Author Interview: David Lubar on True Talents

David Lubar on David Lubar: “I write novels and short stories for anyone with a sense of humor or a sense of wonder. My hobbies include procrastination, complaining, and voting for myself on teen-choice book lists.”

You last spoke to Cynsations in 2005 about your YA novel, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie (Dutton, 2005). Could you fill us in on your writing life since that time?

I’ve spent the last two years working ceaselessly on developing a neuro-linguist method for responding to interview question with answers that will be so captivating and charming that they will inspire everyone who reads them to immediately buy multiple copies of all my books. (Psssst. Hey you. You need True Talents (Starscape, 2007).) Where was I? Oh, yeah… Beyond that, my writing life involves far more writing than it did when last we spoke. Back then, I was on the road way too much. I’ve stopped doing school visits for a while. I now have much more time to write, and a deeper appreciation of the finer aspects of poverty.

Congratulations on the publication of True Talents (Starscape, 2007)! It’s a sequel to Hidden Talents (Tor, 1999)(Starscape, 2007), so let’s start there! Could you tell us about Hidden Talents, and why you wanted to continue the story?

Hidden Talents, at its heart, is about the way that society is so quick to cast off kids and to slap labels on them. With Edgeview Alternative School, I created a place where the kids, the teachers, and even the building itself is a cast off. But these kids have been badly mislabled. And that’s where the magic shows up. The kids aren’t behavior problems. Instead, they have these amazing, unrecognized gifts.

I honestly didn’t have any plans to continue the story. But there was a demand for a sequel, both from readers, and from my publisher. Kids wanted to know what happened next. My publisher wanted to build on the momentum and success of the first book.

For True Talents, what was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The spark didn’t happen until somewhere near the middle of the timeline. I started writing the book in July, 2003, and finished the first draft that October. It took up with the same narrator, Martin Anderson, as he was about to start high school. I kept working on it through October of 2004. I normally don’t take that long with a book, but two things were working against me. I was traveling constantly, and I didn’t like the way the book turned out. Meanwhile, my editor left Tor.

After talking with my new editor, I decided to start from scratch. I put aside the book I’d written, and began a new one focusing on a different character–Eddie “Trash” Thalmayer. The spark came when I thought about someone waking up from a drugged stupor in a research lab. When the first book ended, the guys still had a secret they were trying to keep from the world. Now, the secret was out. I had a first draft three months later. But it still didn’t go into copy editing until last July.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

The biggest challenge was psychological. Hidden Talents is still growing in popularity. There was no way I was going to sully it with a crappy sequel. I think that’s why I dragged my feet for so long.

As for literary challenges, I wanted immediacy, but I also wanted to show what had happened to all of the guys from the first book. I decided to combine a first-person narrative from the main character with third-person sections from the other characters. I’ve always loved the whole “Roshomon” aspect of showing a story through more than one set of eyes. Since the book switches viewpoints so much, I put a lot of time into arranging these sections in a way I hoped wouldn’t feel awkward to the reader.

I also took a big risk with the opening. Eddie is emerging from a drugged stupor. He’s hallucinating, and his mind is wandering. The scene doesn’t immediately make sense. That’s a big risk, and I’m still worried I’ll lose a few potential readers, but it seems to have worked out. Besides, how can you resist a book that opens with: “The gorilla who clung to the ceiling was wearing a Princeton T-shirt”?

How long have you been writing with an eye toward publication?

I was collecting rejection slips back when I was in high school. I got serious about publication when I got out of college 1976. I made my first fiction sale in 1978. So I’m far closer to my expiration date than many of the current novelists.

What do you love about the writing process and why?

I love writing dialogue, especially when my characters’ personalities begin to emerge. I’ll have this kid who’s little more than a lump of clay, and he’ll say something that suddenly defines a part of him. Often, my supporting characters will take over. I’m really fond of Ellis from Flip (Starscape, 2004), and Malcolm from Dunk (Clarion, 2002)(excerpt). I’m really bad with tools, and less than marginal with a drawing pencil, so I find it extremely rewarding that I can build things out of words.

What about do you wish you could skip and why?

I’d love to skip the delay that happens before I get feedback. I wish people could take in a novel like a painting and respond immediately.

How about publishing? What do you love about it? What do you abhor? And again, in both cases, why?

I love they way I’m treated. Tor, especially, makes me feel like I stumbled into someone else’s dream. They take me places, promote my books, and just treat me wonderfully. I love going out to dinner with my publisher because she has incredibly good taste in wine. And I love hearing from people who felt my books made a difference, because I didn’t set out to change the world. I set out to entertain people. It’s nice to know that my work has positive side effects.

As for things I abhor, I dislike not winning major awards, because I am pathetically needy and drink validation the way a vampire drinks blood.

How has the business changed over time, for worse and better?

It’s tough for me to judge that, since my own relationship to the industry had changed over time. When I started, I was unknown. Then I became a rumor. Now, I’m vaguely familiar. The only constant change I’ve noticed is that more and more of the editors are the same age as my daughter.

If you could go back in time to your beginning author self, what would you tell him?

Buy Berkshire Hathaway. Stay off the Internet.