Interview with young adult novel author Bryan Bliss
Bryan Bliss, author of young adult novels "Meet Me Here" and "We'll Fly Away," a National Book Award Longlist Title, graciously agreed to an interview with Kalamazoo RESA about his love of writing and books as we celebrate National Reading Month.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Sometime in college, which probably isn’t that rare. And then it happened again, maybe 10 years later, when I decided I wanted to write a novel. But I think I first saw the power of words – how they could affect others – in middle school. I worked for the school newspaper, nothing but a collection of photocopied pages with a single staple in the corner. But I remember writing a funny article or column and having people stop me in the hallway to say, “I liked that!” To connect with someone in that way was a rush. And it still is today.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book when I was 27 years old, which is “late” by a lot of standards. Until that time, it felt like a Herculean effort – something only a select few could manage. What I learned in the years that followed was: writing is mostly discipline. Sitting down and trying again every single day. And the best part is: if you write every day, you will get better.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
It depends on what mode I’m in. If I’m drafting a novel, I tend to work at all hours of the day, whenever I feel inspired. That’s a mad sprint. I’m kind of racing against my own thoughts. “What if…” If I’m revising, I tend to work at night, after everyone in my family has gone to bed. This is where the puzzle starts to come together, and I like to dedicate a certain time each day to the task. And if I’m on deadline? If there’s a book due soon? Well… everything in my life gets put in the back seat. Luckily, that isn’t the norm!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can’t start on a book until I really know what it’s about. This doesn’t mean I know the plot of the ending. But I must know the stakes. I need to know what the characters care about. I tried to circumvent this process with my most recent novel and…I wrote a couple hundred pages that will never see the light of day. One of my writing teachers calls that “throat clearing.” It’s the stuff you have to get out in order to get to the real story.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A professional wrestler. In some ways, being a novelist is the same. Except for the outfits, naturally.
What was one of your favorite books when you were young?
Wow, that’s probably too many to list! One book that I often go back to is Bridge to Terabithia. In some ways, that’s the book I’m always trying to write. It’s about friendship, growing up, novelty, and loss.
Don’t think of it as a career. And don’t make excuses. Just start writing. Today. You’re not going to be good at it – nobody’s good at the start – but if you keep typing, you’ll start to see the path a little more clearly. As you go, don’t be afraid to imitate the writers you like. Eventually, you’ll start to see your own voice. Trust that. Tell the story you want to tell. Write, write, and write some more. Also, along the way, don’t forget to read!