Exclusive Author One-on-One: Kelly Milner Halls and Chris Crutcher
Kelly Milner Halls is the author of nonfiction books and articles for young readers on a variety of quirky topics, including In Search of Sasquatch. Chris Crutcher is the award-winning author of several young adult novels, including Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and Whale Talk. They recently had a conversation about collaborating on a pair of linked stories for Kelly Milner Halls' Girl Meets Boy, a he-said/she-said anthology of collaborative short stories.
Kelly Milner Halls on Girl Meets Boy: Creating Girl Meets Boy, a he-said, she-said anthology for Chronicle books was a new challenge for me because I am best known for creating high interest nonfiction. But picking the writers I wanted for my YA project was a no brainer. I wanted the writers about whom I’d written and I wanted the best. My friend Chris Crutcher is the best of the best, and he was my partner in our interactive story pairing. So I caught up with him to ask a few questions about writing for Girl Meets Boy, as well as a few questions about his upcoming Fall 2012 release, Period 8.
Kelly Milner Halls: How did you feel about contributing to Girl Meets Boy --the concept of two authors exploring the same plot points from two different points of view?
Chris Crutcher: It's a very interesting idea, and novel. Perspective is always an author's friend, and the idea that perspective alone can create two different stories from one point of view is intriguing.
Milner Halls: You created the lead story for the pair of stories we wrote together. Were John Smith and Wanda Wickham characters you created just for Girl Meets Boy or were they rooted in other creative projects?
Crutcher: They were created for Girl Meets Boy. I'm sure I've used pieces of their personalties elsewhere, but they were specific to this anthology.
Milner Halls: Have you ever considered writing a book from alternating points of view as Joyce Carol Oates did in Big Mouth & Ugly Girl?
Crutcher: I haven't read that particular book. Angry Management contains a novella that tells the story from three different perspectives. It's not all that hard to do.
Milner Halls: Girl Meets Boy is often controversial in the topics it examines including sexual abuse, homosexuality, transgenderism and inter-racial relationships. Is there emotional value in fictionalizing realistic life issues?
Crutcher: I'm sure there is, but the emotional value of any story comes from the reader.
Milner Halls: Which is more difficult, writing a full-length novel or writing a short story for an anthology like Girl Meets Boy?
Crutcher: It's probably a toss-up. Short story is easier from a plot point of view because usually it's about a single thing and there's not room for great complexity like there is in a novel. But short story requires word economy and straightforwardness to a degree that a novel might not. Writing Short Story is a great way to train for writing longer material.
Milner Halls: What can you tell us about your new novel, Period 8?
Crutcher: I can tell you to read it.
Milner Halls: Period 8 is highly suspenseful, in the tradition of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. Was it fun to write such a gripping page turner?
Crutcher: It's more in the tradition of The Deep End. Writing is seldom "fun" for me. It's interesting and intriguing and challenging. When I write taut suspense I rely a lot on good editing. My editor at HarperCollins (Greenwillow) is excellent at knowing when I drift, and she's quick to let me know.
Milner Halls: Your friend Charlie Price is now a critically acclaimed, Edgar Award winning mystery writer. Did he have any influence on the development of Period 8?
Crutcher: Only in that he read an early on and we talked about the structure of mystery and suspense. Charlie is a master of structure.
Milner Halls: It's premature to ask, especially considering Period 8 is a Fall 2012 release, but are you working on anything else?
Crutcher: I'm working on my next novel (though it's on hold until I put the finishing touches on Period 8).
Milner Halls: Is it possible you'll contribute to another anthology for me in the future?
Crutcher: I'm not big on writing for anthologies, partly because I have a harder time writing when someone else comes up with the focus of the stories, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out if you comes up with another great idea. A lot of my willingness to write for anthologies comes from timing. If I'm working on something and I'm behind, which I almost always am, there is little chance. But if I do have time and the subject is interesting to me, I can be talked into it.