Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Five Questions for Chris Barton

"It all started with a magic act and an accident at the ketchup factory..."

How can a reader walk away from a great teaser like that?

Here's the lowdown from Charlesbridge:
"Joe and Bob Switzer were very different brothers. Bob was a studious planner who wanted to grow up to be a doctor. Joe dreamed of making his fortune in show business and loved magic tricks and problem-solving. When an accident left Bob recovering in a darkened basement, the brothers began experimenting with ultraviolet light and fluorescent paints. Together they invented a whole new kind of color, one that glows with an extra-special intensity Day-Glo."

Now that sounds like a great book for young readers.

And the writer is definitely on a roll. Chris Barton's debut picture book, THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS, has just been released from Charlesbridge, his second book, the awesomely titled SHARK VS. TRAIN, is slated for a 2010 release from Little, Brown, and he is currently hard at work on a YA non-fiction project for Dial. That's almost more than I can cram into one sentence.

Thankfully, Chris slowed down long enough for five questions:

1) What book had the most influence on you as a young reader? Was there a title that inspired you, that lingers as a defining book in your life?

There wasn't a particular book, actually, but there was a magazine: Rolling Stone. By that time, it had moved from breaking the story of Patty Hearst's kidnapping to putting out things like "The Hot Issue," but it still opened up a cultural window in my pre-Web teenage small-town East Texas life. I liked the subjects it covered, and I loved the story of how the magazine had come into being through scrappiness and determination and good timing. As I got older, I became less directly inspired by it -- I no longer wanted to be a rock critic, and I no longer wanted to be the editor of Rolling Stone -- but I think it did give me a sense of what professional satisfaction and fulfillment through the written word should feel like, and when I stumbled into children's writing, I recognized that sensation immediately.

2) Your debut THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS has just been released and you have several other projects in the pipeline. What was the most unexpected discovery that you made on your road to publication, the thing that surprised you the most?

The entire world of writing and publishing books for children was an unexpected discovery. It was like lifting a big flat rock and finding this thriving, fascinating ecosystem that had been nearby all along but hidden from view. I was most surprised by the sense of community, the mere existence of an organization like SCBWI, and the lengths that children's writers and illustrators will go to in order to help and support each other.

3) You seem to do a lot of research for your books, doesn’t that drive you nuts?

I love doing research. What drives me nuts is having to stop researching and go with whatever information I've managed to accumulate. Because if I'd been able to keep going, who knows what cool fact I might have found next?

4) When I lived in New Orleans, I noticed that everyone leaving New Orleans was either going to New York City or Austin. Why Austin?

The second-most-influential publication on the teenage me was The Daily Texan, the student newspaper at the University of Texas. I happened to be in Austin each spring when the graduating seniors would publish their farewell columns, and those made the basement where the Texan staff worked seem like nirvana. So, I came to Austin to attend UT and write for the Texan, and I've been here mostly ever since. I did live in New York for a little while (interning for Rolling Stone), and in Houston and Atlanta, and my wife and I had the good sense to honeymoon in New Orleans in December when the French Quarter was pretty much empty and there was no one to get between us and the food.

5) If a picture book, a middle grade reader, and a YA novel got into a knife fight, which would emerge victorious?

The knife maker -- the weapons manufacturer always comes out ahead.

Very clever answer. I was hoping for a gory and detailed fight scene, but you've thwarted me! (Shakes fist).

Check out Chris's website and blog and join him at Facebook for all the latest news.

THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors is illustrated by Tony Persiani, written by Chris Barton, and available online or at your local bookseller.


Chris Barton said...

Thanks for having me here, Lewis!

Anonymous said...

Wow, two of my favorite men together in one place! Nirvana! I especially love the knife fight question and answer. Thanks, guys!--Erin

SH said...

Interesting interview. The knife fight question takes the cake!

Anonymous said...

Sibling rivalry...goes to show you that, sometimes, good things can come out of it. Lisa.