November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

In the Recording Studio with Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos was in New York last week to record the audiobook of his upcoming release, The Trouble in Me (Farrar, Sept. 2015). The “autobiographical novel” features 14-year-old Jack Gantos and is set in Fort Lauderdale, FL. As Gantos explains in the preface, the novel is partly an attempt to figure out how he went from being a kid on the relatively “straight and narrow” path to winding up in jail, as detailed in his bestselling and award-winning memoir, Hole in My Life (Macmillan, 2002). After writing Hole, the author began looking back over his early life choices, searching for a moment that revealed “some character flaw” or “small weakness” that might account for his later career as a teen drug smuggler.

In The Trouble in Me, readers meet Jack’s older neighbor, Gary Pagoda, who has just come back from juvie, where he was sent for car theft. Infatuated by the ever-so-cool Gary, young Jack decides he will do whatever shenanigans it takes to be just like Gary. What follows is a wild, funny, and sometimes cringe-worthy descent into criminal mischief.

The author shared that he loves bringing his own books to life because he knows exactly how all of the characters should sound, but can’t imagine ever doing the same for other authors’ books. “I can’t do the voices,” he says, explaining that his western Pennsylvania accent is so strong that it’s instantly recognizable anywhere he goes in the world. He credits his teaching experience with helping him succeed as a narrator, since he’s accustomed to—and enjoys—people listening to him talk. His teaching experience is also informing his current work in progress: a how-to-write guide for kids that will have video and audio components and will be available in spring 2017.