Welcome to the author interview page! Here you’ll find links to interviews with author Barry Lyga, as well as a complete interview conducted by FanboyandGothGirl.com.
Be sure to check out these interviews…
- Laura Ryan interviews Barry for the Syracuse Post-Standard.
- Author Laura Bowers interviews Barry in her weekly “Shop Talk” feature.
- Author Cynthia Leitich Smith interviews Barry about writing, Fanboy, and the publishing process.
- Newsarama.com — the premier comic book news site — posted an extensive interview with Barry that includes never-before-seen artwork from Schemata!
- The folks who run Brian Michael Bendis’s web sites interview Barry…
- Not Your Mother’s Book Club interviews Barry…
- From the Library discusses the book with Barry…
- Silver Bullet Comics conducts an audio interview at the Baltimore Comic-Con…
- Fanboy Radio talks to Barry about writing a novel…
And FanboyandGothGirl.com sits down with Barry to discuss writing, the book, and (of course) comic books:
There’s a lot of information about comic books in The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl. Did you make it all up? Did you have to do a lot of research?
I didn’t have to do any research at all! I’ve been reading comic books my whole life (although I read a lot fewer of them now than I used to) and I worked in the comic book industry for about ten years. All of the comic book stuff in the book came from my personal knowledge and experiences. In fact, there are some things in the book that I predicted before they happened! I wrote the book a couple of years ago and put in some things that I thought might happen in comics…and then they did!
When you were in high school, were you like Fanboy?
Yeah, there’s a lot of me in Fanboy. I was sort of a loner, kept to myself a lot. I wasn’t working on a graphic novel in high school, but I did write a novel. It was a really terrible one, too! Schemata is much better — if I could have written Schemata when I was in high school, my life would have been very different! I think Fanboy’s a little smarter than I was.
Did anyone ever beat you up in school?
Most of the fights I got into as a kid weren’t in school — they were with my step-brother. We used to beat each other up pretty regularly. In school, I got shoved a lot, but never really beaten up. I tried to fly below the radar when I could. Part of me was afraid of hurting someone if I ever got into a fight. Isn’t that crazy? I wasn’t worried about getting hurt so much as I was afraid of losing control and hurting someone else.
Why does Fanboy seem so mean and spiteful at times, but kind and timid at other times?
I think that’s part of growing up, in a way, but it’s also part of just being human. He’s a really smart guy in a situation that he has no control over. Sometimes he’s going to lash out and do nasty things or say really awful things to his mother, like he does throughout the book. But we all do that when we’re under pressure, when we’re feeling stressed — we all lash out like that. For Fanboy, he gets no relief, so he’s constantly under that pressure. At school he’s picked on and at home he’s surrounded by the step-fascist and a mother who’s too distracted to pick up on what’s bothering him. So he has a lot of anger and aggression to let out and sometimes it comes out in pretty harsh terms.
Such as the fantasies of terrorists invading his high school?
Exactly. Some people who’ve read the book really freaked out when they got to those parts because they thought I was advocating school violence. But you need to think when you read those passages — those fantasies are a way for Fanboy to deal with his hurt and his anger without actually harming anyone. And late in the book, he starts to take those fantasies a little too far and he realizes it and pulls back. There’s a huge difference between imagining something and doing something.
Did you ever know a girl like Kyra, a.k.a. Goth Girl?
I wish! Kyra doesn’t have a real-life “launching point.” The other major characters started as a real person in my head and then morphed into characters as I wrote. But Kyra I just created… No, that’s not even really accurate. I don’t feel like I created Kyra. It’s more like she walked up to me one day and demanded that I write her into the novel. Originally I was sort of trying to create a wish fulfillment character. You know, I wanted to create the kind of girl I wished I’d known in high school. But Kyra wouldn’t let me turn her into a wish fulfillment. She kept saying these really brutal, really honest things and I just couldn’t stop her. She was supposed to be this sort of side-presence in the book, this excuse for the narrator to say certain things, but she became very real. I sort of fell in love with her while I was writing her, and I’m pretty sure she’d laugh her ass off if she knew that.
