Sunday, September 11, 2011

Author Interview: Jospeh Bruchac

Joseph Bruchac is the author of Wolf Mark and over 120 books. You can find out more about him and his books on his website

1. I read you have written over 120 books. Do you have a favorite and if so which one?

I usually say that my favorite is the book I am working on at that moment--because
I put so much of myself into any new project. Right now, though, I have to confess
that I am very very fond of WOLF MARK and my main character, Luke. I wouldn't mind
writing another book about him.

2. How hard was it to get your first book published?

     "Hard" is not a hard enough word to describe how difficult it was. Excruciating might
be more on the mark. 
I don't know if you have to be stubborn or masochistic when you first start out and 
have to absorb all the rejection a beginning writer (as I was) can expect. My first book to 
be published was a collection of my own poems called INDIAN MOUNTAIN. That was in 1971,
but even though it was 40 years ago, I still remember vividly how it felt whenever that
package arrived in the mail with poor manuscript and another rejection letter in it.
  That manuscript was turned down more than 30 times before it was taken. Two years 
worth of rejection letters. Every one of them, even the polite ones, felt like a knife in my heart. 
And when my book finally was accepted I had to control myself from writing a letter to the 
publisher saying "Excuse me, but you've made a terrible mistake. I'm sure you actually mean to 
reject this book."
However that experience taught me several things. One, of course, was perseverance. But 
another was to use rejection as an opportunity to look at my own work again as if it was someone 
else's, to gain the distance to be more objective, and then to revise and make it better. 

3. Beside the fact that you are of Abenaki descent, what other reasons did you decide to inlcude Abenaki characters in your books?
     I felt that many of the aspects of Abenaki culture that I knew really tied in well with the story.
Plus, and I think other writers will understand this, my character insisted on it. It was one
of those cases where the more I wrote, the more my main character told me about himself
and his story.

4. Is Wolf Mark the first novel for young adults you have ever written?

     My first novel that could be called YA is a book called DAWN LAND that takes place in pre-
Columbian America and features a young Abenaki man and his three faithful dogs. That was
published in 1993 and crossed over between the adult and YA audiences. I'm excited
about the fact that it has just appeared in a totally new format, as a graphic novel, illustrated
by Will Davis and published by First Second Books with the same title of DAWN LAND.
Trailer for Dawn Land:
 5. Is there anything about Luke that reminds you of yourself?
     I think that every writer always puts something of herself or himself into their main
character, especially when writing in the first person. Luke is very different from me
in a lot of ways (lucky for me), but he shares with me a love of and deep connection
to the natural world, and like me feels happiest and most at ease when he is in the forest.
Luke and I share a love of poetry (I've memorized and quoted poems since I was
in grade school) and for Russian literature.
And motorcycles. I've had several in my life, including a 1959 Harley with a suicide
shift (which never got over 100) and a 1972 Triumph Bonneville (which could go a little
faster). However, I sold my last motorcycle a while ago and used the money to buy a new
Guild guitar--one of seven guitars I own at present, no eight. (Hmm, another thing in
common with him.)
Like Luke I have a real passion for martial arts. I've been a student and teacher of
martial arts for over 35 years and hold the rank of Master in the Indonesian martial
art of Pentjak (or Pencak) silat. 
I also identify with Luke's romantic problems, remembering all too well the ache 
of hopeless first love. And I shall say no more about that!
 Further, like Luke, I do have what might be called a sardonic and sometimes
self-deprecating sense of humor.

6. How did you come up with the book idea for Wolf Mark?

     As has been the case with several of my books, I found myself hearing the voice of my
main character one morning when I woke up, got up and started sort of taking
dictation from him. So in a way the story found me. That said, I love fantasy and 
horror and always wanted to add something to that genre from an American Indian
perspective. And I am very interested in writing stories for the reluctant reader,
especially young men who often feel little connection to books at that stage in their
lives--even though I believe they need good stories even more in their teenage years.

7. How long have you been writing?

     Well, I remember writing poems for my teacher when I was in second grade. But I made
a real commitment to being a writer my junior year in college at Cornell University. And
I was rewarded for that commitment two years later when I was given a full scholarship,
a Writing Fellowship, to Syracuse University where I got my master's degree.

8. As an established writer, do you ever get any book rejections?

     Oh yeah! In fact (and this kind of tickles me) my initial proposal to do this book, accompanied 
by the first few chapters, was rejected by another publisher that had brought out several
of my earlier books, And that rejection was with the comment that I shouldn't feel bad because 
some people just can't write for the YA reader.

9. So many middle school and high school boys are reluctant readers. What would you say to them?

     First of all, don't feel like you are a dummy because you may have had some problems
reading or more likely, wanting to read. You just haven't found the right books yet.

     There are lots of books out here for you to read. Check out the website
Don't feel bad if you don't want to read the books that people say are "good for you." 
Maybe you're not ready to read those books yet. Read the things that you enjoy reading.
The more you read, the more you'll get out of it and you'll get better at reading. And
being a good reader will be useful to you for your whole life.

     Read about sports. Read non-fiction. Read stories that are exciting. Read graphic
novels. Just read.

Click here to win a copy of the awesome young adult novel, Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac.


Danel Olson said...

Joe Bruchac is certainly a fascinating writer, who brings his deep curiosity for all things and his reverence for nature into his fiction. His fiction catalog is a long one, and I am glad for it. I'm looking forward to reading more (for myself and for my kids!)
Thanks for the insightful interview.

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