Our guest: Wesley King is an Oshawa, Ontario-based author of middle grade fiction, and also a Star Wars fan who has, at various times, thought that he might have the Force for real. His latest book, The Incredible Space Raiders from Space! was published by Simon and Schuster in February of 2015, and his next one, OCDaniel, is coming in April of 2016, also from Simon and Schuster. His debut novel, The Vindico (2012) and its sequel, The Feros (2013), published by Penguin.
The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
1. WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
I used to read those big, yellow Sesame Street hardcover books. I remember having a mini-crisis when I got rid of them before university. They basically epitomized my youth.
I would say Sam Gribley from My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, one of my favourite children’s novels. I remember feeling very connected to his wanderlust and search for independence. It may have also been because kids always like to threaten to run away, and I felt like I was secretly reading a strategy guide on how to do it.
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
There are so many great ones, but my vote goes to J.K Rowling for her ability to create such an immersive world. If I can craft something half as engaging I’ll be thrilled.
4. IF YOU WERE THROWING A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
Voldemort, because I feel like he would have to behave himself if he accepted my invitation. Clifford the Big Red Dog, because it was always a lark when he tried to eat something. The Giver for some sage advice. Aslan for the same reason, and because he could probably deal with Voldemort if he has too much wine. Lastly, Bilbo, who clearly knows how to throw a dinner party.
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
I believe a truly immersive world is what always draws me in most, though you could perhaps say the same for a relatable character. For me children’s literature is about falling into that world and envisioning yourself in the story, and you need those connecting elements.
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
It’s tough to say as I have written a variety of stories, but I always try to include a little bit of fun in every story, no matter the gravitas of what is happening. I always like to try and instill the wonderment that I still feel when I read.
That’s a tough one, but I would say Harry Potter, except possibly without all the drama.
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
There are too many things to count. I don’t even like reading books that I’ve published for fear of all the things I will want to change. I suppose an even more stringent editing process in my first novels, as I have come to truly enjoy that aspect and now actually look forward to it when I write.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
From a high school teacher: If you are truly this passionate about something, follow it. Because if you don’t, you’re going to be miserable.
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
I am definitely a creature of habit. I like to write in my office (picture attached), and generally in the morning early afternoon. I find I get spacey as the day wears on, probably because I am thinking about dragons and other awesome stuff. When I am really in the midst of writing, I write A LOT. I wrote my first book in three weeks, and some of my more recent books in even less time. I like to write 10,000+ words on a productive day.
So tough. The book I read most as a kid was The Courtship of Princes Leia by Dave Wolverton, but that was partly because I thought girls were strange mythical creatures and the idea of courting one was quite adventurous. Actually that never really changed. Maybe I better read the book again.
12. TELL US ABOUT A BOOK YOU LOVE THAT, FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER, HAS NOT FOUND A WIDE AUDIENCE.
Another difficult question, but let me twist that and say My Side of the Mountain for more contemporary audiences. I was given the book to read by a wonderful fourth grade teacher, Ms. O’Grady, who was always finding books for my voracious appetite. I still think the themes of a search for independence and our inherent need for relationships in some form still ring very true for kids today, and I would love to see it being shared more today.