I listened and spoke with author M.T. Anderson at the Plaza Library this past Monday night. Tobin, as he was introduced to me, spoke about how he gathers ideas for his books as well as his writing process. Highly interesting.
Tobin first talked about Burger Wuss (I have yet to read it, but I really, really want to.). He explained that many of the ideas came from his experiences while working at McDonald's during his teen years. It seems that his work group had some down-time to test out the emergency fire equipment in the restaurant.
Then Tobin read a chapter of Feed. I love this book. Definitely one of my favorites. Tobin captures the essence of teenagers, no matter that this novel is set in the future. I especially enjoyed the romance between Titus and Violet. And I don't like romantic things. But this book is more than that. I suggest Rash by Pete Hautman if you're looking for something similarly teenage-futuristic.
Before Tobin took questions, he spoke a little about his newest novel--The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. I had just finished reading this in anticipation of his visit. Many people I spoke with gave mixed reviews. I admit that I was not very interested in the storyline. After listening to Tobin explain how it took him six years to write this book, I was impressed. I felt how passionate he was about the subject, spending enormous amounts of time on research. I appreciated his sentiment that he could have written this novel for adults, taking far more money on an advance, but he chose to keep Octavian Nothing a young adult novel because he doesn't like how the novels written for teens are "dumbed-down".
The highlights of the evening came before and after Tobin spoke. On my way into the library with a colleague, we struggled with opening the doors. Finally, A figured out that we should push instead of pull. A couple of people were chuckling as they walked in behind us. A recognized one of them, introducing me to her and...Tobin! How embarrassing?! I recovered, but was star-struck, exclaiming, "I shook his hand!" Yes, I'm a dork.
Tobin autographed books after his talk. A asked him for his birth date, wanting to know his sign. He is a Scorpio which prompted me to ask about his musical skills. I explained how my husband is a Scorpio. They are known music-lovers. Does he write while listening to music? Tobin says that he does enjoy music, but he can't write while he listens because, although he thinks he's produced great work, when he goes back to review it, the text is not nearly as good as he originally thought.
Fascinating man. Fascinating artist. I look forward to exploring more of his writing.