WBBT: On the Road with Mark Peter Hughes and a Book Giveaway!

I am pleased to welcome Mark Peter Hughes to my blog.  I read Mark’s book, I am the Wallpaper, earlier this year.  It’s a coming-of-age story where the voice is spot on and I knew I wanted to interview the author.  Here is my review of I am the Wallpaper.

I am the Wallpaper, is Mark’s first published book.  It was a New York Public Library’s 2006 Best Book for the Teen Age, a Booksense Summer Pick, and a finalist in the Delacorte Press Young Adult Novel Competition.

Mark Peter Hughes’ second novel, Lemonade Mouth, is a Top 10 Booksense Pick, a 2008 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Bank Street College of Education Best Childrens Book of the Year (Outstanding Merit), and 2008 Boston Authors Club Award Finalist.  Might I add how cool it was to see Floey’s crush (Wen) from I am the Wallpaper as a high schooler in Lemonade Mouth.
You are going to love this interview.  Talk about dedication and pure creativity!  But there’s more!  There’s a Book Giveaway in celebration of Lemonade Mouth‘s recent release into paperback (courtesy of Random House).  Details are at the end of this interview.
Without further ado, I give you Mark Peter Hughes…
HWM: What did you do before you started writing books for teens?
Mark Peter Hughes: I was a healthcare administrator.

HWM: I understand you entered I am the Wallpaper in the Delacorte Contest. Do you have a good story to share about what happened when you found out you were a finalist?
Mark Peter Hughes: I was thrilled, especially because my editor, Stephanie Lane, told me they were interested in seeing the next draft of the book. I realized it was a wonderful opportunity.

HWM: What inspired you to write I am the Wallpaper? Why did you decide to write from the POV of a girl and how difficult was it for you to get into character?
Mark Peter Hughes: I wanted to write a story about a girl who discovers her own diary has been posted online. I wanted it to be a funny novel, but at the same time I also wanted it to suggest some the of icky, scary sides of the Internet.

As far as writing from the POV of a girl, I was just writing a story and a thirteen-year-old girl happened to be the main character. It wasn’t until I’d written a couple of drafts that someone pointed out to me that it was unusual for a man to write from this perspective. I suppose it is, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. I was just doing what authors do–writing a story about a character.

HWM: I was impressed with how you were able to inject both poignant and amusing scenes in your book. Which do you find harder to write and why?
Mark Peter Hughes: Great question—I only wish I had a good answer. I don’t really think about scenes in terms of funny vs. poignant, I just write what feels right. Sometimes they’re hard to write and sometimes not, and for me it doesn’t seem to depend on whether it’s comic or not.

HWM: What inspired Lemonade Mouth?
Mark Peter Hughes: When I was in my twenties I spent a lot of time playing in bands. I play the guitar. The idea for Lemonade Mouth came from being in bands and knowing what being in a band feels like. It seems to me that a band takes on a personality of its own, apart from that of the individual members. Bands also have their own story arch, with a beginning, middle and ending.

Lemonade Mouth was inspired, in part, by a book called The Beatles Anthology, where somebody took separate interviews of each of the Beatles and pieced them together to make one continuous story told by four different voices. I wanted to write in that style, more or less. I added my own flavor to it, but I thought (and still think) that it’s a marvelous way to get a feel for each of the people, their individual stories and motivations and feelings, while also following the story they all share—the band’s wild, creative ride.

HWM: This story is told in five different voices. What was your writing process for this?
Mark Peter Hughes: First I wrote out the story the best I could from beginnin
g to end. Then I went back and grouped the sections for each character and rewrote them, one character at a time, fine-tuning the voice until I felt I had it right.

HWM: Who was the hardest character for you to write and why?
Mark Peter Hughes: It took me a while to figure out Stella’s voice because I wanted her to have something unusual. In the end I stumbled across some fiction writings of John Lennon and was intrigued by his style. Stella’s voice was inspired by his.

HWM: Lemonade Mouth Across America was a great idea (photo: check out the car)!
Mark Peter Hughes: I quit my day-job and my family and I decided it was a good time to take the summer off, drive all around America, and visit bookstores along the way. We had a blast. We did 12,592 miles, covering 38 states in 57 days on the barest of shoestring budgets. All five of us, including my wife and our three young children (ages 9, 8 and 5), all crammed into our rusty minivan. We camped and stayed with friends as we discovered America and had a terrific adventure! We kept a blog of the whole trip. You can access it by going to my website at: www.markpeterhughes.com and then clicking on Lemonade Mouth Across America.

HWM: What is your favorite fan story?
Mark Peter Hughes: Hmmm. One of the most fun moments for me was when the students of Bain Middle School in Cranston, Rhode Island (where Lemonade Mouth is set) recreated the climactic scene of the novel as a surprise for me, including all the music, frozen lemonade, and screaming fans. It was quite a moment for me.

HWM: Do you have any writing news to share with your fans?
Mark Peter Hughes: I’m working hard on my next novel, which is tentatively titled The Wild Orange Yonder.

HWM: What is your writing process or ritual?
Mark Peter Hughes: I’m the stay-at-home dad of three kids so I fit writing in whenever I can. After I get them on the bus I usually get a tall cup of coffee and start typing.

HWM: If you could share any unique writing tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Mark Peter Hughes: Unique? That’s a tall order since so much has been said and written about writing. I’m afraid my writing tip would be something tried and true: If you really want to write, then you have to sit down and write. Don’t be one of those who say they’re going to write someday. Today is that day. If you write today then you’re a writer.

HipWriterMama’s Curiosities

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years, what would you do differently?
Mark Peter Hughes: Oh god! So, so much! If I could re-do those years while knowing what I know now. . .well, boy-oh! How different it would be! For starters, I’d be a lot less afraid of sticking my neck out. I would have had a lot more fun. I would have worried less about stupid things. I could go on and on but I won’t.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Mark Peter Hughes: Funny people. My wife. My kids. John Cleese. My uncle John.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Mark Peter Hughes: Is this a trick question? Boy, whatever super powers you’re dishing out, I’ll take ‘em. Invisibitity? Fine. Flight? Super. Shape-shifting ability? Heck yeah. Listen, I’m happy if all I get is shiny mask and a nice looking cape. All good!

Thank you, Mark!

Other Places to Find Mark:
Now, drumroll please!  I’m pleased to offer you a Book Giveaway Contest to celebrate the recent release of Lemonade Mouth in paperback (Thank you, Random House!).  Click here to read an excerpt.  All you n
eed to do is write in the comments about what youlove about your favorite band or song in haiku (for haiku tips, check out Mark’s haiku me, baby! webpage.).  I figure Floey would approve.
Here’s my haiku for one of my favorite songs, Make It Mine by Jason Mraz:
writing can be hard
when life stuff gets in the way
until i hear this
[Edited to Add: Since a few people asked so nicely via e-mail, I’ll waive the haiku rule.

Just let me know your favorite band/song and why.

But, if you’d like to answer in haiku, go for it! Otherwise, no worries.]

Deadline to enter this Book Giveaway Contest is Thursday, November 20th at 11pm, EST.  The winner will be announced on Friday, November 21st.  Good luck!

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