a kid, so I liked Professor Zoom, who was basically a villain with the same powers who hailed from the future and therefore always had all kinds of futuristic nastiness up his sleeve.

In case you weren’t aware, Barry is a comic book fan, and one of his future projects is actually a graphic novel (and comics and graphic novels are actually somewhat of a trope in his other works, especially the two Fanboy/Gothgirl books).

I’m very Alice-like in that I heartily approve of books with pictures. Not every book needs pictures, of course, but if they are done well they can really add something to the story without a lot of fuss and bother.

In our next installment, there will a discussion of sports fandom and the giving and getting of AWESOME STUFF.

*Which I did in my email to Barry. How embarrassing.

**Since this new character is going to be somewhat of an anti-hero***, I am obligated to suggest that everyone, including Barry, consider reading my favorite anti-hero novel of all time, Arslan by MJ Engh. Imagine if Darth Vader were 100 times more cruel, and took over a small town in Illinois, with a high school as his base for his military exploits. It’s seriously good, and you should read it now, because once you’re done inhabiting its dark, depressing world, the spring will seem twice as sweet to you.

***As an English major (which is a state of mind as much as it is a course of college study), I am obligated to trot out such literary terms on every possible occasion. I can’t wait until I get a reason to use the term LIMINAL SPACE which is my favorite, OMG.