TMAS goes international again, this time with Iffath of LoveReadingX - open to international comments for this week's books and prizes! Iffath has been my friend across the sea, so I'm really excited to get to meet with her today. (Update: Iffath's link is now fixed, so go check out and comment to win books and stuff!)
Awesome readergirlz diva Liz Gallagher introduced me to today's Story Secrets author Andrew Auseon of FREAK MAGNET fame! Plus I got to meet his lovely editor when I was at ALA, and she clued me in on the secret pronunciation of his name (oss-EE-on).
This guy is totally a person after my own heart - he's a game developer in addition to being a novelist. People have been saying really nice things about this book, so enjoy the interview and check it out!
Freak Magnet is the story of two young people who are working to overcome personal tragedies but feel stuck on their paths to recovery. Charlie, a brilliant, albeit socially awkward, astronomy student has built his life around caring for his terminally ill mother. Gloria, an aspiring poet who always attracts the wrong kind of guy, can’t seem to move past the death of her older brother, a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. However, a chance meeting between Charlie and Gloria leaves the teens wondering if they’ve become too isolated, that perhaps it’s time to look for help in the unlikeliest of places: each other.
Holly Cupala: I love to hear the stories behind the story – how did you come up with the idea for your novel?
Andrew Auseon: Let me start by saying this: I love Freak Magnet. I say that unabashedly. There’s something very special to me about Charlie and Gloria. Maybe it’s just that I appreciate their feelings in a way I’ve never felt about any of my previous characters, or maybe it’s because their story appears simple but isn’t. I don’t know. Regardless, I have a very large little part of my heart reserved for this novel and its cast of characters. They want so badly to find joy, to reach a place where they can be happy and secure in their lives. And they will stop at nothing to get there. I understand that. I appreciate that longing for refuge—for love.
The novel came about in a very interesting way, actually. As a writer, I get bored very quickly. By the time the ending of a project comes around, I am incredibly pumped to seek out something completely new and different. I have incredible respect and admiration for authors who write long-running series, or who find a genre or style and perfect it over several books. Me, I’m too twitchy for that kind of commitment. As soon as I put a book to bed, I feel liberated, like I’m able to come home and crash on the couch after a long trip. And instead of planning my next vacation in the same part of the world, I want to explore an entirely different continent.
That’s how it was with Freak Magnet. I wanted to refresh myself after a particularly tiring few years. In 2009 I published the YA novel Jo-Jo and the Fiendish Lot, which was a huge departure for me, an urban fantasy with an emphasis on the afterlife and punk music. It was a great joy to write, but it was also a pretty huge pain in the ass. The story and setting challenged me in ways I’d never anticipated and forced me to write far outside my comfort zone. And while I don’t regret for a second writing Jo-Jo’s story of loss and redemption, it did in many ways break me as an author. When the final draft of that novel was finished, I needed to find an escape hatch.
HC: Who inspires you?
AA: Individuals inspire me. More than anything else, I enjoy observing the world from new and different points of view. A unique perspective can make even the most familiar setting a surprise. Like, for example, Washington, D.C., where Freak Magnet takes place. I lived and worked in D.C. for several years before moving to Baltimore, yet the D.C. of the novel feels very foreign to me, very magical, almost otherworldly. This was because I was seeing it again through two new pairs of eyes.
Freak Magnet is about people, so it’s not surprising that the story began with the character of Charlie Wyatt. Charlie is an idealist, an innocent, the kind of person I would probably be if the world was a different place and true honesty was actually held in esteem. He doesn’t understand why people play games with their emotions in a world where time is so precious, and so fleeting. I adore him for that perspective. Despite his eccentricities, Charlie is a very real person. He’s vulnerable and brave and idiotic and charming and clumsy. He’s that guy we all know who tries too hard, but who you can’t hate because he has such good intentions. That’s why he appealed to me. After several years of writing about fantastic situations in otherworldly places, I wanted to return to someone with whom readers could really identify.
Did the process take you anywhere unexpected, either in writing or in life?
Not really. I achieved what I set out to do, which was to tell a very personal story of a relationship that comes about unexpectedly, and ends up meaning more than anyone could have predicted. To me, that’s a pretty ordinary, understandable story. None of us can guess the significance of a new friendship at the moment of its conception. We gamble on each other. We make connections and then roll the dice, hoping for the best.
Writing an “ordinary” story was a very deliberate choice. In YA’s literary world of vampires, wizards, super geeks, and social climbers, I really wanted to focus on normal people. Granted, I enjoy adding stylistic flourishes to my characters and their world, but the themes discussed in the book are very much those of our real world of oil spills and foreign wars, of crummy summer jobs and food poisoning. When I sat down to write the very first chapters of Freak Magnet, I decided to tighten the focus—two kids, two lives. Even the geographical landscape of my protagonists spans no more than a couple miles. Much of Charlie and Gloria’s time is spent in a single strip mall with a coffee joint on one end, and a drugstore on the other. This is the life most of us know, and it’s the life I wanted to celebrate.
What do you most hope your readers will take away?
As with most of my novels, I have no idea what readers will think of the final product. At the very least, I hope that when they finish, people are able to better understand some aspect of their own lives, or the challenges of someone else’s.
I’m not what would call an optimistic person. Not to say that I’m negative, exactly, but my natural inclination is toward a more realistic, often jaded perspective. I guess that’s why my novels trend darker. Freak Magnet is a different than my other books in that it addresses the tragedies of life, but it doesn’t dwell on them. Every character in the book is seeking a way to improve their standing, to grow, to find happiness, despite the rocky terrain of their lives. I love that about them. They teach other in different ways, which is something I think we all should be doing as human beings: helping each other along by passing on what we’ve learned in our own lives, confusing as they may be. By the end of Freak Magnet, I cared too much about Charlie and Gloria to cripple them with more bad news—especially after all they’d been through.
Besides, I may be a realist, but I’d be lying if I said that life isn’t brimming with happy endings. They happen every day.
Thanks so much for hosting me, Holly, and best of luck with your new book. Let it live to see gray hair and bad knees. :-)
Thanks for sharing your story secrets, Andrew! Folks, Andrew is on a wild ride of a blog tour himself right now, next stop: Author2Author on July 12th.
ON TO THE GIVEAWAY:
We're going to make this super simple: comment below on why you'd like to read FREAK MAGNET - contest closes on Monday at 5pm PST! (Plus comments double-count for this week's TMAS giveaways). Comment away!