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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Author Interview: Antony John

Earlier this year I read the totally awesome Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John which I loved, loved, loved so much! It has a permanent spot on my all-time favourites list and I know many other readers feel the same way. So, I was thrilled when Antony generously agreed to answer a bunch of questions that I bombarded him with. So read ahead while I continue to have my little fan-girl moment...

Where did the idea to write about a girl with a hearing disability come from?
Short answer: my wife. We were chatting about a book I was planning, in which a high school senior manages the school rock band, and she basically said: “Wouldn’t it be cool for you to write about music from the perspective of a deaf person?” In that moment, Piper Vaughan came to me, and the novel really just took off.

Piper is such an amazing and inspirational character. Was she inspired by anyone in particular?
No, she wasn’t inspired by anyone. Actually, of all the characters I’ve written, Piper came to me the most fully formed: smart, sarcastic, witty, offensive, loyal, judgemental, all wrapped up in a bundle of energy and a never-say-die attitude. I was determined that she wouldn’t be a victim, but a fighter. I was also determined that she would have some of the flaws she despises in others, but still be likeable in spite of them. I suppose she has quite a lot in common with me (back when I was a teen), but she’s much cooler than I ever was!

Was there a particular character whose scenes you enjoyed writing more than others?
I really enjoyed writing the scenes with Kallie. I tried to set her up as just another stereotype: the flawlessly beautiful, but hopelessly unattainable (and kind of stupid) hot girl. But as the novel progresses, I wanted her to shatter that perception. This involved really thinking hard about who she is, and what makes her tick. I guess I also got emotionally caught up in her story, and how much of an outsider she feels. Writing her scenes felt very real, and very rewarding.

Music obviously plays a major role in Dumb, especially Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. Are they musical heroes of yours and who else do you admire?
To be honest, I only really came to fully appreciate them through writing DUMB. Before that, I enjoyed their music, but didn’t exactly feel part of the cult following that they enjoyed. But as I researched them and visited their homes (as Piper does in the novel), I sort of had the same response as her: suddenly I began to see them both as extraordinarily gifted but terribly flawed human beings, for whom music was both their salvation and, in a way, their undoing. After that, I couldn’t help but feel differently about them and their music.

I suppose my other rock music heroes are The Beatles. That’s really predictable, I know, but their music is extraordinary, and evolved so much over the decade or so they spent together.

Do you have any favourite young adult authors?
I have loads! In fact, the list is so long that I could write another post on it. Instead, how about I list twelve books that I wish EVERYONE would read? (Trust me, these novels are absolutely brilliant.)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.
Before I Die by Jenny Downham.
Candy by Kevin Brooks.
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going.
Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock.
Looking for Alaska by John Green.
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Holes by Louis Sachar.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.
Feed by M.T. Anderson.
Life as We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer.

Oooo I totally agree with some of these! **adds more books to TBR pile**

You went from studying music and composition to being a full time writer. How did that come about and are you still involved in music?
After I finished my Ph.D., I spent a while doing university teaching. I loved it, but when my wife and I started a family, I jumped at the opportunity to be a stay-at-home dad. At first, I figured I’d continue to compose on the side, but arranging performances is tricky when you’re only available from 8PM onwards (i.e. after the baby is asleep). So I tried writing a novel instead. It completely sucked, but I really enjoyed writing it. It also taught me a lot about what not to do, and so my next novel, BUSTED, was better. It got published, and after that I realized I actually preferred writing to composing.

These days, I don’t have time to compose. I’m still a stay-at-home dad, and I also have several books in the pipeline, so I keep busy. But I still listen to music while I write, and music always seems to feature heavily in my books, so all those years of study were totally worth it. Right?

If you had the chance to meet and ask one question to any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Ooh, good question. I’m afraid I’m going to be kind of boring here, and ask J. S. Bach (aka: the best composer EVER) where the rest of his music is. See, although he was phenomenally prolific, experts reckon that only a half of his compositions exist today, the rest having been lost. To see (and hear) those other compositions would literally change music history, and allow me to torment my kids by playing even more angsty classical music. It would be a win-win!


Are you writing anything at the moment? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Like I say, I have several projects on the go. It suits me to be working on different types of project at the same time, so that I never get bored (or stuck) on any one of them. As for what’s coming next . . .

The ARC of my next novel, THOU SHALT NOT ROAD TRIP, will be out later this month (the hardback will be released April 2012). It’s about a 16-year-old boy who writes a spiritual self-help book that becomes a bestseller. When his publisher sends him on a promotional tour along Route 66, things start to get crazy, especially when a former crush hitches a ride.

I’ve also just finished the first draft of book 1 of my ELEMENTAL trilogy (to be released fall 2012). It’s set in a dystopian colony of the United States where everyone is born with powers of the elements—earth, water, wind, and fire—except for one boy who is powerless . . . or is he? I’m so psyched about it I can barely see straight.

These sound so good! I love roadtrip stories and Elemental sounds really exciting! **squeal!!!**

Thanks for having me along today, Jessica. And hi to all your readers!

Thankyou so, so much Antony for taking the time to answer these! I really appreciate it and I can't wait to read your forth-coming titles!

Antony's Website, Facebook, Goodreads

My review of Five Flavors of Dumb

Second Opinions...
Nic @ Irrisistable Reads
Elle @ So Much to Tell You

Five Flavors of Dumb is not currently available in Australia but you can get it at The Book Depository and other online sites.


  1. Awesome interview Jess! I love Five Flavors of Dumb and it's unforgettable bunch of character.

    I am excited to hear about Antony's upcoming books. I just wish they were out now.

  2. Great interview, Jess - it's funny, I just bought a copy of this from TBD last week! Can't wait to read it.

  3. Thanks again for having me along, Jess. And cheers to everyone in Australia for giving DUMB a lift!

  4. Awesome interview, Jess :) Great questions. Love Antony's list of YA books/authors!

    PS, Thanks for the link, too.


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