Book Chat 41 Andrew Smith/The Marbury Lens
Andrew Smith said...Hello.
Evil Editor said...So kind of you to join us. And clever. We seldom criticize a book when the author shows up.
Andrew Smith said...Oh. I'll go away if it makes it more comfortable.
Sylvia said...Don't go! It's much more interesting when the author is here.
Robin B. said...Nothing to criticize, imo. Wonderful read.
Andrew Smith said...Thank you Robin.
Landra said...Concur with Robin. Definitely engrossing.
Anonymous said...I loved the book.
Evil Editor said...There are, of course, a few loose ends. Is a sequel in the works?
Andrew Smith said...There is a sequel, EE. There are always loose ends. I am not allowed to tell about the sequel yet, but should be able to give all details about it in a week or so. It will be out in 2012.
Dave said...I had a question when I started reading this. Did you ever think it was too harsh for teens and too dark a subject -- kidnapping and murder in the first few chapters?
Andrew Smith said...Things like that happen.
Evil Editor said...Never mind kidnapping and murder. Jack getting invited into a three-way by Con and his current babe.
vkw said...I thought the attempted molestation was too dark. But that could be me.
Landra said...I have to say the first few chapters to me were a 16 year-old's nightmare.
Andrew Smith said...I was hoping I would get canned for writing it. Seriously.
Robin B. said...Whoa, Andrew - you HOPED you'd get canned?!
Andrew Smith said...Robin, I was actually hoping that someone would tell me the book was for adults, that it WASN'T YA (a genre category I despise), but my editor and publisher absolutely love the book. Go figure there, too. There was never a hint of a discussion about "toning things down."
Robin B. said...Ahhh - I see, Andrew. YA isn't my thing, either. It's like calling To Kill a Mockingbird a kid's story because the narrator is young. Totally agree on that. And I think that's why well-written YA novels have huge adult audiences - "YA" is a concept, not a reality.
Sylvia said...I think that's wonderful that you weren't asked to tone it down. Sometimes it seems like mainstream publishing is focused too much on keeping books light.
Landra said...I agree. Toning the story down would have ruined it. I like the tone--kidnapping and murder at the beginning is what grabbed me as a reader to keep going. At that point I'm thinking "Could this get any worse." Then came the crotch grabbing idiot on the plane. Eck!
Andrew Smith said...Ha!
Sylvia said...I presumed killing the guy was to show part of the world logic - he still existed in Marbury even though he was gone from the "real" world. The threesome scene had me laughing, actually.
Whirlochre said...Picking up on Dave, you took a very big gamble when you had Jack knock off the evil paedo as it makes your protag a 17 year-old murderer. As things panned out, you could have had Horvath left for dead without diminishing what Jack comes to feel about the whole thing (or, as far as I'm aware, upsetting anything on the plot front). But no — you killed the paedo. I'd love to hear your take on that decision.
Andrew Smith said...It happened to me when I was a kid. But I didn't kill anyone.
Evil Editor said...Or at least you aren't admitting to killing anyone.
Andrew Smith said...I'm pretty sure he's dead now.
Sarah Skilton said...I didn't personally view Jack as a murderer because Horvath's death was an accident. I did have some dread that the police might show up before the end of the book, though.
Robin B. said...I was actually happy to see something spelled-out, dark, from the beginning. It seems to me we coddle too much now.
Matthew MacNish said...Personally I felt it was all the brutal darkness in this story that set it aside (and above) all other YA lit I'd read before it. It was harsh, yes, but honest.
Sylvia said...I really respected the way you dealt with the kidnapping and the helplessness, actually. In such a way that readers could understand how such a thing could happen without blaming the victim for putting himself into the situation.
Robin B. said...Agree with Sylvia - not blaming the victim is a good, good thing. Too much of that happens now. I liked the language - you managed spartan and poetic at the same time.
vkw said...Somehow being invited to a threesome, murder and kidnapping, I could deal with. Torture and the rest, I had a hard time with.
Sarah Skilton said...I loved the book (and even had a dream about Marbury the night after I finished reading. I woke up semi-paralyzed, and then thought, "Awesome.") I've got two questions about Marbury Lens:
1. How important was it for you to set a large portion of the book in England? Was it to give the guys more freedom than they might have had in the U.S.? (to meet girls, have access to alcohol, be able to travel around on their own?)
2. Is everyone's experience of Marbury different? What I mean is, Jack and Conner saw people there that they knew (or could potentially know) in "real" life, but if someone else were to go to Marbury, would they see the same people, or only people in their personal circle?
Andrew Smith said...Sarah,
1. I spent a lot of time in England as a kid. All my books are largely autobiographical.
2. Good question. Marbury is real. Everyone sees the same thing when they're tuned to the same channel.
Dave said...Was this a description of some mental illness on Jack's part? That thought lasted until Conner went to Marbury but it still persists in my mind.
Andrew Smith said...Dave, It's not mental illness. I don't think so, at least.
Whirlochre said...Going to Blackpool is a form of mental illness. Surprised you didn't go for Margate or Brighton.
Andrew Smith said...I like Blackpool. I also like Brighton. Go figure.
vkw said...I could see Marbury being an unconscious fugue-state that Jack was using to deal with his feelings about Connor, kidnapping, attempted rape and the eventual murder. I wasn't disappointed when Marbury was real.
Dave said...These kids, no matter what they say to adults are so isolated and alone. Or at least they feel so isolated and alone. They don't understand that all these things have happened before and they hold them inside and let them stew away.
Whirlochre said...The best part of the book was undoubtedly the relationship between Jack and Conner — had this been in any way iffy, all the stuff about lenses and Marbury would have fallen apart. In terms of how the book developed, I'm assuming this relationship arose from out of the Marbury thing and not the other way round — or did you start out with the two guys and add the funky glasses later?
Andrew Smith said...Whirlochre, originally the story was ONLY going to be about my revisiting this idea of the kidnapping. I started having weird dreams while writing the book -- about Marbury -- and I figured there was something else trying to come out. That's where the glasses came from. As far as Conner goes, yes... he is the key.
Evil Editor said...Is the addictive nature of the glasses a metaphor for something that happened to someone in your life?
Andrew Smith said...A lot of former addicts have contacted me after reading TML. But no... other than Jack's own inability to step away from his own inner haunting, the addiction is merely, purely, internal and psychological.
Sarah Skilton said...For me, the experience of reading the book paralleled the experience of Jack using the lenses. You feel this pull to keep going back, and you feel discombobulated about what's occurred in England during Jack's time in Marbury.
Matthew MacNish said...Well said, Sarah. When I first met Andrew, I told him the book felt just like heroin to me. I simply could not put it down. Now, nearly a year later, I still can't stop thinking about it.
vkw said...I thought the glasses were an excellent description of addiction. Here Jack finally gets the great girlfriend but he's always itching to go back to Marbury and, of course, once the girlfriend realizes how messed up Jack is, all she wants to do is rescue him. Co-dependency at at its best and at its birth.
Andrew Smith said...If I were in Jack's place - and I suppose I am - I would not stop myself from going back, just because of the rush of doing it. That's just how I am.
Landra said...Sarah and Matthew, you're absolutely right. The story grabs you. I like the heroin addict analogy Matthew. For me the best way to describe it is like a wreck on the side of the road. Back in traffic you see the flashing lights, you know it's a mess but you can't stop yourself from slowing down and gawking. Wondering did someone die? Will they die? and all those other inner intrusive thoughts. To the point that you are waiting for the news that night so you can get the story behind it.
Evil Editor said...I have to admit I got tired of the voice in Jack's head saying the same things over and over. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to get from that.
Whirlochre said...Agree with EE — though those italics were a kind of mental distress foil to the reality distress of Marbury, I suppose.
Landra said...Jack's head voice I thought was the dweller or worrying part of him. Know that voice all too well. I felt it was more stress oriented. Jack's entire world is torn up- well, both worlds. The inner voice to me is how he's trying to stay stable. Intrusive thoughts, devils!
Sarah Skilton said...Landra, I agree about the inner voice. It felt realistic to me. Intrusive thoughts go on auto-repeat. That's part of what makes them awful.
Matthew MacNish said...I didn't mind the echoes at all. That kind of thing happens when a person experiences trauma. And I agree with others. None of the fantasy/horror/sci-fi would have mattered if this wasn't ultimately a great story with great characters in a true friendship.
vkw said...I didn't mind the talking voice in Jack's head. Intrusive thoughts are always in our minds and the more stressed someone is the more those thoughts intrude. It's a good measure of anxiety.
Evil Editor said...Agreed, but my intrusive thoughts have more variety. If the voice in my head kept saying Fuck you, EE, I'd have to wear an iPod 24-7.
Andrew Smith said...Maybe I should get an iPod.
Matthew MacNish said...It would be extremely annoying to hear that in real life, but it felt completely authentic to the story, and the stress that would come with it, to me.
Robin B. said...Inner voices are fascinating. I believe none of us are much like our inside voices. We keep it safely tucked away, if we can.
Dave said...It was a ghost. This was a haunting a very stylish and grand haunting but that's what I finally decided Marbury is, a haunting.
Andrew Smith said...Nicely put, Dave.
Sylvia said...I came to the conclusion (maybe rationalising coincidences) that Marbury was very small, hence Jack seeing so many people he recognised in London. I wasn't sure if you had to be (or have been) in London to appear in Marbury though. Now that I think about it, the crazed doctor wouldn't have been in Marbury if that were the case.
Whirlochre said...When I reached Seth's Story (1) I thought 'uh oh, here comes backstory' and it was an interruption to the flow at first. By parts (2) and beyond, I'd settled down to how this was going to work, but I did wonder why you'd chosen to drop in narrative in this way. Seth chatting directly to Jack might have been another option — why didn't you go for that?
Andrew Smith said... I can't explain it. It just happened that way. I don't know why I write the way I do, it just happens.
vkw said...Seth's story is the one I keep thinking about. Some of the Marbury imagery intrudes into my thoughts and dreams, but it was seth's story that I found haunting and beautiful.
Dave said...I did like the links between Jack's birth and Seth's life. That worked out so well.
Andrew Smith said...I wanted to write a book about Seth. People kept telling me not to write historical because nobody will publish it. Eh... so I did it anyway.
Dave said...The last ghost story I read that felt really scary good like this was O'Nan's Night country. As Seth's story unfolded, this was just as thrilling. Seth is a forefather of Jack and I suspect that Griffen and his buddies in Marbury are somehow related (maybe not by blood) to Seth the ghost's family.
Landra said...It seems that writing historical worked out for you Andrew.
Matthew MacNish said...Andrew, if you could also say a bit about the difference between the purple lens and the blue?
Andrew Smith said...You will see what happens with those other lenses. I promise. They are not nice.
Evil Editor said...He's hoping to figure out a cool lens idea in time for book 3.
Whirlochre said...Maybe the other lens is simply to help the partially sighted find the bad lens.
Evil Editor said...One lens allows Jack to see Marbury. The other is those X-Ray specs they sell in the back of comic books.
Matthew MacNish said...Considering the M-theory angle, and the way you described it as cars on a freeway at one point ... are there other worlds besides Marbury and our own? Other cars, so to speak?
Andrew Smith said...Okay, there are other worlds. In fact, every time Jack goes back to Marbury, it's a different Marbury; and when he comes home, it's a different home, too. Things haven't stopped changing for Jack. He just doesn't realize how messed up they're becoming...
vkw said...that's where I was hoping you were going Andrew. The lenses are addictive and it always starts out fascinating, interesting, fun, and adrenaline pumping up until you're sticking a needle in your arm. . .
Dave said...My Niece's boy just turned 16 a couple months ago. I see the same lost thoughts and discoveries of teen angst as I watch him grow up. This is teen angst, teen worry, teen everything is against me and all that hullabaloo that teens have going on that we (adults) forgot and mostly don't think about. Adults are all about certainty. Teens aren't.
Whirlochre said...Given the mixed-upness of the whole Marbury thing, it's good to see Jack equally mixed up about Nickie.
vkw said...There is a fine line between anxiety produced intrusive thoughts and audio hallucinations. this is the stuff that fascinates me. That's why I found this so compelling.
Matthew MacNish said...That's a great point VKW. I wondered whether Jack might be hallucinating until nearly two-thirds of the way in.
Whirlochre said...I'm guessing Disney haven't approached you yet about turning this into a cartoon featuring a giraffe as Jack — but would you like to see it made into a film?
Andrew Smith said...It's been optioned for film. And I did have a meeting at Disney studios. Talk about a trip through Marbury...
Robin B. said...Whirl, this seems like it would be a cool as hell visual novel, aka film, doesn't it?
Whirlochre said...I see a Smith/EE team-up in the offing: The Marbury Pince-nez...
Matthew MacNish said...I'd love to see a graphic novel, too.
Landra said...Disney... hm, I don't think a giraffe named Jack is the way to go. Maybe a mongoose. No really, I think visually this would be a great movie.
vkw said...I would love to see this as a movie. But not a YA movie more like a "the Road" movie.
Whirlochre said...It's certainly got a visual slipstream element teens of all ages would love to combine with popcorn and necking...
Landra said...On board with Matthew on a graphic novel too. I think there is more to offer with a graphic novel probably than film.
Andrew Smith said...There are some very talented Visual Effects artists working on it. I've seen their concept art and it's stunning.
Evil Editor said...Once the movie exists they should make virtual reality glasses you can wear to watch it.
Sarah Skilton said...Ha! That would be terrifying, actually.
Matthew MacNish said... Hollywood would probably ruin this. Independently it might be done well ...
Dave said...I just saw the last Harry Potter movie and it is far and away a different story than the first one. Characters age and grow. Good luck with the movie industry. It's more dreadful than Marbury. It has real zombies with purple spots and flesh eating creatures wandering about.
Whirlochre said...I was itching for something to happen to Spot — but it didn't. Please tell me there was a Spot vs Bug scene flagged down by your agent as "one of Andrew's 'must-be-killed' darlings". Maybe in book 3...
vkw said...whatever you do, Andrew. Save the dog. I always hate it when the dog dies.
Andrew Smith said...The only reason I put the dog in the book was to NOT kill it. People got so mad at me for the psycho who shoots a dog in my second novel.
Matthew MacNish said...And the cat in the first.
Whirlochre said...Ha! Deliberate pooch invincibility. Love it.
Landra said...Are readers happy with this new save the animals approach Andrew?
Evil Editor said...If you want to kill an animal make it a werewolf.
Dave said...Killing children and dogs is an art. If you do it, do it well. Remember Blue-eyed handsome Henry Fonda shoots a kid in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and shocked the world.
Landra... hmm... I have four more books coming out between now and 2014, and I'm trying to think about whether there are any animals that get whacked in them...
Robin B. said...Andrew, when you write, does the prose come out close to what we've read, with some smooothing, or is there a longer process?
Dave said...Do you have the "feast or famine" publishing syndrome? Starve, starve, starve and then more than a book a year all at once?
Andrew Smith said...Dave, I write about 3 books per year.
Sarah Skilton said...Three books a year is amazing. I know you're not a fan of the genre term YA but do all of them have teenage protags? Or some older? Do you think you'll put out an "adult" book in the next few years?
Andrew Smith said...I am writing a very adult novel at the moment. It just happens to have 3 teens as the main characters. After that, I am trying to figure out a way to write a Middle Grade that can still allow for an f-bomb or two. And an adult novel (true adult novel) is definitely coming.
Evil Editor said...Have you considered a child's picture book with some graphic (but tasteful) sex?
Andrew Smith said...Graphic and tasteful, like all sex.
Robin B. said...Agree on the tasteful re sex, although our definitions of that word might just vary. The three books per year answers my question, then, about writing process! You're quick - but I assume there was a lot of stewing time before the writing began?
Andrew Smith said...Robin, yes. Lots of stewing. Then when I write I usually finish in under 7 weeks. In regards to an earlier question, what I write is so close to the final product that there are very few changes at all -- more stuff added, certainly, than omitted.
Robin B. said...Interesting about your process, Andrew. Seems to me you've had the smarts not to cut the very things that individualize your writing, which then makes the reading of it a very personal experience for your audience.
Andrew Smith said...Thank you Robin. I've been writing for my entire life. It was a friend (published author) who finally dared me into getting something published. I never honestly wanted to be published, but responded to the dare. Now, it's like Jack and the glasses I suppose. Writing is addictive, harmful to the people who love me, and self-destructive.
Dave said...I just went and looked you up on Amazon. There's a real picture. I hope they put in on the flap of the next book. A rocking horse is kinda blah.
Andrew Smith said...Dave, I have always shunned author photos on my books. I also never wanted any bio on the dust jacket, either. They forced that on me. I only wanted this: Andrew Smith wrote this book.
Landra said...Question: How many wonderful scenes were cut from Book 1? Have you thought about publishing a version of the book with these scenes in it or are they null and void due to the sequel?
Andrew Smith said...No scenes were cut from book 1 at all. Book 2 is very long. It will be interesting to see what happens when we start digging into that monster.
Evil Editor said...Have you been approached about a Marbury theme park?
Andrew Smith said...No, but I have patented human scalp codpieces for kids at Halloween.
Sarah Skilton said...EE, gaining admittance to the Marbury theme park is easy; the hard part is fighting your way out.
Evil Editor said...It would be great. You sit in a comfortable chair, put on Marbury lenses and thru virtual reality you experience Marbury until your head gets cut off and nailed to a wall.
Evil Editor said...Any final questions or comments before we release Andrew from his cage?
Andrew Smith said...Thanks for hosting this, EE. It was terrific. Thanks everyone for stopping by.