Friday, June 5, 2020

Paul Mosier

Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011 but has written in some fashion his entire life. He is married and the father to two daughters, one of whom has passed to the next dimension. He lives near his place of birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, and talking nonstop. He has written three critically acclaimed books for middle grade readers: Train I Ride, Echo’s Sister, and Summer and July.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Summer and July hints at both the time the story takes place––the month of July in the season of Summer––and also the two characters, the narrator Juillet (the French word for July, though she isn't French) and Summer (born on the solstice). I think the title evokes the setting, and the fact that it is a Summer story, without describing the plot. Summer and July began as a placeholder title, and ended up seeming appropriate!

What's in a name?

I do like to create unusual character names, as I have for my children. I want my characters to be as distinctive as Holden Caulfield or Scout. This is less the case with Summer and Juillet, though taken together they feel distinctive and evocative of the sort of story they inhabit. The Big Kahuna certainly suggests the most esteemed dude on the beach, and Otis I think fits for a good natured, fun loving, ice cream scooping young surfer. Fern––Juillet's mall friend back home––felt like a good choice for someone who lived under fluorescent lights. I cringe when authors choose names from the most popular name lists of the year. Names are an essential, poetic part of writing prose.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

I might be surprised that I was alive to write it, the way I conducted myself in my youth. But given that there were not stories widely available featuring a crush between two adolescent girls in the early 1980's, that would be the most surprising element. And that nobody looks askance at same sex love in the story. Of course people do still look askance at same sex love, but the Big 5 world of Middle Grade novels generally has adopted the view that they will not dignify opposition to such love with space on the page.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I feel like I'm pretty good at both, but I am better at endings, and much less likely to change them. An ending usually comes to me by halfway through writing the novel, and then writing the path to that ending with good pacing becomes the challenge, and showing everything that needs to be told. I often will examine novels by looking at the last line. The first line needs to pull the reader in, but the last line is like the note that stays in your ear when the album is done. You cannot botch the last line or the reader will feel betrayed.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Some characters are more like me than others. In Summer and July, I am more like Juillet than Summer. I was the kid with more fear, and I love and admire Summer for her sense of adventure. I tend to inflict small things on my characters, like my vegetarianism––just because I can't serve meat to the people I love––and my taste in music. Adults often do not realize how some young people have vast breadth in their musical tastes and exposure, more than we could have imagined as kids.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I think that stories are brought to me by the muse, and they take the shape of who I am, of my voice, and the air that I breathe as they are told. I am a leftist, a romantic, and when I write I tend to find the good in humanity. I don't write stories with guns. I think that every story is a love story, and it is just a question of what is it a love of. But I believe the muse brings the idea, the assignment, and my job is to try to tell it well.

Follow Paul Mosier on Twitter and visit his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue