Guest Post: Gary Paulsen on Writing About Boys – Giveaway of Liar, Liar and Flat Broke

By Gary Paulsen

I write about boys because I am a boy. And I write humor because so much about being a boy is funny. Not at the time, of course, but usually looking back and almost always from the perspective of others.

I don’t remember thinking it was funny when I was 12 and kept tripping over my own feet, for example, but I laughed until I nearly peed myself watching my own son try to figure out the pull of gravity when puberty hit him.

I read once that comedy is tragedy plus time and also that memories are what you remember, not necessarily what happened. So it’s good for me to revisit my own adolescence and give it a funnier spin.

Kevin came to be a few years back when someone lied to me. I remember feeling disgusted and thinking, “That’s not even a good lie. And you’re not really selling it. You’ve got to be able to do better than that.”

And then I heard Kevin’s voice: “I’m the best liar you’ll ever meet.”

He’s not one of my usual characters—he’s glib and self-assured in an almost tragically misguided way. He can’t seem to pull it together but he doesn’t see that about himself.

I liked the idea that, all evidence to the contrary, this boy would act as if it was impossible for him to fail. Despite all the proof that keeps stacking up that he has no idea what he’s doing, he’s self-confident. Clueless, but relentless in his certainty.

I wrote Liar, Liar (Random House, 2011), and I thought I was done with Kevin’s story. But then Flat Broke (Random House, 2011) came along because I’d gotten a letter from someone who’d read Lawn Boy (Random House, 2007) and said he didn’t think it would be that easy to get filthy stinking rich as a 14-year-old.

And then Crush (coming May 2012) because someone asked me about Harris and Me (Harcourt, 1993) and the scene where I could not figure out how to talk to a girl I liked when I was a kid and I remembered the feeling of being tongue-tied, paralyzed with fear, even though I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

Sometimes I think I’d be happy to write a book a year about Kevin in between the other books I have in mind. Perpetually 14, perennially messing up, everlastingly optimistic.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win Liar, Liar and Flat Broke by Gary Paulsen (Random House, 2011). To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or you can email me directly with “Paulsen” in the subject line. Publisher sponsored. Deadline: Sept. 16. U.S. readers eligible.

25 Replies to “Guest Post: Gary Paulsen on Writing About Boys – Giveaway of Liar, Liar and Flat Broke”

  1. I think that there are few (counting on one hand)if any of Gary Paulsen's books that I have not read. What Mr. Paulsen has done for reading is an stunning achievement. We all should strive for the goals that he has accomplished. For the last ten years we have been using the Iditarod as a learning vehicle thanks to his book. The interview is very enjoyable.

  2. Thank you for this interview, Cyn!My son packed MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS in his backpack this morning. Paulsen's books are his absolute favorites and I look forward to sharing this with him. We're both such avid fans.Gary Paulsen is the master of storytelling that reaches the elusive boy reader. "Read like a wolf eats. Read WHEN they tell you not to and read WHAT they tell you not to." Brilliant!Would love to win Paulsen's latest, FLAT BROKE and/or LIAR, LIAR. dbratton at austin dot rr dot com.

  3. I just heard Gary Paulsen speak at the SCBWI Summer Conference and he was as hilarious as his books can be. My favorite keynote. Thanks for the interview.kristi at kristivaliant dot com

  4. I've often said that I am not influenced by a writer's style as much as I am by how they handle themselves as writers and people. Gary is definitely on my shortlist. Anyone who writes for boys and not act their age is ok by me. Long may you write!

  5. Thanks for including this interview clip with Gary, too. I love hearing his voice. It takes me back to L.A. when I first heard him speak and was moved beyond words. "Read like a wolf eats!" Love this line!Thanks for sharing.Carmeno29 at earthlink dot net

  6. There are two authors I would like to go camping with: one is unfortunately already dead, and the other is Gary Paulsen. And while it's true he's a great author to recommend to boys, he is also a fantastic author for girls. (And aliens or pretty much any other life form.) His memoirs WOODSONG will change your life. Please enter me in your contest irene at irenelatham dot com. I'd love to share these titles with our homeschool group. Thanks so much!

  7. Loved hearing him speak at the latest SCBWI Conference. He definitely doesn't hide what he thinks — funny & irreverent! Would love to get my hands on more of his books.ellagerman at ymail dot com

  8. Love, love, love Paulsen! His book "Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod" is fabulous and hilarious. Oh, and the quote "Humor is tragedy plus time" is from Mark Twain. Thanks for the interview, Cynthia!

  9. Great post. I would love to win Gary's books. Finding books for boys that they like to read can be a challenge. I've been finding that out as my sons get older. My email is jenberger75 at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

  10. Inspiring interview—low key, honest, plain nice—thank you, G.P. for not writing down—for writing real—and for the quote, "memories are what you remember."debmiller49@mac.com

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