Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Robert Cormier Interview

I found some more interesting stuff in the old files.  This one is definitely worth sharing.  It's a 1988 interview with Robert Cormier, who was a popular novelist for young adults at the time. 

"My worst nightmare is a reader closing one of my books and yawning.  I want to shake people up a little.  I want them to react to what I write," declared awardwinning author Robert Cormier during a press conference with area high school students Wednesday at the tenth annual Youngstown State University English Festival.  Cormier was the featured lecturer at the English Festival and four of his books, including The Chocolate War, are on this year's festival booklist.

Cormier's writing career has spanned four decades.  He started writing as a journalist and won the Associated Press Best News Story Award twice, in 1959 and in 1973.  He wrote fiction in his spare time for many years before he decided to write it fulltime in 1978.  Cormier has won numerous awards for his fiction, including the New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year Award three times for his novels The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and After the First Death.

A friendly man in his sixties, Cormier looked relaxed as he fielded questions about his writing, answering them in his New England accent.  Cormier denounced the adolescent literature label on much of his work by saying, "I don't think I write young adult books.  I write books about young adults.  When I sit down at the typewriter and begin creating a story, I don't write with a sixteen-year-old in mind.  I write for an intelligent reader regardless of age."

Cormier also stated that he feels a great kinship with teenagers, and their problems and lives are of general interest to him.  That is the reason much of his writing concerns teenagers.  He claims to have total recall of his teenage years, and he became interested in writing about young adults when his three children reached adolescence.  Despite his strong affinity with teens, Cormier exclaimed, "I wouldn't be a teenager again for a million dollars.  It's the most turbulent, lacerating, total, terrific time of life, which is what makes it so fascinating."

Cormier said that his writing stems from emotions.  He claims to need a strong emotional catalyst to start writing, and he has a great emotional involvement with his characters.  He described himself as a storyteller who possess a "third eye," which picks up nuances and, then, feelings of people that he can use in his writing.  He keeps his writing style sharp by every night recording his impressions of the day.

Cormier always thought of himself as "a writer disguised as a newspaperman," and, when he had the chance, he became a fulltime writer.  He compared his relationship with the typewriter to the relationship between an artist and an easel or a pianist and a piano.  He wants to have readers react to his work, and he is very pleased when he gets feedback from readers on his work.  He even placed his phone number in I Am the Cheese when Adam tries to contact his girlfriend, Amy.  Sometimes readers call.

As long as he keeps writing, they probably will keep reading as well.

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