Thursday, June 4, 2020

Wesley King

Wesley King is the author of the Edgar Award–winning OCDaniel, which Booklist praised as “complex and satisfying” in a starred review. It was also named a Bank Street Best Book of the Year and received Canada’s Silver Birch Award. King’s first middle grade novel, The Incredible Space Raiders from Space!, was called “a well-drafted coming-of-age story” by Publishers Weekly. King is also the author of The Vindico and its sequel, The Feros, which were both Junior Library Guild selections, and Kobe Bryant’s New York Times bestselling Wizenard series.

King's new novel is Sara and the Search for Normal.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

In this case, a great deal. The title Sara and the Search for Normal is very much a description of the central concept in this story, which is how we can define our own versions of normal. As a young girl suffering with a multitude of mental disorders, Sara is obsessed with becoming normal...that is, more like her peers. She has a list of rules to follow toward the end, but she can never quite manage it. This story is about how she learns self-acceptance, and therein, finds her own version of normal.

What's in a name?

As a prequel, Sara was of course first introduced in OCDaniel. So there was perhaps less attention paid to her name than his at the time (his came to me very quickly as a tie-in to OCD), but it also arrived immediately: I described her approach in the hallway, and I knew this was Sara Malvern. I am very much a 'feel' writer: if something feels right, don't overthink it. And Sara Malvern went on to become an exceedingly popular character for readers, enough to get her own story, of course, and for me she just represents eccentric brilliance and self-assurance.

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

Stunned. I spent much of my life hiding my history of mental illness, and to now be writing a second book outlining those experiences would be beyond belief. As I wrote in the author's note of this book, I think my younger self would be deeply moved, and realize that there was a reason for all that share it.

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

Generally beginnings, but for this novel, it was definitely the ending. We went through many different revisions to get the climactic moment right. But I did write a particular passage, the very last one, on the first draft, and it remained throughout. It's a message of hope that I really love.

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

So much connection. The experiences of mental disorders are grounded in my own life, and they are very authentic looks into what OCD, anxiety, and depression can feel like. I wanted young readers to know what it's life, and I wanted those dealing with these issues to see themselves in this book and know they are not alone.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I think a general interest in people. I travel extensively (I am working on a solo circumnavigation of the world by sailboat) and am constantly inspired by the many cultures, personalities, and stories I come across on a day-by-day basis. People are fascinating, and they help drive my characters and the types of stories that I create.
Visit Wesley King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue