New York Times Bestselling novelist, screenwriter, editor, namer, critic, movie addict and chocoholic.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Portrait of the artist as a 15-year-old
So here is the story. While obsessively googling myself shortly after the publication of Pictures of You, I find this gorgeously written review. I love it so much I track down the blog and the writer (that's him in the photo), and to my surprise, Robby Auld, the scribe, is a teenager! Even more astonishing, he has this great blog where he talks sensitively about books he loves and the life he is leading and the things he is writing. We have occasional emails, and then tweets and when I mention I have just hired a terrific research assistant intern, he tweets, "I would kill to be your research assistant." Well, of course, I can have two, and of course, I hire him on the spot.
Robby came to one of my readings in Boston at the incredible Back Pages Books. I knew who he was the moment I saw him quietly standing by a shelf of books. "You're who I think you are, aren't you?" I said, and I made him let me give him a hug. While I was giving my talk/reading, I insisted on introducing Robby to everyone and urged them all to read his blog. And now I'm giving Robby some space on my blog because truly, he's one of the most interesting teenagers around.
Thank you, Robby. I can't wait until we can do a Q and A about your first published novel.
The thing I notice from your blog is how truly brave you are. You continually reveal yourself through your writing in a really honest way, exploring such things as the rejection in acting, the fear in writing, and all sorts of human relationships. Yet you call your blog your safe place, even though you are not playing it safe in what you reveal. So, can you tell me more about why you feel protected within the blog? How and when and why did you begin your blog?
It’s really fascinating to me how obsessed my generation is with constant communication, yet 90% of us have no idea how to actually communicate. Thank you, for calling me brave. That means a lot to me. I would count myself among the people who are socially awkward. It is much easier for me to write about my feelings and the things I am thinking about on the Internet than in person with someone I know, and even with someone I trust. People can respond to my posts, and tell me what they think, how they feel about what I wrote, but only after the fact. The blog is my safe place because I am free to say nearly whatever I want, think nearly whatever I want, and I don’t have to worry too much about the kids I go to school with making fun of me for it. I’m not bullied much at all, which I’m grateful for. I’ve been blogging in a few separate places since middle school, but I’ve had this current blog for just about 2 years. It’s grown as I’ve grown. I’m pretty sure I’ve answered your question, and also gone off somewhere else entirely. I tend to ramble.
You wrote an incredibly moving post about your sister and your nephew and your mother, which reads like a short story or the basis of a wonderful novel. Is it? And is your life the basis of your writing work?
Again, THANK YOU. To veer off again, that is something I also really, really like about blogging. The COMPLIMENTS. I am a sensitive teenage boy in need of constant praise. Just kidding. I hope.
I have so many ideas for stories and books and other creative things I could/hope to do/write in my life. My family isn’t the basis of a novel/story YET, but never say never. I do have an idea for a massive family saga, but I’m not sure I’m mature enough at this point to tackle something as large as I’d like it to be. Doesn’t every writer need a family saga?
I think every writer’s personal life factors into their writing. My stories aren’t usually based on me, but they are coming from me, and I am the one that is writing them, so there are parts of me all over the place, though I like to keep them hidden. Even if I’m writing from a girl’s point of view, or someone who is much older than I am, and even if the story takes place miles and miles away from where I am writing it, it is coming out of my life, because I am living my life as I am writing it. If that makes any sense at all. I’m rambling again. Can you tell I don’t do this often.
When did you first begin to write and know that this is what you wanted to do? Where do you see yourself in ten years? (I have my own ideas about where I think you are headed, but I’d rather see yours.) And can you talk about your writing process?
I like to think I’ve always been writing, but I honestly can’t remember. I was a very flamboyant little boy, so much of my pre-public school years involved me wearing belly shirts and Spider Man underwear and dancing to the Spice Girls. Nearly every picture of me from my childhood involves me and the peace sign. Girl Power and all that. I started writing seriously a few years ago. I’ve written a few longer stories, which could possibly be called novels, but I never finished them, and I’ve moved on. I’ve always had trouble really sticking to stories I write, but I’ve learned that just means it isn’t the right time. I’ve wanted to be a writer, some kind of writer, since early middle school I think. It was only recently that I realized I could maybe actually do it.
If I tried to answer the question, of why I know that writing is what I want to do with the rest of my life, in condensed form, it would make no sense. So my short answer is that I just know. I’m sure you understand. It's a gut feeling.
Where do I see myself in ten years? Well, I’ll be months away from turning 26. I would like to be wrapping up an MFA program at some suave liberal arts college, and maybe be searching for a teaching position. Or, working in a book store. Or, working in a coffee shop. But, writing. I would like to be writing. I am never going to stop writing. (TELL ME YOUR IDEAS!)
What's the significance of running for amsterdam?
This is a funny question. Running For Amsterdam is my initials in word form. Robert Francis Auld. I came up with that name when I was in middle school, and I was OBSESSED with it for a while, though not so much anymore. I made an e-mail, which is the one we often communicate through, and I also had a Myspace under that name (though I have not checked it in months). A lot of people I meet wonder about that, and when I tell them they just say, “Oh, right. I guess that makes sense.” It doesn’t have much significance at all. Regarding Amsterdam, though- I love Europe. So much.
What question should I be mortified that I forgot to ask you?
I stayed home from school today, and was so excited to answer these questions. I feel pretty legit right now. So, THANK YOU. I thank you all the time. I will never be able to thank you enough. This is just so great. If you’d asked me about my favorite food, I would’ve said breakfast cereal. I love cereal, and Europe, and you. Thank you, again and again and again.
Stay tuned, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, my 12th novel is coming August 4, 2020 from Algonquin. My 11th novel CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD is an Indie Next Pick. IS THIS TOMORROW was an May Indie Pick. I'm also the New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU, a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick, a Costco "Pennie's Pick." a NAIBA bestseller and on the Best Books of 2011 List from San Francisco Chronicle, Providence Journal, Kirkus Reviews and Bookmarks Magazine. I'm the recipient of a New York Foundation of the Arts Grant in Fiction. I was a 2013 finalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and a finalist in the Nickelodeon Screenwriting Fellowship, four of my novels were optioned for screen, and I talked my way into writing the script for two of them. My essay, HIgh Infidelity, has been optioned for film. I'm a book critic for The San Francisco Chronicle and People Magazine. I teach novel writing for UCLA Extension Writers' Program, and Stanford online, do private fiction editing, and I am a professional namer! I live with my husband, writer/editor Jeff Tamarkin and we beam with pride about our son, an actor/filmmaker in college. Visit me at http://www.carolineleavitt.com.