Did you really used to look at girls’ panties?
You would have to ask me about that! I’m tempted to deny it, but I’m trying to be honest here… There was this girl in one of my English classes — I think it was junior year — who would wear these short skirts a couple times a week. And our classroom had this funky arrangement, so I think she thought no one could see, but she’d sit there with her legs spread just a little bit too much. It was crazy. I felt really bad about looking, actually, but I was fourteen or fifteen and when you’re that age, it’s like your programming won’t let you look away.
What were your favorite books when you were in high school?
I read a lot of comic books in high school, but high school is also when I discovered some really great writers. One of my favorites at that age was a guy named Joe Haldeman, who’s a magnificent sci-fi writer. His imagination just blows my mind. I re-read his short story anthology Dealing in Futures over and over again. I also loved Edgar Allen Poe. His writing was so dark and depressing and when you’re fourteen or fifteen, you read it and you think, “Yeah, that’s how life is.” I mean, this guy wrote an entire poem about breaking into his girlfriend’s coffin to cuddle up to her corpse and they made us read it! In school! It was so subversive. I loved it.
What were your favorite comic books when you were younger? And what are they now?
OK, I will fully own up to my geekdom here. When I was a kid, my absolute favorite comic book in the world was Legion of Super-Heroes. It was this unbelievable, amazing comic — it took place 1,000 years in the future, in the thirtieth century, and featured an army of teenaged super-heroes fighting evil all across the universe. You have to realize that as a kid I grew up on comic books. And they were always about one character or maybe six or seven. And then I discovered Legion and my God! There were thirty of them! And they all had families and enemies and supporting casts… And they had complete autonomy throughout the universe to fight crime and save the world(s). And they were just teenagers! It was tremendously attractive. It had all the trappings of great science fiction and great heroic fiction, wrapped up in a colorful package.
My other favorite comic book at that time was Swamp Thing, which was as different from Legion as you could get. It was a horror book, set in the swamps of Louisiana, but the central core of the book was about the environment and what it means to be human. A really marvelous series. It was intended for adults, but I was reading it when I was younger and I loved every last panel of it.
It’s tough to say what my favorite comic book is today. I used to read so many of them, but nowadays I’m pretty much down to reading Legion. It’s still around, though it’s very different from when I was a kid.
What is your writing day like?
Writing is hard work, but it’s also terrific fun. I have a blast. I wake up every morning at around 7:30 and write straight through to noon or so. I usually write about three thousand words in that time, which is something like ten or twelve typed, double-spaced pages. Then I eat lunch and, depending on my mood, either read or do research. If I’m really in the groove or obsessed with a particular scene, I go right back to the writing after lunch. I’ve done six or seven thousand words in a day before, but that’s exhausting, so I try not to do it too often.
What do you wish people understood about writers?
Good question, but I’m really not sure how to answer it. I guess most people tend to think that writing is easy, and that’s just not true. I wish people understood how hard it is.
What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?
First, take it seriously. Learn how to write. Don’t just figure that you can write because “everybody can write.” Yes, everybody can write, but not everybody can write well. Second, read everything you can get your hands on, even stuff that sucks. You’ll learn from all of it. From the stuff that sucks, you’ll learn what not to do. Last, keep writing. There’s a saying that every writer has a million bad words in him, and you have to write those million bad words before you can write anything worth reading. So keep writing.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got about writing?
I showed a writer friend a book once. He told me that it read like I’d been trying too hard, trying to make the chapters a specific length, trying to make the book a specific length, that sort of thing. He told me to forget about all of that and just tell the story: “Just do it ’til it’s done,” he said. And every time I sit down to write a book, that’s what I tell myself. “Just do it ’til it’s done.”
What’s your next book about?
My next book is titled Boy Toy and it takes place in Brookdale, at South Brook High, like the first one. Some of the characters from Astonishing Adventures show up, but it’s mostly a new crew — a guy, his friends, and his teacher…and a secret from five years ago.