Words on Words: Down the bath drain with Jennifer Finney Boylan
FARMINGTON - On July 13 national bestselling author Jennifer Finney Boylan will be coming to Farmington to share her sensational new Young Adult Fantasy, Falcon Quinn and The Black Mirror. The Falcon Quinn series mark a new chapter for the author as her prior books have been bestselling memoirs such as She's Not There and acclaimed novels such as Getting in.
Since on July 13 the world will be made up of two kinds of people, those who have read Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror already and those who have not, the event will be in two parts. From 6:00 to 7:00 Jennifer will participate in a reading group discussion of the book. Everyone is invited! Afterwards, at 7:00, she will read from the book and sign copies. Both events will be at the bookstore, DDG Booksellers that is. Event details are here. To help kick things off Jennifer was gracious enough to agree to a hard hitting interview!
KB: One of the themes of your new YA fantasy novel is the issue of fitting in, its relative merits or lack thereof in a specialized school environment. If Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror went to a school for books what are some of the books which would be in its class, and of its classmates which would be its best friend and which its worst enemy?
Jennifer: I think that Falcon Quinn, at a School for Books, would hang out with Stuart Little, Catcher in the Rye, and the Big Friendly Giant. I am not certain that these are the books most "like" Falcon Quinn, but I think they would be good company. Falcon is about the search for identity, which is something middle schoolers undertake, whether they're aware of it or not-- well, we all undertake that journey. So, like Catcher in the Rye, its about a young man who is not sure who he is. On the other hand, like Big Friendly Giant, the story is also funny and gentle. And some of it is just plain uncanny, like Stuart Little
Its worst enemy might be Harry Potter, because people would always be comparing the two, and in fact they don't have all that much in common, other than that it is about a hero who is different and a school for people with differences. But Falcon is a monster-- he's not really all that thrilled about what he's turning into, unlike Harry, who's just crazy about being a wizard. Mostly. And Falcon is about American values and American schooling-- unlike H.P., which is based around the conceit of British boarding school culture. And most importantly, Falcon is written in the spirit of comedy--even though its central conflict is quite serious. Let's just say there's no quidditch. But there is an angry vice-principal who is half Mr. Rogers and half The Terrible Kracken.
KB: Speaking of Mr. Rogers, reading Falcon Quinn brought back a very old childhood memory for me, namely listening to a Mr. Roger's song circa 1969 with the song You Can Never Go Down The Drain. The lyrics ran, in part....
You can never go down
Can never go down
Can never go down the drain.
You're bigger than the water.
You're bigger than the soap.
You're much bigger than all the bubbles.
And bigger than your telescope
Now in Falcon Quinn it comes out that not only can you go down the drain, but one of the teachers at the school, Mr. Hake, considers it a good time. Did Mr. Rogers get this wrong? Did a generation of children grow up under a false pretense of bath time security?
Jennifer: Yeah, I'm afraid Fred Rogers was wrong, bless his heart. Okay, well a child can never go down the actual drain. Because of issues of physics. But there's a lot of perils that wait for people, including young ones. And some of the worst perils wait for you in your own heart. Fortunately, the solution to those perils tend to come from the same place.
In fact, didn't Stuart Little go down the drain, I mean the actual drain? More evidence. On the other hand, Fred Rogers was right about a lot of things, including the fact that it is indeed, a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Even if there are Sasquatches and ghouls and giant enchanted slugs in it.
KB: The scales have fallen from my eyes. Your book is really fun and challenging to try and read aloud, with all its humor and snappy dialogue. Did you read it aloud while you were working on it?
Jennifer: Yes, this book was actually written for and with my middle school age boys. Every day they'd come home from school and ask me to read that day's work (out loud), and then they'd critique it-- sometimes quite harshly. (They made me change the ending of Book 2 completely.) But yeah, the book is full of funny voices. I can do them all, of course, so this reading I'll be doing at DDG Booksellers will feature all of those.
KB: I was hoping you'd say that! If you happened to find Aladdin's lamp and spent one of your wishes on making everyone in the world read one book, which would it be?
Jennifer: Well, for kids' books, Charlotte's Web is pretty amazing. That was the first book that ever made me cry. I still remember that-- eight years old and Charlotte dies? What kind of bloody story is that? It opened my eyes to the very real sorrows of the world. Which of course, make the joys that much richer-- because of course, Wilbur does get saved by that love in the end. I mean, hello, the book begins with the line, "What's that ax for, Daddy?" Some pig!
KB: Very true. I feel that way about Where The Red Fern Grows too. Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror is the first book in a series. Can you tell us a bit about how many books are planned, and any interesting tidbits that wouldn't be spoilers?
Jennifer: We will keep this a state secret for now. I will note that Book 2, which comes out next summer, contains the song, "I Wish They All Could Be Zombie Mutants," which begins:
Oh the Sasquatch girls are hip, I love their fur all splotched with crud;
And the vampire girls with the way they bite, they knock me out when they suck my blood;
Egyptian pharaoh's daughters' really make you lose your head,
And the Chupakabra chicks on the coast of Peru, they bring their boys back from the dead!
i wish they all could be zombie mutants
i wish they all could be zombie mutants
i wish they all could be zombie mutant girls!
KB: Song noted! Thanks Jennifer.
Jennifer: Sure, looking forward to the 13th!