Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Matt de la Peña: SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview

The SCBWI summer conference is just days away. People are on planes, packing bags, and anticipating the event of the year. This year's conference is sold out, but you can still be there with us, just follow the live conference blog and tweets. We would love to have you join us.

Just before he flew out to California, I had the pleasure of asking Matt de la Peña a few questions. 

Matt de la Peña is the author of four critically-acclaimed YA novels—Ball Don't Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and I Will Save You—and the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. This year his fifth YA novel, The Living, will be released as will his fist middle grade novel, Curse of the Ancients. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific.  He teaches creative writing at NYU and Vermont College and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country. 

I know you just met an intense deadline. Can you give us a little taste of what's coming soon from you?

My newest YA novel, THE LIVING, comes out in November. And I just finished the sequel to THE LIVING a couple days ago (tentatively titled THE FORGOTTEN). In this two-book series, my main character, Shy, lands a summer job on a cruise ship, and while he's out at sea the "big one" slams California (a massive earthquake). THE LIVING is part adventure story, part romance, with a little bit of class and race exploration thrown into the mix. I also have a picture book coming out next year called LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET (illustrated by the talented Christian Robinson).

Once you've turned in a manuscript, do you usually have another in the works or will you start the brainstorming and drafting now?
I have a file on my computer labeled "future novel ideas." Whenever I'm writing a book under contract, and I find myself beginning to fall under the spell of the "slutty new idea," I take a few rough notes about the idea, file it away, and get back to the story I'm supposed to be writing. As soon as I'm finished with a project my reward is that I get to open the "future novel ideas" file and sift through the descriptions, looking for my next journey. I love trying to figure out what to do next. Each story has so much possibility. (Some of them are dumb, of course). And luckily my memory isn't the best, so I never remember how incredibly long and arduous the process of writing a book is. This allows me to start with the same naive smile I've started every book with.  

You'll be presenting an Intensive on dialogue during the conference. Is there a common mistake you see writers make when it comes to writing dialogue?
I get bummed when I read dialogue that's too cute or too "on the nose." And I throw the book out the window when I come across exposition that's masquerading as dialogue. On the flip side, nothing makes me happier than reading a well-crafted scene with artful and organic dialogue that still manages to stay on point.

Speed Round:

Favorite part of the writing process?
I love revision so much!

Least favorite part of the writing process?
First draft. (This is where drugs and alcohol come into play. Not really. But something like that. Because the whole "white page" thing really hurts.)

Favorite writing snack?
Iced lattes.

Favorite place to write?
The Brooklyn Writers Space, where I've written my last six books.

How do you celebrate when you get to "the end"?
An old fashioned or two at my favorite bar in Brooklyn. Three if the book was especially hard to write. 

Follow Matt on Twitter: @mattdelapena
Follow SCBWI on Twitter: @scbwi
Official conference hashtag: #LA13SCBWI


Anonymous said...

Jolie where can readers find your books? I love your blog and want more!

Unknown said...

Thanks Jolie. I especially liked to hear how he deals with getting new ideas when trying to meet a deadline. Janettka

Unknown said...
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