April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Da Do Ron Ron: Ron Koertge’s sequel to ‘Stoner & Spaz’ is even better than the original | Under Cover

Now Playing: Stoner & Spaz II is about an unlikely romance between a sexy, foul-mouthed druggie and an isolated kid with cerebral palsy who lives with his rich grandmother. No offense, but I thought you were much younger.

Oh, Christ! I’m 71! Yeah, a youthful 71.

Are kids shocked when they meet you?

I don’t do a lot of school visits, like a lot of young adult writers, but I do some. I walk in and the kids say, “What the [expletive]? Holy [expletive]! Are you the writer’s grandfather?” They’re just terrific about it. You know how kids are? They’re very frank. [Laughter.] And they say things like, “Man, you’re so old! How do you know what kids are thinking? How do you know what’s going on?”

Ron Koertge How do you know?

I don’t know what’s going on inside the teen world particularly, but I know what’s going on inside Ben’s and Colleen’s worlds. I mean, a friend of mine says that I have a complete inner Colleen: I have a potty mouth. I have her scorn for things. I have her wiseass attitude. In fact, the reason the sequel came about was a friend of my wife’s and mine told me a couple of years ago that she started to see Colleens around again—you know, tough little cookies with miniskirts and torn panty hose and tattoos.

What kind of feedback do you get from kids with disabilities?

The thing that has touched me most is that kids with disabilities write me and say, “I’ve never seen myself before in print.”

That’s very moving.

Yeah, it is. I was on the radio once. It was a BBC interview, and I was on the couch, where I am now [in South Pasadena, CA], and they had a woman who was a physical disabilities specialist and a psychologist. So we’re talking about Stoner & Spaz , and toward the end of the interview, the woman said to me, “Well, Ron, you really made lemonade from this lemon.” And I said, “What lemon is that?” And she said, “Your disability, your cerebral palsy.” And I said, “I don’t have CP. And she said, “Oh, don’t be ashamed.” [Laughter.]

How do you write so convincingly about people with disabilities and addictions?

Oh, I think everybody feels wounded. I think everybody feels crippled. As Ben’s grandma says to him, “Oh, Ben, everybody looks in the mirror and wishes they were different.”

Does the language or drugs in your books ever offend anyone?

I hear from librarians that Stoner & Spaz offends a lot of people. They’ve always got it on some special shelf, and I tease them and ask if it’s the one with the three sixes on it—the mark of the beast from the Bible. [Laughs.] I used to go to censorship debates at the library. And one of the things that I say is that I both applaud and admire parents who know what their kids are reading. Or who take the time to sit down and read it and say, “This isn’t appropriate for you. Maybe you can read it later.” So afterwards, the parents will come up to me and literally say to my face, “Gee, I thought you were just a horrible person, but you’re not.”


What the [expletive] do I say to that? [Laughs.] Thank you? My cloven hooves are on the hardwood floors. That didn’t deter you?

Rick Margolis About Rick Margolis

Rick Margolis was executive editor for SLJ.