Pete Hautman is the author of Godless, the 2004 National Book Award-winner in the category of young people’s literature, and most recently LA Times Book Prize winner The Big Crunch, as well as many other books for teens and adults, including Blank Confession, All-In, Rash, No Limit, Invisible, and Mr. Was, which was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America.
Hautman, who lives in Minnesota, is a guest speaker at SLJ‘s August 9 online event, SummerTeen: A Celebration of Young Adult Books. If you’ve signed up for SummerTeen, make sure to gather your teens to hear Hautman speak on the “Science in Science Fiction” panel from 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Registration is still open.
We spoke to Hautman about how he accidentally fell into writing YA, why he thinks librarians are indispensible, and why it’s OK to offend his readers.
How valuable are librarians at getting the word out about your work?
PH: They are the reason I can do the work I do. My books are not what you would call “highly commercial” (to my regret!), and if not for librarians and teachers, very few teens would discover my books. In other words, indispensible.
What’s one of the most moving things a teen has said about your books?
PH: “Until I read your books, I never knew there were other people out there who thought like me.”
How’d you make the transition from writing for adults to writing for teens?
PH: My first several novels were written for adults. I began writing for teens by accident-I wrote a time-travel novel that covered about 70 years in a man’s life-and it turned out that the most interesting part of the book was about things that happened to him when he was a teen. The teen character came to dominate the story, and when I tried to get it published, I was told that I had written a YA novel. “What is why aye?” I said. Once that book (Mr. Was [S & S, 1996]) was published, I started remembering what a magical and revelatory thing it was to read books as a teen. I thought it would be fun to write a few more. Turns out, I’m writing a lot more.
What do you like best about writing for young adults?
PH: The audience. Teens are far more open-minded readers than your average adult. I love writing for readers who, when I take an unexpected left, lean into the turn just to see where it will go.
Do you ever worry about your works being censored or challenged?
PH: I think about it, but I don’t worry about it. I write what I want to write with the understanding that it won’t be embraced by everyone. In fact, if I ever write a book that offends no one, I will think I have failed. Any good book, in my opinion, should challenge the reader. Why should I be offended when some readers fight back?
What are you working on now?
PH: I am working on the “Klaatu Diskos” time-travel trilogy. The first book, The Obsidian Blade, came out last spring. The second book, The Cydonian Pyramid, is coming next April. The third (untitled) book will be published spring, 2014. That is, assuming I finish it on time!
Other SLJ SummerTeen Interviews: