Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing his views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with Alex McAulay, author of Bad Girls and Lost Summer. 'Bad Girls' was optioned for film by MTV.
EI: Would you share some early insight into who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Please tell us more about Alex McAulay -- the man behind the author.
A. McAulay: As a teenager, I was primarily interested in playing in a rock band. I formed a band with some friends from high school (we were called Vegetarian Meat--which was truly the worst band name we could think of). We got a record contract with a label in New York City when I was 17, and throughout college, we continued to release albums and tour.
EI: Do you enjoy writing? What is it about this art form that enchants you the most? Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
A. McAulay: I love writing, because I'm able to tell different stories and inhabit different worlds. Writing a book for me is like entering into some kind of dream or sustained hallucination.
EI: Could you describe your path that leads you to publication--any stumble along the way? Is there anything about you that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?
A. McAulay: I got very lucky when it came to getting my first novel published. I had no contacts or connections, and no clue where to send the manuscript once it was completed. I wrote a letter to a local author who had written a novel that I liked. He was generous enough to agree to read part of manuscript, and submit it to his agent. His agent liked it, signed me as a client, and sold the novel a few weeks later.
EI: Was there a central theme that you wanted readers to grasp?
A. McAulay: That the world can be harsh, and beautiful. And that there are no easy answers or solutions. Right and wrong are just illusions.
EI: Are there any kid or teen books rocked your world while growing up? And why?
A. McAulay: Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, Ender's Game, House of Stairs, Carrie, Pet Semetary, The Stand, The Talisman, among many others.
EI: How do you imagine audience as you are writing? Do you try to do character development, chapter outlines, various novel-related brainstorming? Do you have sheets of newsprint covered in a story boards all over your walls?
A. McAulay: It depends on the book. For my first novel, Bad Girls, I had no outline or synopsis--I just wrote a couple pages every day and let the book guide me. For my second novel, Lost Summer, and my third novel, Oblivion Road, I worked off a brief 8 page outline that was little more than a general plot summary. The books are like experiments, or journeys for me, so it's fun to just go with the flow. My goal is to entertain and challenge both my audience and myself.
EI: Let’s shift gears here for a second... let’s talk about 'Caitlin Ross' the protagonist in your novel ‘Lost Summer.’ How much of Caitlin planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with her character?
A. McAulay: Caitlin is based on a girl my wife and I observed when we were camping on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I had a glimpse of her for perhaps thirty seconds, but that was enough. I immediately began constructing an entire "reality" and story for her. The book was finished six months later.
EI: What was your biggest challenge and obstacle while writing and creating 'Caitlin and Luke?' Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story? Are any of the characters in the story actually based on real people in your life?
A. McAulay: Caitlin and her brother Luke felt very "real" to me. It was as though I was overhearing their dialogue and transcribing it. It felt like I was decribing a movie I had seen, or some strange dream I had once had. They seemed to naturally evolve as I wrote the story.
EI: How did you develop or come up with the idea of 'Bad Girls?' What inspired you to write this book? What about writing for teens appealed to you?
A. McAulay: I wrote Bad Girls because I thought it would be interesting to write an all-girl version of Lord of the Flies (which is a book with no female characters in it). I was also interested in the idea of these "teen boot camps" for troubled kids, which really just seemed to be places that wealthy parents sent their problem children to get rid of them. So I just fused the ideas together, and wrote about a teen girl boot camp in the wilderness.
EI: If you were allowed total control of the Hollywood version of 'Lost Summer' who would be in it? And in your opinion who do you think should direct?
A. McAulay: I admire edgy actors who take challenging roles, such as Jena Malone, Amber Heard, and Evan Rachel Wood. I would love to cast Henry Rollins as Adler, the sadistic male guard who runs the wilderness camp. In terms of directors, I would vote for Jonathan Levine, who directed a brilliant and unusual thriller for The Weinstein Company called "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" (it hasn't been released yet, but I was lucky enough to see it through a friend of mine who works at a talent agency--it's excellent).
EI: What is a typical work day schedule when you are in full writing mode? Would you tell us a little about your process for editing, revising, and novel development? How long did it take you to write â€˜Bad Grilsâ€™ including the time it took to research the book?
A. McAulay: I only write very late at night (between 10pm-3am). When I'm writing a book, I write every day until the book is done, and then I take a break. Bad Girls took about 3 months of writing, and then 3 months of editing.
EI: As a first time fiction writer, do you feel more pressure, feel insecurities fade away or are you able to separate all that from your own creative process?
A. McAulay: I feel very, very lucky to be able to write full-time. I feel a constant sense of pressure to keep up the level of quality and inventiveness in the books, but I think that pressure and stress can be very positive motivators.
EI: What's up next? Is there another book in the works? What can you share with us?
A. McAulay: My third novel, OBLIVION ROAD, is being released Nov. 13 of this year by MTV/Pocket Books. I am also working on a screenplay, because I recently moved to Los Angeles, and it seems like the thing to do.
EI: Mr. McAulay , thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know you, and your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?
A. McAulay: My only advice is to read as many good books as possible. Some of my current favorites are: The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles, The Beach by Alex Garland, The Magus by John Fowles, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
To learn more about Alex McAulay, please visit him at:
Photo of Mr. McAulay (BW) By Elizabeth McAulay, Los Angeles, CA.
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 4:02 PM