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Meet Chris Crutcher – an author of young adult fiction with a focus on athletic themes, depicting the struggles of our youth. He is known for books like Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Whale Talk, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, and his adult novel, The Deep End, which is being adapted for film.
Crutcher has received multiple awards for his writing, including the ALAN Award, the NCTE SLATE Intellectual Freedom Award, the Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, and Writer Magazine’s Writers Who Make a Difference Award.
Crutcher is an incredibly talented, highly perceptive, and yet down-to-earth author, who honorably deemed me worthy of an interview. Soak up as much knowledge as you can, folks. Be sure to leave your comments and questions at the end. Enjoy!
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INTERVIEW QUESTIONS- AMELIA ALBANESE (AMA)
INTERVIEW ANSWERS – CHRIS CRUTCHER (CC)
AMA: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
CC: I wanted to be a stand-up comedian.
AMA: Your stories are based around YA sports. Did you play any athletics when you were younger? What are your feelings/interests in professional sports?
CC: I was raised in a really small town…fewer than a thousand people with right around a hundred students total in my high school. Almost all boys played sports because if they didn’t, teams came up short, so you didn’t have to be a great athlete to make the team. Hence, I played football (8-man) basketball and ran track in high school. It turned out I had more talent as a swimmer, but we didn’t have a pool in my town. I swam a lot in the lake, but didn’t know I had the talent to be competitive until I got to college. So I swam sprint and distance freestyle on my college team. Most of my sports stories are reality based.
AMA: Why do athletics inspire you as a writer? Aside from camaraderie, why do you feel youth sports make an impactful focal point?
CC: Athletics gives you back, exactly what you put into them. Any one of us has a certain amount of talent and if we really work at it we maximize it. Given a good coach, which is not always the case, the things you learn in team sports about cooperation and a certain kind of loyalty, are things you can use in your daily life. Writing works the same way. The more you write the better you get at it, and the more you study the good writers, the better information you get. And actually that’s true of any kind of intellectual endeavor.
AMA: You have studied psychology, sociology, and been a professor for a good portion of your life. What made you decide to write? Was there a defining moment that made you realize that this is what you wanted to do?
CC: Though I didn’t read a lot as an adolescent, I always loved stories of every kind…movies, comic books, TV, etc. When I got a little more patience later, I realized I loved the written word also. I don’t think there was a defining moment, other than the one where I just decided to sit down and give it a try. It’s not something I could have done simply on impulse, because there’s too much to it.
AMA: How do you usually get inspired to write a particular story?
CC: Usually I see something in the real world that I think would make a good story; something that gets a strong emotional reaction from me. Then I sit down and see if there’s a story there.
AMA: What is your favorite book that you’ve written so far? Which one(s) were the most fun and why?
CC: Don’t have a favorite book. They all came from places I cared about. The most fun was King of the Mild Frontier, which is my memoir. I already knew the story, of course, because it was about my life, and I was shooting for humor, which is always fun to write
AMA: What does your writing process include? Do you have trusted individuals as your sounding boards? Do you need to sit in a special chair to write?
CC: My writing process includes sitting my butt in a chair – any chair – and writing and asking myself, “What happens next.
AMA: Aside from writing, what is your favorite current hobby?
CC: Well, I don’t consider writing a hobby, but I get the question. I still swim a couple of miles a day, spend a lot of time having coffee with friends, do a lot of traveling to schools and teacher conferences here in the US and overseas.
AMA: What book(s) are you currently reading?
CC: Recently read Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, really well researched about the history and future of mankind, Beartown, by Fredrik Backman, and The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah.
AMA: Do you have any projects currently in the works that you are willing to reveal to us?
CC: I have several. I just sent the first draft of Camp Infinity (working title) to my editor. It’s kind of a whimsical story about a kid who is invited to an exclusive summer writing camp based on work he turned into his English teacher. Unfortunately, he didn’t write any of it…so he’s headed to a writing camp with no skills. I also have a contract for a non-fiction book of essays about people I consider to be heroic for one reason or another, many of which became characters in my novels).
AMA: What is your biggest struggle as an author?
CC: Usually it’s just getting started. Keeping focus. Trying to hit deadlines. Most of those things that are just about tenacity.
AMA: Your stories depict the ever-changing struggles of young adult life, sharing the empathy you have for our struggling youth. What do you hope your readers gain from reading your books?
CC: For the most part, I hope they find a good story. I don’t intentionally put messages in stories, though every good story contains them because of the choices the characters make and the consequences of those choices. Since I don’t know the histories of my readers, I leave the message part up to the reader. Whatever he/she gets determines the value of the book for that person.
AMA: What advice would you give to writers struggling to get published the first time?
CC: Actually, the best advice I can give is, write a good story. People pay so much attention to the nuts and bolts of the publishing business, and of course you have to know that. But for the most part a good story will find a publisher. It’s important to know which companies publish the kinds of stories you write, and which ones are looking for new talent, but most of that you can find on the Internet. But writing a good story comes first. Without that, there’s not much of a chance
AMA: If you could ask your readers anything, what would it be?
CC: Nothing comes to mind in terms of asking a group question. When I get a chance to talk with readers individually, I ask them about their lives. If they’re readers who have enjoyed a particular story of mine, I always want to know what they liked, which characters meant something to them, and why they thought the story resonated with them.
AMA: What do you enjoy most about being an author?
CC: I enjoy putting the story together…particularly like it when a character surprises me; does something I thought was beyond my imagination. I love the travel and meeting readers and other authors. Love the time I get to spend with teachers and librarians. I like that as an author I pretty much work for myself in terms of time and choices of things to write about. It’s a pretty good gig.
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To learn more about Chris Crutcher, check out his website, http://www.chriscrutcher.com where you can learn about his biography, accolades, books, and more!
Read my review on Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk on GoodReads, and subscribe for my upcoming review of Losers Bracket.