How do you differentiate YA books from adult fiction?
I’m still trying to figure that out. You know, I’m doing some adult fiction, and based on what I’ve learned from my edits, it has more to do with tone than anything else. My problem is that people create a large distance between the two, which sometimes looks like a way to reduce writing for young people. Out of contempt for that, I tried really hard to fight the boundary but in the end, I realized that there was a difference. I’m just not sure it’s as drastic as when we tried to implement it. With a change of tone, “Salvage the Bones” could be a young adult novel. And that would make it different, sure, but not an inferior work.
What youth book would you recommend to people who don’t often read YA?
“Monster” by Walter Dean Myers, “Shout” by Laurie Halse Anderson, “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel, “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson, “Nothing” by Janne Teller, “Platero y” Yo” by Juan Ramón Jiménez and “Monday Doesn’t Come” by Tiffany D. Jackson. There is much, much more, but this is a start.
Has a book ever brought you close to another person, or come between you?
I will tell you, it was my late, dear friend, Brook Stephenson who introduced me to the short story. I used to lament how I didn’t understand them and therefore would never try them, and he suggested that I read Ann Petry’s “Solo on the Drums.” Maybe that’s the time. Maybe that’s the story. But it opened me up and showed me the possibilities of this form. It brought me closer to him. Hell, maybe it pulled me closer to myself.
What moves you most in a literary work?
Character and language. I wanted the screenwriters to create a main character that I wanted to eat with. And I want them to use the language that I want… to eat.
How do you organize your books?
I like this question. So I have one of those big bookshelves in my office with 10 separate shelves. And instead of organizing it from top to bottom, I alphabetize each shelf individually so when it’s time to add books, I don’t have to switch the entire system. Instead, I have 10 possible places where the book could go, and still in order. Of course, there are still 200 books on my office floor. But let’s not talk about that. The next question.
What books might people be surprised to find on your bookshelf?
The entire Captain Underpants series. But you will only be surprised if you don’t know me.
What is the best book you have ever received as a gift?
When my father passed away, I was given his devotional book, “Grace for the Moment” by Max Lucado. It’s not a book I’ve ever bought, and reading devotional books daily is really none of my business, but to have this entry with hundreds of tabs in it because he rereads it every year. is something very special. Sometimes I try to pick a page that he has bookmarked all just to see why he keeps coming back to that page. It made me feel like there was something he was trying to teach me. Still.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/books/review/jason-reynolds-by-the-book-interview.html How Jason Reynolds distinguishes YA books from adult fiction