I really enjoy having MaterialConcern as an online record of inspiration, images, ideas, thoughts, etc. But I also really love when I can share someone’s work that is interesting and inspirational: and it’s even better if they do an interview for the blog!
Blake Nelson has written 11 books, two of which have been made into films, one that was KLIATT’S Editors Choice for 2007, and one that was integral to my life in high school, and possibly yours as well.
q: So: the night we met I told you how much Girl, your novel from 1994, and then we ran into another friend: who yelped in excitement when she met you: she had loved the book as well. How often do people, and women in specific, tell you how much they loved your book?
I don’t get it that much. So it’s fun when it happens. In the first five years GIRL was like a litmus test. Cool people knew about GIRL and the uncool people did not. I met Miranda July in like 1999 and she was so excited to meet me and loved GIRL and I was thrilled beyond words.
Now it is more diffuse and people are older and often will not say anything at first. Like you hang out with some people and they sort of act like they don’t know you and at the end of the night they suddenly blurt out: “I really loved GIRL when I was 13.” as they get in a cab. That seems to happen a lot.
Many GIRL fans are embarrassed that they are not scene people anymore but who is? I love meeting people that were alternative music people and now do other cool things, like be fashion designers or be librarians or have some other interesting jobs. That’s what I did. I was in bands when I was a kid and now I do something relatively interesting: I write books about kids in bands!
q. would you mind telling us if there is a constant refrain to what your fans tell you about Girl? Anything off the wall?
Usually it’s: I dated the local rockstar in my town. That’s my favorite. Recently a woman told me that reading my book made her want to take drugs and have sex when she was a teenager.
q. Has “I wrote Girl” shown itself to be a good pickup line?
I haven’t tried that. I did go on a couple blind dates that came through GIRL in various ways. These were all total disasters. Even when people know I’m a dude, they seem shocked to meet me and see me in the flesh. So i stopped doing that.
q. I remember reading the back of the jacket of Girl when I was in high school…and being totally shocked that the author was a boy. You’ve written a series of a books, from both male and female perspectives: but what made you choose Andrea as your first main character?
Just an accident. I wrote what I thought was a funny story called “Cybil Shaves Her Head” which was a punk rock version of F. SCott Fitzgerald’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.” Andrea was the narrator of that story which was more about Cybil. But the characters were so good I kept going on it and eventually it evolved into a novel.
Was Andrea based on someone you knew? or a composite? Are you Andrea?
“C’est Moi,” as Flaubert would say. Yes she is definitely me. All her stray observations and thoughts are me filtered through her. She is a little more generous toward people than I am. And a little more kind in general. But it’s mostly me. I find it pretty easy to be in her brain. She is me but sort of my best self.
q. On your website, you say about Girl: “Once I got rolling I tore through it in a matter of weeks.” In Dream School, Andrea has a somewhat similar experience with her first novel. However: the plot to Andrea’s novel sounds possibly a little similar to your 2009 novel, Destroy All Cars…have you brought your writing life, or your personal life into Andrea’s?
Oh sure. Why not? That’s what I know. And since Andrea is so close to me. Also she has that John-Boy naive quality that makes her a great observer. She was destined to be a writer I think.
q. I recently read your sequel to Girl, Dream School, online at Figment.com.
You’ve said that you wrote the sequel about five years after Girl…why did you revisit Andrea after that amount of time?
I don’t remember. I was doing other things. I was a little overwhelmed by the success of GIRL and I think I was too freaked out to write the sequel right away.
q. When Girl came out I was 14…and zines were as exciting to me as they were to Andrea. What do you think about blogs vs. zines for yourself and for young people today?
I think blogs *are* zines now. They’re a lot easier to find too. The really great ones are like great zines. You’re sort of astonished by their originality. I never get bored with the new cool weird take on things. I love the new whatever. That said, I am friends with Lisa Carver on facebook and she’s still as weird and brilliant as ever. And CHICKFACTOR has a blog now ….
q. Girl was originally serialized in Sassy, and now Dream School is online at Figment. how was your experience working in installments? with the online platform have you been able to interact more with your readers and fans than before?
No, it wasn’t that different. It was fun to hear people talking about it. And have them not know what’s going to happen. It makes it a little more of a social experience. The best thing was, before GIRL was published, i read it in installments at an open mike in portland. People really got into it then. I would always go last, and people would stay to hear the latest installment. That’s when I knew I had a hit.
q. being somewhat further removed from Andrea and Co at this point, how do you feel when you reread the two novels? Do you think the teen reader’s reaction is different today as opposed to 15 years ago?
Teen readers are more conservative now, and I think they are a little shocked by Andrea, and not in a good way. Teens now don’t like all the transgression, especially when it comes from adults. So I would say GIRL gets more harshly judged by todays teens who often don’t even seem to understand it. Often they think that Andrea is purposefully supposed to be stupid. Or that it’s about a girl who can’t control herself sexually. It’s weird. Teens now are so monitored and managed. Andrea’s life must seem really sloppy and out of control to them.
It’s been interesting and a great experience for me to have a work that has survived a complete generational cycle. The generation that first read GIRL, embraced it so completely. It was one of the only books that told the story of the alternative music world. Or even of just being young in the 90s. But the new kids seem a little suspicious of it. They don’t care about the 90s nostalgia, they just know that TWILIGHT makes them swoon with fantasies of love and GIRL is about this skanky rock chick. So that’s what you’re dealing with. But the book still somehow survives. People still read it.
q. can we expect another look into the life of Andrea Marr?
If not, do you think she’s turned into someone you’d be friends with?
I don’t know about anymore Andrea books. But I would definitely be friends with her. She is great. I love her. She is just the right combination of curious about the world and open, but also a little cynical, and observant and intelligent in a kind of natural, unpretentious way. She’s the best.
q. You’ve had two of your books turned into movies…by, shall we say, extremely different directors and perspectives. Girl, which I’ve always been afraid to watch, seemed to have all the creative and quirky energy wrung from it in the ill-hopes of coolness, and Paranoid Park, which saw the awesome Gus Van Sant take the helm. What is your feeling about seeing your characters on screen and interpreted by someone else?
The GIRL movie wasn’t so great. That just happens. It’s really hard to make movies. I know a lot of the people involved with the movie and they were smart talented people. It just didn’t work. It happens.
PARANOID PARK was totally fun. I love all of Gus’s movies, so I never worried about what the final product would be. I knew it would be cool in some way. And I had no expectations about it being a blockbuster film or something. I knew what the budget was, so I knew it would be “small” and artsy and probably awesome. And that’s what it was. The whole process was just pure fun, start to finish. And I loved the movie. And it was great to be around Gus. I actually felt like I learned from him: like how to be a mature working artist, and how to handle the different problems of that. It was a win win win win win win win.
q.Are there any of your other novels that you’d like to see made into films?
I think my new book RECOVERY ROAD would make a great movie. And has a great role for a young actress.
q. what are you currently working on?
Right now I’m promoting RECOVERY ROAD. and trying out some other things.
THANK YOU BLAKE!