Man Made Boy is one of the most gorgeous books (inside and out-review to come!) that I’ve read in a while, and I was thrilled to ask John Skovron a few questions about it, and much more!
Please welcome him to the blog!
Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I was always writing stories, but for some reason it never occurred to be that one could actually do that for a living. I don’t know why. Maybe because back then authors weren’t as accessible as they are now, no email or twitter or blogs and things.
No, I had a much more practical dreams. I was going to be either a rock star or an actor. I couldn’t quite decide. It wasn’t until I got accepted into a prestigious acting program for college that I decided to go with acting. And while I loved studying acting, it turns out I actually HATED being a professional actor. So one night, back stage for this terrible production of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, I was reading World According to Garp by John Irving, which is about a professional writer, and I thought, “Hey, I could do that!”
So I did. And it only took ten years! *weeps*
Your new book, MAN MADE BOY, obviously takes some inspiration from Frankenstein’s monster, but why that particular monster?
It’s hard to say, exactly. I mean, back in middle and high school, I loved vampires just as much as the next goth nerd. Heck, I spent a good 6 months of my sophomore year trying to dress like Lestat. But I also read Frankenstein in high school. It was such a revelation to me that the Monster was not some big dumb grunting jock-type like you saw in the old Boris Karloff movie. He was passionate, eloquent, sensitive, and terribly misunderstood. If there is a villain in the book, it is Victor Frankenstein, the creator. And all of that really resonated with me when I was teen. So I guess it was only natural for me to come back to that story when I wanted to write a monster story for teens. A story where the Monster truly is the hero.
Why do you think readers will root for Boy? What did you enjoy most about writing his character?
He’s just a really nice guy, you know? He’s incredibly strong and nearly indestructible. He could do whatever he wanted. He could have easily been the bully. And yet within the first few chapters you know for sure that there’s no way he ever would be. My favorite thing about writing him was watching him grow from this naive, sheltered kid who had never even set foot out of his home in the theater into someone who takes responsibility for his actions and finds a courage inside himself he never knew he had. And it’s a good thing, too. Because he’s going to need it.
What are some of your favorite authors or novels?
I love Neil Gaiman, particularly The Sandman comics and American Gods. In fact I have an issue of The Sandman framed in my office. And of course, Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat was a very special book for me. I’m also a fan of the short story writer, Kelly Link, so it was a huge thrill for me when she agreed to blurb the book. Valiant by Holly Black (who blurbed my previous book, Misfit) and Elsewhere by Gabriellle Zevin were the books that made me want to write YA, and I’m happy to say that I’ve now had the pleasure of telling them so personally.
What do you like to see most in a good book? Is there anything in particular that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
What I love to see most in a book are rich, fully realized characters interacting with each other in believable ways. Even when those characters are monsters, I want to relate to them, to feel kinship with them. Interesting plots and hooky concepts are great, but those will only carry me a few chapters. It’s the characters who keep me reading to the end. I used to force myself to finish books no matter how much I disliked them. And on rare occasions, I was glad I did. But I just don’t have time for that now. So if I don’t feel a connection to any of the characters after a few chapters, I usually put it down.
What are you reading now?
On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie was loosely based on the book (although there’s no Jack Sparrow or Barbosa in the book). It’s good piratey fun, with a lot more creepy magic than the movie had. Next on the list is The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman. I’ve heard it’s utterly terrifying.
You’ve been collecting favorite monsters for a Tumblr series, but do you have a favorite?
The Bride of Frankenstein is my favorite. Partly because I just love that weird old movie so much. And partly because I am so fascinated by how a character who only has about five minutes of screen time could go on to become one of the most recognizable monsters in the world.
Halloween is right around the corner! Any special plans?
I’m taking my kids to Boo at the Zoo! Yep, sorry, I generally don’t do big crazy Halloween parties anymore. A buddy of mine used to put on a Steampunk Haunted House in NYC every year and we’d go up for that. But he’s moved on to other things so now we chill at home in DC, make jack-o-lanterns, go trick-or-treating, and watch Halloween-themed movies like Nightmare Before Christmas like everyone else.
Although we generally do it better 😉
What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
Right now I’m working on the sequel to Man Made Boy. I don’t think I’m supposed to announce the title yet. I can tell you it’ll have just about everybody from the first book, plus even more cool/weird/crazy monsters. I think it’s scheduled to be published Spring of 2015.
About MAN MADE BOY:
Sixteen-year-old Boy’s never left home. When you’re the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, it’s tough to go out in public, unless you want to draw the attention of a torch-wielding mob. And since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile.
Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide his hulking body and stitched-together face behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy runs away and embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak. But no matter how far Boy runs, he can’t escape his demons—both literal and figurative—until he faces his family once more.
This hilarious, romantic, and wildly imaginative tale redefines what it means to be a monster—and a man.