Wednesday, June 11, 2008
It is my great pleasure to welcome Robert Liparulo back to my Window! I did my very first blog interview with Robert, and God has used his books in a unique way in my life since that time. I think you will enjoy his answers to questions asked about his latest young adult novels The Dreamhouse Kings series! Welcome back, Robert!
Given your talent for writing suspense thrillers for adults, what made you decide to write for the young adult audience? Where on earth did the idea of this series originate?
Quite a few book clubs of young readers (seventh through eleventh grade) read my adult books and I received a lot of wonderful letters from many of them. I had the privilege of speaking to a dozen or so of these groups/classes. I loved that they were so passionate about STORY. Their minds are so fertile, so imaginative. They wanted to know about the characters and storylines, as opposed to many of the adults I've spoken to, who cared more about getting an agent, the hours I work . . . the business side of writing. I got into writing not for the business, but for the stories, so these kids touched my heart in a big way.
I started thinking about writing for that age group. That reminded me of a story I literally dreamed up when I was eleven: The Dreamhouse Kings. I lived in the Azores, beautiful fairytale-like islands midway between the States and Europe in the Atlantic. I was a great place for kids and I sort of incorporated the feel of it into my dreams and, ultimately, my story.
About the time I was thinking this, my publisher "happened" to ask if I ever thought about writing YA's. Funny how these things happen, huh? ;)
Do you feel like young adults will relate to the way David and Xander’s dad misled them about the reasons they moved to the house in Pinedale?
I hope they don’t relate to it, as much as I think they’ll cringe at it as something that could happen. I think some kids will associate it with the perception that their parents have lied to them, or hidden things from them, whether that’s a pending divorce or a move or whatever. I do think there are things adults do and should keep from their children, in the interest of protecting their feelings or their innocence. As parents, we have to be careful to figure out which things your children don’t need to know, and take care not to outright lie to them.
When the Dad tells the boys on page 9 in Watcher In the Woods, “We have a secret. Sometimes you have to lie to keep secrets safe.” Do you think that sends a confusing message to kids? Can you explain your reasoning behind that scene either positively or negatively?
Good question. This is a theme I explore later in the series: is it EVER okay to lie, even to protect yourself or a loved one? I think most people understand that injury CAN be avoided sometimes through lies, as when Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister, instead of his wife. He feared that they would kill him and take her, if they were husband and wife, so he lied. But , later, God revealed the lie and essentially chastised Abraham for it. So, it’s something we take a hard look at in subsequent books.
My hope is that it doesn’t confuse kids, but intrigues them to know more, to find out how this attitude either helps them or comes back to bite them.
Your distrust between David, Xander and the dad seems to build as the series continues. They each want to stick together in their plans, but their emotions and personal desire to find their mom/wife seems to get the best of them time after time. Will we ever see this tension between the men in the story work positively?
Absolutely. Tension makes for a good story. Its resolution usually involves the themes the author is trying to address within the story. By the end of book two, we already see how David is tired of the sneaking around, even though he understands Xander’s different take on how to rescue Mom from the way Dad wants to handle it.
I believe we are constantly faced with very tough decisions, dilemmas in which both possibilities make sense. In the Dreamhouse Kings story, both Dad and Xander make sense in their arguments for how to do something as important as rescuing their Mom. The stakes are so high, it’s above either of them, really. I mean, in most things, you’d listen to your parent, even if you disagree: what movies you can and can’t see, for example. But what if your Mom fell overboard and for reasons you don’t understand, your Dad says, “leave her.” Would you? Or would you exercise the familial equivalent of civil disobedience—because the stakes (your Mom’s life) are so high.
Time travel has always had a special appeal to young adults, when and how did you first become interested in this concept?
With that dream I had when I was eleven years old. I have always enjoyed reading contemporary fiction involving time travel. Dean Koontz and Tim Powers have handled it wonderfully, in very entertaining and thoughtful ways. Some of the highly theoretical, technical aspects of time travel—such as can you meet your younger self and can you change time so you never were able to go back and change it that way—I either avoid or handle somewhat ambiguously. My intention is not to push my views on the “science” of time travel, but to have fun and entertain. An important part of the story, eventually, looks at the way God is outside of time. What’s crazy-freaky to us (time travel), means nothing to Him. That concept is , in the end, the whole idea behind the Dreamhouse.
I imagine you are getting phenomenal feedback from the kids who have already read your Dreamhouse Kings books. I know my boys DEVOURED them! What has been your favorite reaction so far?
A twelve-year-old boy made me a card. It was a drawing of himself holding the first book. It was really detailed, the person and the book cover. He must have spent a lot of time on it. There was a speech-balloon coming out of the boy’s mouth, saying, “I love Dreamhouse Kings and Xander and David and Mr. Liparulo!” It was really sweet.
What on earth do you plan to keep your readers occupied with while they wait until JANUARY for the next book to come out? (he!he!he!)
The delay between releases was my biggest concern when we set this up as a six-book series. I wanted the books to be like the cliffhangers serials I saw before movies when I was a kid. But with them, the resolution of each cliffhanger was only a week away. We decided that a lot of young adults won’t discover the books right away and the next book would be that much closer. For the readers who do discover the story early, we’re trying to get them involved. We’ve set up a way for them to influence the story in subsequent books, win prizes through a weekly trivial contest, and help spread the word (you can find more information at http://www.robertliparulo.com/dhk.html). I think it’s a lot of online fun for them to do, especially over the summer.
What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Any parting words you want to share with your readers?
God has blessed me in so many ways! My career is rolling along and I get to fulfill my passions by telling stories. To paraphrase the movie Chariots of Fire, when I write, I feel His pleasure. My family is closer than ever, and we do so much more together than we did even a few years ago. My eleven-year-old just started a really cool novel about a guy stuck in a video game. I have three other kids who have their own wild interests and it’s a lot of fun to share their excitement for them. To readers, all I can say is, have fun. Enjoy the story.
To writers, keep writing! Finish things! If God put in you the desire to write, He will be faithful and will give you the opportunities to share that passion with the world.