John Corey Whaley has a BA from Louisiana Tech University and an MA in secondary English education. He won the Printz Award for Where Things Come Back, his first novel.
From his Q & A with Susan Carpenter at Jacket Copy:
You really can’t get any better than what you've just achieved -- winning a top literary prize with your very first book.--Marshal Zeringue
You’re telling me. I’m sort of still in a state of shock. It’s completely life changing and unbelievable and it’s crazy. It’s so great.
You were an English teacher for five years before you left the profession to become an author, correct?
In the middle of my fourth year teaching is when I got my book contract -- in 2010. I knew the book would come out in May 2011. My dream had always been that I would teach until I published a book, so my goal was to give myself one year to be an author, and I guess that changed today.
What gave birth to your story?
I grew up in a little town with about 6,000 or 7,000 people. I always knew from 11 or 12 years old that I wanted to be a writer, and I always wanted to write about growing up in a place like that that’s small and you don’t fit into. When I was a senior in college at Louisiana Tech, I was driving home and heard a story on NPR about this extinct woodpecker that someone saw in this small Arkansas town. The townspeople were all talking about how it gave their town this sense of hope because tourists from all over the world were coming to find this bird.
I’d been trying to find a good place to...[read on]