Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fan Boy seeks Archvillain in Barry Lyga

There are days when you are positive that they are going to revoke your geek card. I didn't make it to opening night of Iron Man 2, and as of this writing I still have not been to see it. Gasp! I have turned off the lights so when they come knocking, I can pretend I'm not home.

But, alas, my geek status has returned and may have been bumped up a few notches. I might even get a key to the city. Okay, lets not get too ahead of ourselves (not yet anyway). Why all this geek talk, you ask? Listen up my fellow nerd herd, I've had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Barry Lyga about writing and his upcoming, facemelting book ARCHVILLAIN (Scholastic Press, Oct 2010). Yes, I have laid eyes upon the book and I even have a signed copy to give away (starting on Friday). You can now, kiss the ring. I know, I know, just get on with it, Bub!

Can you talk to me about the transition of writing comics into books? What do most writers not know about the comic writing process?

Barry Lyga: Well, for me the transition has really been in the other direction -- going from books TO comics. I did write some comics years and years ago before my first novel was published, but I had always been a prose writer dabbling in comics. Nowadays, I'm working on my first graphic novel, which is a whole different way of writing. When you write a novel, you're trying to show the reader the story, and the reader is your only audience. When you write a comic, you have to TELL the story in such a way that the artist can communicate it to the reader for you. Basically, the artist is your first audience and then the artist has the responsibility of conveying your story. It's a whole different mind-set.

I'm big on getting reluctant readers started on reading. You have a non-fiction book that discusses this topic. Can you give a few pointers from the book on how we can get more boys to read?

BL: Actually, that non-fiction book was about using comic books in schools. The reluctant reader angle was just one of many we tackled. I never think in terms of, "How will I get someone to read this book?" I think the author's responsibility is to tell a story that people will enjoy. To me, the worst thing you can do is shove a book in some kid's face and force him to read it. Research has borne out that kids read when they're in a reading environment. So, if we want kids to read, the best thing is for them to have parents and siblings and friends who read.

Well said. Okay people, put down that TV remote and start reading! Kids you have no idea what you are missing.

Superhero and Villain stories seem to be huge these days (they always have been for us comic nerds) but can you tell me what inspired your soon to be released novel ARCHVILLAIN?

BL: Well, it's sort of a strange combination of things. The publisher actually approached me with the basic idea. They said, "Wouldn't it be cool to do a story about a kid who's a villain, not a hero?" And I mulled it over for a long, long time -- years, actually! I kept saying that I wasn't interested, that I wasn't the right guy to do the book, and they kept asking. And then one day, it occurred to me: If the kid was really, REALLY smart and sarcastic and sort of self-absorbed... It would work. He could be a villain, but he would never in a million years think of himself as a villain. Once that clicked for me, I realized how I could approach this idea, and the rest is (or will be) history.

I'm sure there are many people like myself chomping at the bit to read this book. Can you tell me a little bit about the story?

BL: ARCHVILLAIN is the story of Kyle Camden, a really smart 12-year-old who is the most popular kid in town. One day, Kyle gets exposed to some alien radiation and becomes even smarter...and he gets super-powers, too! Now he has a choice: He can fight crime and help little old ladies across the street...OR he can use his powers to play pranks on people and try to kill the local super-hero (who has now become more popular than Kyle -- how dare he???). From the title of the book, you can guess which way Kyle leans. :)

If I was a young girl and I was hesitant about reading superhero books, what could you tell me to get me to read them?

BL: I have to be honest: If you were a young girl and you were hesitant about superheroes, I wouldn't force them on you. Kids become good readers when they enjoy what they read. There are so many different kinds of books out there that there's no reason for anyone to be persuaded into reading something they're not inclined to enjoy.

You talk in great detail about the writing process on your blog (which is great for writers to read). What about the process of juggling several projects at once? How does that work for you and how do you keep it all straight?

BL: For me, the key to juggling multiple projects at once is to be sure that they're all in different stages. If I were starting four books at once or revising four books at once, I'd be in a straitjacket by now! So I always have each project at a different stage: Revising one while researching another, starting on a third, and maybe wrapping up a fourth. That way, each project feels fresh and I don't get burned out. It's working so far -- we'll see how the rest of the year goes!

If you could write a storyline for any comic book character who would it be and why?

BL: I would love to get my hands on either Superman or Wonder Woman for a nice arc -- figure six issues or maybe a chunky graphic novel. I have ideas for really great stories for each of those characters and I would love to tell them.

I also really like Captain Universe, a somewhat obscure Marvel character. I could do some cool stuff with that one, I think.

In your opinion, who is the nastiest villain of them all?

BL: If by "nasty" you mean "harmful," it's probably someone like Darkseid or maybe the original Lex Luthor. If by "nasty" you mean "disgusting and vile," it's probably someone like Anton Arcane.

Well, I'm pretty sure you blanketed all kinds of the nasty with those choices. Who needs a shower? The good thing for you is that there are so many great books by Barry that you will have plenty of reading material to keep you busy for awhile. I know I will be cracking open my Wolverine: WDE book again!

To learn more about Barry and his world, check out his website and numerous insightful blog posts here.

Stop back by the Asylum on Friday (6/18/10) to find out how you can score the Autographed ARC of ARCHVILLAIN (Scholastic Press, Oct 2010)

Until then, keep practicing your plans for world domination and your dark throaty laugh.


  1. Freakin awesome interview as always. You do em up right, D.M.

    Barry-you seem like a man of my kind. I very much look forward to reading Archvillain. (Us girls always love the bad boys anyway, right? Who wants to read a book about the good guy?)

  2. I'm a girl and I love reading superhero books! This one sounds awesome! Great interview :)

  3. Great interview. I read comics as a teenager, and I do miss them.

    I should pick up a graphic novel one of these days.

  4. Wonderful interview, Barry (and Matt)!!!