Ned Vizzini is the New York Times bestselling author of young-adult books ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’, ‘The Other Normals’, ‘Be More Chill’, and ‘Teen Angst? Naaah..’.. In television, he has written for MTV’s Teen Wolf and currently writes for NBC’s Believe, forthcoming in March 2014 from J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón. His essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast, and the New Yorker. He is the coauthor with Chris Columbus of the fantasy-adventure series ‘House of Secrets’. His work has been translated into 25 languages. He lives in Los Angeles.
Henry: And yes, that would be the Chris Columbus who directed such movies as Mrs. Doubtfire, two Harry Potter movies, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and Home Alone.
For what age audience do you write?
I write for everyone! That’s an easy answer because you hope everyone — or anyone — will read your work. In terms of marketing terms, my books are young-adult books, which means they are for readers 13 and up. My recent project ‘House of Secrets’ is for younger readers, from ages seven to twelve, although I have photographic evidence that at least one six-year-old has read it. My work on Last Resort, the TV show, was adult-oriented, and Believe, the show I’m on now, is also for adults. (It will air on Sundays at 9pm.)
Tell us about your latest book.
‘House of Secrets’ is a fantasy adventure book in the tradition of ‘Redwall’ or the R. A. Salvatore books I loved as a kid. It’s about a trio of siblings — the Walkers — who move into a creepy house in San Francisco and learn that it used to be owned by an even creepier writer, Denver Kristoff. Kristoff is like an H. P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard; he wrote all these cult novels in the early 20th century that have been lost to time. When the Walkers anger the wrong person, they — and the house — get sent into a mixed-up world where all of Kristoff’s books come to life. So they have to fight to find their way home. Oh, and there’s a colossus who eats giant dragonflies.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope that readers will have a good time reading ‘House of Secrets’.
Henry: I have a copy in my to-be-read pile.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
The most challenging aspect of writing is finding the time to do it. This is difficult because the world is a treacherous and horrible place.
Henry: Particularly when there’s a colossus who eats giant dragonflies nearby.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
I’ve learned that you can’t let anyone do your selling for you. Even though there’s a big apparatus at HarperCollins supporting ‘House of Secrets’ and they have done a fantastic job, a lot of the press that I’ve received for it has simply come from me asking for help.
Henry: You’re welcome. 🙂
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I got a chance to speak at Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada for my book ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’. Fort McMurray is very far north — like Arctic Circle-north — and the only way to get there is through the desolate airport.
But then once you arrive, the town is part of the shale oil boom and everything is super expensive! They have a Keyano College, and bars, and hotels… it’s like the tiny alternate-universe Canadian version of Dubai.
Henry: Hmmm. That gives me an idea for a sci-fi book plot…
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Start small. Don’t try to write a novel off the bat. Write a short story so you can feel accomplished before you tackle bigger things.
Henry: Note to self: write a board book. Maybe a horror board book – The Very Hungry Cthulhu.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“The majority is always wrong; the minority is rarely right.” – Henrik Ibsen
“No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” – Lily Tomlin
“I’m not well-read, but when I read, I read well.” – Kurt Cobain
Henry: I wonder if Dox Equis ad writers were inspired by Kurt Cobain…
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I don’t believe in writing rituals; I think they hold you back.
Henry: Note to self: stop wasting time on Cthulhu-worship rituals. BTW, my spellchecker recognizes Cthulhu as a word. Now THAT’S how you know you’ve arrived.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The power to stop time! For obvious reasons. At least I hope they’re obvious. Anybody who doesn’t want to stop time must be bored.
Henry: Stopping time is the most popular answer I’ve received from authors.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
George Orwell, Michael Crichton, and Amy Sohn, because all of their writing made a big impression on me when I was a kid, and I’d like to see them bounce ideas off of each other.
Henry: Perhaps Crichton would develop a TV show about cloned farm animals…
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Can’t go wrong with dragons!
Henry: Ah, a traditionalist. But which flavor of dragon: LeGuin’s, McCaffrey’s, Tolkien’s, or Martin’s?
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Go to the post office.
Henry: To mail manuscripts or receive royalty checks. Well played, sir.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“Loving husband and father.”
Henry: Nice. My sense of self-preservation would have me add grandfather and great grandfather.
Where can readers find your work?
You can find ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ face-out at Barnes & Noble since it has “tipped” and become popular. My other work can be harder to find; you might have to ask for it. ‘House of Secrets’ is heavily discounted on Amazon. Your local independent bookstore should have my stuff in the young adult and children’s sections. The many articles I’ve written are here. Enjoy!
Henry: Usually when I’ve “tipped”, I’m face down. Ned will also be signing books at the Smart Pop Books booth (#4300) at the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday, July 20 at 11 am.
This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.