An Interview with Alex Award Winning Author Gavin Extence

Photo Apr 30, 11 38 14 AMGavin Extence is the author of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, a 2014 Alex Award winning novel that’s surprising, funny, tragic and poignant all at once as it quirkily portrays the life of teenaged British science nerd Alex Woods. Woods was struck in the head by a meteorite in a freak accident when he was 10 and survived, although he was forever changed by the experience. He develops severe epilepsy and because of this, his life unfolds in unexpected and surprising ways.

I always look forward to seeing which titles are selected each year for the Alex Awards Photo Mar 16, 12 13 40 PM(adult books selected for their demonstrated or probable appeal to the personal reading tastes of young adults). I loved this book and it more than deserves the Alex Award. When I heard that Gavin was willing to be interviewed for The Hub, I jumped at the chance and wasn’t disappointed by his thoughtful answers to my many questions.

Q. Your last name is unusual. What’s its origin?

It originates from Devon in the southwest of England, not that far from where Alex lives. My Grandad told me it came from a group of shipwrecked Spanish pirates. I’m not sure if that story is completely true, but it’s the best answer I have, so I’m sticking to it!

Photo Mar 16, 12 50 29 PMQ. Congratulations on the Alex Award! Were you surprised at how much praise the book has received? I remember it was one of NPR’s 5 recommended reads for YA readers last summer.

Thank you. Yes, I was very surprised. I had very modest expectations for my book, and never even thought about it being published outside the UK. But obviously I’m thrilled that so many readers have enjoyed it.

Q. Did you write the book you wanted to write or did you have to change anything you were going to include? Since the book covers Alex’s life from ages 10-17, did you ever consider writing this as a YA book or was it always going to be an adult book?

There wasn’t much I changed between the first draft and the last – just minor details, really. But I did a lot of polishing to make the book as good as I could. I always thought I was writing a story for adults, although I also wanted to paint a very clear and immediate picture of adolescence, and I knew I wanted the writing to be fairly straightforward and accessible. But I never really considered the YA audience until my publisher said they wanted to market the book as ‘crossover’. However, it’s wonderful to reach a wide readership. So far the youngest person to have read the book, that I’m aware of, is 10 (too young!) and the oldest is 101. Continue reading An Interview with Alex Award Winning Author Gavin Extence