WBBT: An Interview with Rick Yancey

“If you’re looking for a good action-packed adventure book with sword wielding monks, high speed car chases, lots of blood and gore, sweeping helicopter rides, and an unexpected hero who gives you a few laughs and manages to save the world from destruction, look no further. Alfred Kropp is here. Oh, yeah. ” This is what I wrote in a recent post , Great Books for Boys: Meet Alfred Kropp.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp (hardcover October 2005, paperback Jan 2007) is Rick’s first children’s (YA)book. Book Two, Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon was released in May 2007. The third book is due to be released in May 2008. Rick has also written three adult titles: A Burning in Homeland, Confessions of a Tax Collector, and The Highly Effective Detective.

Check out the awards for The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp: Publisher’s Weekly – Best Books for Children – 2005; Booksense Best Books – Winter 2006; Texas LoneStar Reading List – 2006; Carnegie Medal Nominee – 2006; Featured Author/Book – Scholastic Book Fairs – Fall 2006.

I really enjoyed the Alfred Kropp books. They are perfect for reluctant readers, awkward teens and dreamers. Rick Yancey draws the reader into the total reading experience, so the action unfolds right before your very eyes. Teens will be thrilled by the “cinematic” view of Alfred’s adventures and heroics. This is probably one of the reasons why Warner Brothers Pictures and Akiva Goldsman recently purchased the movie rights to The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. If the book is this action packed, can you even imagine what the movie will be like? Teen boys will drool.

Without further ado, please welcome Rick Yancey.

HWM: I find your bio so interesting. You worked for the IRS, wrote screenplays, and have been a film critic. What made you realize you wanted to write books?
I realized I wanted to be writer in middle-school, when a teacher assigned a five-page narrative paper and I turned in 25 pages! I wrote a note to him, apologizing for the length, and he wrote back, “Never apologize for something you should be proud of.”

That note always stuck with me. Of course, I was also deeply affected by reading itself, and from an early age wanted to create the thrills I experienced while reading.

HWM: What inspired you to write The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp and how did it evolve from a book for adults to a book for teens?
KROPP began as a detective story, of all things. I wanted to write a first novel in a detective series and my hero was 33 at the beginning of the book, with basically the same plot line: Excalibur, the magical sword of King Arthur, has survived to the present day and is lost into the hands of evil.

Publishers loved the idea, but their marketing departments did not. Too many genres. So, at the suggestion of my agent, I changed the protagonist from a 33 year old detective to a 15 year old orphan. Thus the entire Kropp series could be called a happy accident!

HWM: What do you find more rewarding: writing books for teens or adults?
I laugh more with teen books; cry more with adult ones.

HWM: How long did it take for you to write The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp and Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon?
A little over a year on the first one, if you add in the time it took to write it first as a detective story. SOLOMON about ten months.

HWM: How much research did you have to do about Arthurian legend and the Seal of Solomon?
Much more research went into SOLOMON, since I was not familiar with the legends surrounding the Great Seal. Excalibur took only a few days, since I was quite familiar with the stories.

HWM: When did you know you had the right ending for each of the Alfred Kropp books?
Rick: My breath grows short and I feel this tightening in my chest. An “oh yeah!” feeling. For example, when I realized Alfred was going to fall from 28,000 feet in the second book, without a parachute, it was like, “Oh, yeah!”

HWM: How did you work out the action scenes for the Alfred Kropp books? I could visualize these scenes and enjoyed the movie-like quality.
I act out all the action scenes (within reason). Much more fun that way.

HWM: Which character, if any, is most like you?
Nobody, hopefully. I’m not that interesting, although I did write a memoir (CONFESSIONS OF A TAX COLLECTOR) to prove it.

HWM: Who was the toughest character to write about?
Bennacio, the Last Knight in the first book. He’s such an anachronism, so closed off and a keeper of his own counsel, I had difficulty getting him to open up, even to me!

HWM: I understand you’re working on the third Alfred Kropp book. What can you tell me about this one? When is it due to be published?
It is due in stores May 2008. It picks up at the exact moment that Book Two leaves off. The “sacred object” in this one is the owner of the 13th Skull. I won’t reveal anything more than that.

HWM: Congratulations. I understand the film rights to The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp have been sold to Warner Brothers. Will you be involved in writing the screenplay? What can you tell me about this project?
The screen play was written by David Iserson, a former SNL writer. Producer is Weed Road, owned by Akiva Goldman, who d
id MR. & MRS. SMITH and The Da Vinci Code, among others.

(Note: I just found out Akiva Goldman won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published in 2002 for A Beautiful Mind. This book is in good hands.)

HWM: People get nervous about movies that are adapted from children’s books. What can you tell your fans to reassure them?
It’s just a movie.

HWM: Any words of advice for those authors who would like to get their books made into movies?
Like I told my son recently while hunting for shark’s teeth: The secret is not to find the tooth, but allow the tooth to find you.

HWM: What have you learned about your experiences surrounding Alfred Kropp?
Kids take characters very seriously, as if they are real people. I do, too, so we have that in common.

HWM: Do you outline or free form?
I never outline. It leads to a lot of discarded pages and wasted time, but I can’t seem to work any other way. If I try to outline, I get bored. I’d rather be almost anything than bored.

HWM: Where do you like to write?
On my lanai by the pool.

HWM: What is your writing process or ritual?
I begin my typing, “Chapter One,” and I end by typing, “The End.”

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?
How publishing really works. Or doesn’t, as the case may be.

HWM: If you could share any unique writing tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Never let rejection stop you. If writers did, we wouldn’t have any books to read. Every writer gets rejected; it’s part of the game.

HWM: What was the best writing advice someone ever gave you?
Sit down, write something, and stop complaining.

HipWriterMama’s Curiosities
HWM: Tell me about the most interesting comment from a fan.
“I bought your book from a book fair for $5. Thank you for writing such a cheap book.”

HWM: If you could choose, which actors and actresses would play your characters?
Rick: Nobody is up to the task.

HWM: Did you test drive cars in the name of research for your books?
Don’t I wish!

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years, what would you do differently?
I would run away and live in a monastery until I was twenty.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
When somebody cuts anybody down to size, including when it happens to me.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
I always wanted to fly.

Thank you, Rick!

Other places to find Rick Yancey:
Rick’s website
Alfred Kropp’s MySpace

Excerpt from The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp
An excerpt from Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon can be found here: click the link for Preview the Book.

Today’s WBBT interview schedule:
Lisa Ann Sandell at Interactive Reader
Christopher Barzak at Chasing Ray
Julie Halpern at The Ya Ya Yas
Micol Ostow at Shaken & Stirred
Rick Yancey at HipWriterMama
Jane Yolen at Fuse Number 8 (Part One & Part Two)
Shannon Hale at Bookshelves of Doom
Maureen Johnson at Bildungsroman
David Lubar at Writing & Ruminating
Sherman Alexie at Finding Wonderland

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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