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15 April 2014

Pasadena Teen Book Festival Spotlight on Allen Zadoff

Hi, guys. I am back with another spotlight post for the Pasadena Teen Book Festival. We hope that you can come out to this awesome event. Today I have an interview with author Allen Zadoff. Hope you like it and remember to scroll down to the bottom of the post for some giveaways. :)

Event date: Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 12pm-4pm
Venue: Pasadena Public Library, 285 E Walnut St, Pasadena, CA 91101
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Tue March 25 - Read Now Sleep Later - Spotlight on Catherine Linka
Mon March 31 - The Windy Pages - Spotlight on Gretchen McNeil
and Holly Goldberg Sloan
Wed April 2 - FangirlFeeels - Spotlight on Jesse Andrews
Fri April 4 - What a Nerd Girl Says - Spotlight on Margaret Stohl
Mon April 7 - What a Nerd Girl Says - Spotlight on Andrew Smith
Tue April 8 - Adventures of a Book Junkie - Spotlight on Amy Tintera
Thu April 10 - The Consummate Reader - Bridge to Books Guest Post
Mon April 14 - Nite Lite Book Reviews - Spotlight on Sarah Skilton
Tue April 15 - Nite Lite Book Reviews - Spotlight on Allen Zadoff
Wed April 16 - The Reader's Antidote - Spotlight on Elizabeth Ross
Fri April 18 - A Bookish Escape - Spotlight on Ann Redisch Stampler
Tue April 22 - The Book Twins - Spotlight on Carrie Arcos
Thu April 24 - Birth of a New Witch - Spotlight on Katherine Ewell

NL: I read in an interview that your first love was theater, not writing, and that you did not start writing until your twenties. Had you been interested in writing before then? what made you shift from acting to writing and do you find any similarities between the two art forms?

AZ: It’s true that I was a theater guy, first as an actor in high school, then as a director. I went to graduate school in directing at the Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University. Looking back, I was always writing—short stories in high school, adapting plays in college, etc.  But I never thought of myself as a writer until much later. In hindsight, I didn’t have the courage to be a writer until my late 20s when I began writing personal essays.  It was then that my voice began to develop. How did I see the world, what did I believe, what was my point of view? Those essays led to me writing my first book, a memoir about food addiction called Hungry. I didn’t write my first novel Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have until a couple years later.

Directing is an interpretive art. Someone else’s text and story form the foundation of what you create.  Being a writer is more like being a singer-songwriter. It’s you alone at the microphone performing your own material. That takes an enormous amount of courage, and quite frankly, I didn’t have the self-esteem to do that until much later in my life.

NL: You write books that are categorized as young adult. Did you set out to write for a YA audience or did that come just by the nature of what you wanted to write about?

AZ: A friend recently described his career trajectory as “divine intervention” rather than personal choice. I think the same thing about my own. When I wrote my first novel, it happened to feature a 14-year-old protagonist. People read it and said, “This is YA.”  I said, “What’s YA?”  I actually didn’t know there was a genre called young adult until after I’d written the book

NL: Your most recent book, The Unknown Assassin seems to be a little bit of a departure for you. Your other books are all contemporary but none of them involve assassins. What inspired you to write about a teenager assassin?

AZ: The character of the The Unknown Assassin inspired me. One day I had an idea about a boy who had no home and no parents, who traveled from place to place pretending to fit in, while in fact he was a highly trained assassin on a perpetual mission.  I’ve always secretly loved thrillers, and I instantly recognized that I was onto something big. What if your new best friend was an undercover assassin sent to kill your parents? When you wake up with an idea like that, you’d be crazy not to explore it. 

NL: Did you do any kind of research in order to write authentically from the POV of a trained killer?

AZ: None at all. I understood the character on a deep level. I often felt like a stranger in high school, emulating the people around me to try and fit in, while carrying on a secret life in my head. “I’m here, but I’m not one of you.” That was a very powerful and false belief for me. It’s taken years and lots of therapy to break that down to the point where I feel like I’m like you and you’re like me. We are all human beings doing our best to live and get what we want from the world, but often our strategies bring us into conflict with one another.  Today I see myself as a small part of a much larger world.  But The Unknown Assassin feels isolated and different from everyone around him. I lived with that mindset for a long time.

NL: If you were going to get rid or someone and make it look like an accident, how would you do it (RNSL cannot guarantee that what is said here will not be used against you should something terrible befall someone of your acquaintance).

AZ: That’s very difficult to do these days with forensic science being as sophisticated as it is. The most ingenious way to get rid of someone would be to somehow convince them to get rid of themselves. Hmmm…

NL: The Unknown Assassin was originally titled Boy Nobody. I think both titles are pretty cool but can you tell us why the title was changed? Did you have any input in the change?

AZ: With my publisher’s blessing, I created the new series title and the titles for the books.  We wanted to find a new identity because one book was becoming a series, and the original title felt less and less like it would work for the whole story.  So I decided to call the series The Unknown Assassin. The new book titles will be I AM THE WEAPON (Book #1), I AM THE MISSION (Book #2), and Book #3 is still a secret.  The big news:  Book #1 is coming out in paperback in May, and Book #2 debuts on June 17 in the U.S.

NL: What can we expect in Book 2 of The Unknown Assassin series, I Am the Mission?

AZ: Book 2 is bigger, more complex, and filled with action.  We learn a lot more about our assassin hero and the origins of what made him who he is. One of my favorite characters, Howard, returns.  There’s also a new love complication, because I am fascinated by the idea of an assassin who is torn between his duty and his humanity.

Lightning round!

NL: Favorite snack or beverage while writing?

AZ: Nitroglycerin.

NL: Do you have any strange writing habits?

AZ: I listen to music obsessively, usually through noise-cancelling headphones.

NL: Favorite assassin (fiction or non-fictional)?

AZ: Bourne.

NL: What’s on your night stand?

AZ: My iPad, charged and ready for action.

NL: Cake or pie and what kind?

AZ: Cronuts.

NL: Thanks, Allen! Look forward to seeing you at the Festival!

#1: ARC of A Girl Called Fearless
Winner may request personalization/autograph
Open to US residents only - ends 4/25/2014
Enter with Rafflecopter #1
#2: Choose from 1 of the books featured at the Pasadena Teen Book Festival
Winner may request personalization/autograph
Open to US residents only - ends 4/25/2014
Enter with Rafflecopter #2
a Rafflecopter giveaway

#3: $50 Gift Card to Vroman’s BookstoreOpen to attendees of the Pasadena Book Festival only! – ends 4/21/2014
To enter, suggest a new, unique/clever/fun name for the Pasadena Teen Book Festival. Examples of other cool names for teen book fests include (already taken, unfortunately)Teen Author CarnivalYALLFest, and YABFest. What should we call our event from now on? Email your top 3 best name suggestions to info@pasadenateenbookfest.com OR fill out this form! A panel of judges will choose the best name from all of the submissions. The winner will be announced at the Festival!

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