Monday, June 14, 2010

Author Interview: Todd Mitchell

Stopping by today is Todd Mitchell, the brains behind the recent release The Secret To Lying. This is a fantastic coming of age book blending fantasy and reality about a boy toying the line of lying. Thanks for joining us, Todd.

There is a pretty wide cast of characters in the book- which ones did you find the most fun to write and introduce?

Dickie and Heinous were a lot of fun to write, since they were always joking around and saying absurd things. But I also loved writing Ghost44, since she has a deep emotional wisdom that I admire. And Cheese, with his philosophical ramblings (and fixation on sex), was a lot of fun. In general, though, I find writing characters who are very different from me (different gender, different mindset, different voice...) to be the most surprising and rewarding to write.

There is both a realistic setting and a fantasy/dream type one incorporated into this book. Did you find a preference in writing one over the other or have difficulty switching between and blending the two?

I found the fantasy sections to be more difficult to write, and blending the fantasy and reality was definitely a challenge. In early versions of the book, the fantasy story-line was longer and more in-depth. As I revised, I kept trimming the fantasy sections down. But I felt it was important to keep this story-line in there, since it dramatizes how James is stuck in his own fantasy, and how the line we draw between fantasy and reality is often an arbitrary one. When I was James' age, I really struggled with determining where the world in my head ended, and where the world outside began. I think this is true for many teens—which might help explain why fantasy is so incredibly popular among teens. But the hard part of including both these realities in a book is that they engage readers in different ways (so some readers have told me they like the fantasy sections more, and some have said they like the reality sections more). As a writer, part of what I'm interested in is the intersection between fantasy and reality —and I'd never read a book that tried to bring these two modes of thinking together in a realistic way before. Whether we realize it or not, fantasy both reflects and shapes our reality, and I wanted to explore how that happens.

If you could pair James with any character from any other book (romantically or otherwise, your pick), what would you choose?

I'd love to see James and Holden Caulfield hang out. Because I think Holden would spot that James is a phony. But then again, Holden is a phony too. In fact, they both seem simultaneously phony and honest in similar ways, and after some initial tension, I bet they'd have some interesting adventures together.

Romantically, I'd want James to get together with Stargirl. I think it would be good for him if he was with someone crazier and more outlandish than him.

Also —it would be funny if James and Edward Cullen were stuck on an island together. James would probably tell Edward that he was a vampire too.

Given this book is based in lies, have you ever told a lie that ended up escalating into something much bigger until it began to take over you much like some of James' lies ended up doing?

I've told some whoppers in my life, but now I try to practice extreme honesty. Still, it's hard to tell the truth in the past apart from the stories. But to the kids I sold coal to when I was five, promising them it would become diamonds, it will happen—just keep waiting.

What is the most fearless thing you've done to date?

I've jumped out of planes, kayaked class V rapids, and swum with sharks (seriously —there's a video of it on youtube) but probably the most fearless thing I've done was to ask the woman who later became my wife out on a date. Because no one ever made my heart race and hands tremble like she did. Just being around her made me want to puke in my shoe. And the first few times I asked her out, she dissed me. (I'm not kidding —here's a direct quote from when we were getting to know each other: Me: "Is there any chance at all that we'll ever be together?" K (my wife): "No. No chance at all.") But I truly believe that "our risk is our cure" —so I kept asking, and she finally said yes. Life's too short not to risk everything for the things you believe in, and the people you love.

If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day, who's life would you want to experience?

This might sound lame, but I honestly wonder what it would be like to be the President for a day. I mean, what does the president do when he gets up in the morning? Turn on the news? Read the paper? Eat cereal? He's arguably the most powerful person in the world, and yet, he still has to shave, and shower, and eat. So when are the society altering decisions made? What's it like to have so many responsibilities resting on your shoulders? I'd hate to have to deal with that pressure for long, but I think it would be fascinating to experience that sort of power and responsibility for one day.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

I'm a cranberry orange dark chocolate cookie —something weird that you wouldn't expect, but that might taste tangy, and bitter-sweet, and good with lots of caffeine. Or maybe I'm a dolphin-moon cookie —something surreal that's never existed before. Or maybe I'm a donut hole who dreams of being a dolphin-moon...

Book Summary: James was the guy no one noticed —another fifteen-year-old living in a small town. So when he gets into the American Science and Mathematics Academy (or ASMA), James decides to leave his boring past behind. In a public boarding school made up of nerds and geeks, being cool is easy. All it takes is a few harmless lies to invent the new James: rebel, punk, street fighter. Everyone’s impressed —except for the beautiful Ellie Frost, whose icy demeanor holds an inexplicable attraction for James, and the mysterious ghost44, an IM presence who sees right through his new identity.

But James is riding high —playing pranks and hooking up with the luscious Jessica Keen. Things seem perfect until he begins having strange dreams of a dark city haunted by demons. As the line between dreams and reality blurs, James begins to wonder: What’s the price for being the coolest guy around?

Funny and real, Todd Mitchell's debut YA novel takes readers into a school for the intellectually gifted and socially awkward, as readers discover the secret —and consequences— to lying.

Thanks again, Todd, for stopping by! The Secret To Lying is available now so go check it out! My review for it can be found here if you haven't seen it yet.


  1. I would never want to be president even for a day, What is a crisis happens that day and a decision needs to be made, He is a brave man.

    Great interview

  2. Awesome interview!

    I'm in Dallas, too. Your beagle is cute!

    I'm your newest follower, and I love your blog!

    You can check out mine here.

    Happy Monday!

    aka The Nerd's Wife

  3. Great interview!! You have an award at my blog!!