Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Finding Chris Rylander in The 4th Stall

When you're always on the lookout for cool new middle grade books you often find yourself digging through the sites of your favorite publishers for new gems. One publisher that has really caught my eye lately is Walden Pond Press (an imprint of Harper Collins). The books and talent coming out of the same place that brought us Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce is also launching a debut book today by debut author Chris Rylander. Chris's book THE 4TH STALL is a send up to one of the greatest mob movies of all time, The Godfather. I know what you are thinking right now - that sounds amazing! Of course it is. But don't let me convince you. Let's talk to the man behind the stall door and see what he has to say.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to writing for children?

Chris Rylander: Well, I could tell you a lot about myself, such as my collection of broken Mickey Mouse watches, or my penchant for eating frosting with a spoon, but to save time, I’ll keep it writing related. I’ve always been a reader. But writing was something I always thought I’d try when I was older, like in my 50’s. But then one day I just decided, why wait? The agent who eventually signed me actually brought me into the children’s literature world. I queried him with an adult novel, and he suggested I give writing for children a try. And I did, and I loved it.

I'm glad I'm not the only one collecting broken watches. Your debut novel sounds hilarious, can you tell us about it?

CR: Sure, it’s about a sixth-grade kid who runs a business in the fourth stall of an unused bathroom in his school. Test answers, help with bullies, etc. You name it, he’s your guy. Then a rival high school dropout moves into his territory and a turf-war of sorts ensues. Also throw in a mystery, the torture of being a Chicago Cubs fan, his best friend’s crazy and quotable grandma, and the school’s nine most dangerous bullies and you’ve got THE FOURTH STALL.

What made you choose the 4th Stall as your first book to write? (what inspired it)

CR: THE FOURTH STALL was inspired mainly by the simple idea that I just thought it might be kind of cool and fun to put a kid-friendly spin on organized crime, and that it had a lot of potential for action and humor.

Can you talk to us about what you have learned as an author about the process of what happens once you get the offer of publication?

CR: Well, I did a ton of research as I went along, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going in. One thing, though, that you really learn to do well is to let go of things you can’t control. You quickly learn to stop worrying about things which you have no power over – otherwise, you’d drive yourself crazy.

Can you talk to me about your writing habits (what your routine is), and if you have any rituals when writing (like keeping a rubber chicken in the 3rd drawer of the desk)?

CR: My routine is that I don’t have one. I am a very sporadic writer. I might write 80% of a whole novel in three weeks, and then not write anything at all for the next five months. Then, suddenly, I’ll start another novel. I know this probably sounds unfocused and chaotic, and it is. But I never want to force myself to write. Because when I do that, I’m never happy with the results. So, if I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. If I do, then I do. The one really consistent thing is that when I do write, it’s almost always during my lunch breaks at my day job. THE FOURTH STALL was written entirely on lunch breaks. 

What do you love about writing? What do you hate about it?

CR: I love the freedom to do whatever I want with characters I created. There’s something so fun about that. Plus, it’s a venue in which I can be as strange as I want to be and it’s usually acceptable. I don’t really hate anything about writing. Though, if I had to pick something, I’d say it’s that I know I’ll never have the time to write all of the stories I want to and that’s kind of heartbreaking to me.

One of my favorite questions to ask writer/authors - If you were stranding on an island with only on book to read, what would it be and why?

CR: Ooh, good question. I want to say A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, since that’s my favorite novel of all-time. However, because of the variety of stories and characters you get with it, I’d have to go with Flannery O’Connor’s THE COMPLETE STORIES.

Here's Chris answering some questions about things he would need if stranded and more information about the book. 

Chris it has been a real pleasure having you here at the Asylum and I am so excited for what comes next (maybe a 5th Stall? Hmmmm). The book hits shelves today so go get it or I might have some people who know some people help you go get it. Get it? Good.To learn more about Chris you can check him out here: http://www.chrisrylander.com/ and if you are on Twitter be sure to follow him @chris_rylander

1 comment:

  1. Great post and interesting interview:)I'll look for these books:)