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Fiction Friday: Interview with John Corey Whaley

I recently wrote about my experience at YALLWEST in Santa Monica, California (you can read a recap of day one here). Although I fangirled (is that a verb?) with some of my favorite authors including Jennifer Niven and Stephanie Perkins, I also had the opportunity to meet and get to know authors with whom I was less familiar. One of them was John “Corey” Whaley (pictured below with yours truly).



Whaley was awesome—kind, cool, and so down to earth. We chatted about writing and life, and I later bought his latest book, Noggin, on site. He was gracious enough to sign it when I ran into him later that day. I also ordered his previous, award-winning title, Where Things Come Back – it’s on my to be read list (and on my night stand), and I can’t wait to dive in!

On the plane ride (and taxi ride) home from YALLWEST, I read Noggin cover to cover. It was a creative, funny and a very enjoyable read.

Noggin is about a boy named Travis whose (wait for it) head is chopped off and frozen. When he wakes up five years later, he learns his head has been reattached to another boy’s body (incidentally, a very tall and muscular one). Although he feels that little time had passed, he realizes that everything and everyone in his life has changed—that a lot can happen in five years. Could you even imagine?

I enjoyed so many parts of the book. But as a mother of two sons, aged 17 and 13, I especially loved the banter between Travis and his mother. I could totally relate! I won’t spoil the book for you, but I will say that Noggin will be coming to a theater near you. So stay tuned!

Whaley was kind enough to grant an interview. Although I loved all of his responses, I especially liked the advice he offered to aspiring novelists. He said,

“It’s very easy to pressure yourself into being what other writers are—whether that’s more efficient or more of a public personality, etc. You should just find what makes you most comfortable. [Novel writing] is about the love of storytelling, first and foremost, so be patient with learning your process and realize that all writers are different—which is what makes going into a library or book store so great.”

I agree! Above all else, novel writing is about telling a story. If you learn how to do that, the rest is icing on the cake.

Here are the highlights of my email interview with Whaley.

EZ: When did you decide/realize you were a writer?

JCW: I must have been 11- or 12-years-old when I first realized that I wanted to tell stories. I started writing a lot more when I got to high school and college.

EZ: Did you always want to be a writer or did you consider another profession?

JCW: I actually went to college to study journalism. I wanted to be a White House Correspondent on CNN…then I changed my major to English Literature after one semester because I hated journalism so much.

EZ: How did you come up with the premise of Noggin? And when did you write it? (Didn’t you write it in your early 20s, only to come back to it several years later)?

JCW: Noggin was an idea that was inspired by a combination of wanting to do something very different (to challenge myself to write something with an absurd premise and make it emotionally grounded) and my love of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

EZ: When did you learn that Noggin was going to be turned into a film? How did that make you feel, and how excited are you to see it come to life on the big screen? Are you at all involved (or would you want to be) in the making of the movie?

JCW: I was part of the option talks, so I was involved from the beginning along with my film and book agents, respectively. I was so thrilled—as a movie lover and as a writer. I’m excited to see the story in a new medium and although I’m not writing the screenplay, I’m looking forward to another writer’s interpretation. I think it’ll be great.

EZ: What are you currently working on?

JCW: I’m finishing up a book that deals with mental illness—mostly anxiety. But that’s all I’ll say. I’m super secretive about things I’m still working on. Ha ha!

EZ: Where do you see yourself professionally in five years? In 10 years?

JCW: I hope to still be writing books and to maybe have a few film or TV projects under my belt. For now, though, I’m loving life as a full-time author and I’m not sure I could ever easily give it up

Here are Whaley’s responses to a few more fun questions:

Favorite color: Green. Always.

Favorite book(s) and/or authors: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.

The last movie you saw and loved: Welcome to Me

What you’d do for a living if you didn’t write: Wither away and die.

Favorite place/way to write: I like a coffee shop or a nice quiet house to myself. Hardest part about writing: Staring at a computer screen for too long.

Anything else you want to share about yourself with readers: I am a very lucky dude, every single day, because I get to have this cool job. So, thank you.

John Corey Whaley is an author of Young Adult Fiction from Louisiana. His debut novel, Where Things Come Back, was awarded the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Awards by the American Library Association. His second novel, Noggin, was a 2014 finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Whaley currently lives in Orange County, California. You can learn more about him at and follow him on Twitter: @Corey_Whaley.

Have you read any of Whaley’s books? Thoughts?

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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books and is currently working on her first novel. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

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