Highly Illogical Behavior: Q & A with John Corey Whaley
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The following post by Food, Fitness & Fiction Contributing Editor Josh Flores was written in collaboration with Germ Magazine.
Over the course of my recent YALLWEST 2016 adventure, I was able to meet so many wonderful authors and readers—by far my favorite part of the event. From getting to personally meet David Levithan to getting a backstage pass to the event, YALLWEST was one of the best experiences I have had as a writer, journalist, and book lover.
One highlight of the event was chatting with the hilarious and passionate young adult author, John Corey Whaley. We talked about all things books, especially Harry Potter and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Read on to learn more about Whaley and his writing style and motivations, and what inspired him to write his latest novel Highly Illogical Behavior.
JF: What books and authors influenced you the most while writing your latest novel, Highly Illogical Behavior?
JCW: I was a big fan of Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower as a kid; anything coming of age or about the struggle of growing up. I wouldn’t say they directly influenced my style of writing, so much as what pushed me into writing about teenagers and about that coming of age time of life.
JF: What inspired you to write a story with a main character suffering from agoraphobia?
JCW: I suffer from pretty bad anxiety. Around the time that I was touring with Noggin, my second book, I had this really bad anxiety episode. I needed a way to figure out more about myself; I do that a lot through my characters and through my books. The world makes more sense when I can write about it. I was never agoraphobic, but my experience with anxiety has in the past kept me from being as social as I wanted to be and has definitely kept me at home several days in a row; you isolate yourself as a defense mechanism and to keep yourself sane. Because I am concerned with telling universal stories, sometimes you have to go to an extreme, so that you can get the universal under that extreme.
JF: How did you choose the names of your characters in Highly Illogical Behavior?
JCW: Solomon was almost a joke, because he’s solo, solitary. Then I thought I could put a Han Solo joke in there. Lisa and Clark are just kind of there. I will say Clark is loosely inspired by my boyfriend Scott, who grew up in upland where the book takes place. A little bit of Clark is inspired by him.
JF: How was your writing experience for Highly Illogical Behavior compared to that of your two previous books Noggin and Where Things Come Back?
JCW: Every book is different. It’s sort of like a new existential crisis every time I start a new book. I think it was different in the sense that I was going through something medically and physically debilitating in my life and I was staying home because of my panic attacks. I was writing about it and it inspired me.
JF: What advice do you have for people who want to become authors later on in life?
JCW: Be patient—with yourself first, and with the process second. Every time I write a new book, it’s a bit different. Slower, sometimes, than before, and sometimes faster. Just remember there’s no one right way to tell a story—that’s why we’re all trying to tell our versions of them.
JF: If you could choose one YA world to live in, what would it be?
JCW: This is strange, maybe, but the world in Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Just for a day, maybe, to see what dystopia is really like—and to see what parts of a “utopia” actually work.
JF: What has been the best moment in your career and why?
JCW: Probably winning the Printz Award and the Morris Award in 2012—my first book and I were flying pretty low under the radar until then and winning those awards changed the trajectory of my career overnight almost. But—if I’m being really honest—the best moments are still happening every time I get to meet one of my readers.
To read a previous Food, Fitness & Fiction interview with John Corey Whaley, click here. And to learn more about Whaley and his terrific work, visit his website here. You can also read the first two chapters of Highly Illogical Behavior here.
Joshua Flores, a junior from Tustin, California is currently an editor for the Beckman Chronicle and enjoys both reading and writing. He spends most of his free time writing, and coming up with weird characters for the novel he is working on. You can follow him on Instagram at @booklover41899.
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