“We want to remember what it feels like when things mattered that much, because we want them to matter that much to us now.”
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
1:37 am, New Year’s Day 2014 I’m lying in bed quietly dripping tears, wondering whether this bodes ill or well for the coming year. I don’t really believe in omens or resolutions or whatever, but still, in that moment, in the dark, it all seems weirdly significant and profound. I feel like I should fling myself into the new year head-on. I feel like I should be honest and wild and maybe not fearless, but at least bold. I feel like if a monster comes calling for me I want to be the sort of person that would accept the challenge. That’s the power of an extraordinary book, right? That feeling that we’re left with, once we’ve stayed up way too late, turned the last page, exhaled.
Patrick Ness writes extraordinary books, books that are both utterly absorbing in the moment and that linger long after The End. I’m still mulling over the Chaos Walking books years later, and clearly A Monster Calls made quite an impression. Here’s a cool thing, though: I’m pretty sure, despite never having met him, that Patrick Ness is also an extraordinary human being. I did, as usual, a lot of background reading for this interview, and this guy is consistently thoughtful, articulate, creative, kind, and funny on top of it all. (See below for proof.) Plus, instead of watching a too-big-to-tackle disaster unfold before him, he did something and his fundraising to help with the Syrian refugee crisis has been inspiring and–with support from many, many authors, publishers, and readers– has raised a truly amazing amount of money. (More information on his campaign can be found at his fundraising page.) As Rainbow Rowell said, “the people I admire most in this world are the ones who put themselves out there & TRY. It’s so scary to try. It makes you vulnerable.” Not sure I could admire author and all-around extraordinary human Patrick Ness more right now.
His next book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here (October 6) is still a couple weeks away here in the U.S. but I simply couldn’t hold onto this interview any longer–it’s too good not to share. (Notice how I refrained from calling it an “extraordinary interview”? I think it is, but I didn’t want to test your patience by using that word again.) Thank you so much, Patrick, for taking the time to talk with me, for making me cry in the middle of the night and literally laugh out loud (see below), and for putting yourself out there. I think you’re way more than medium nice.
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
As complex and contradictory as any teenager. Terribly shy, but also could make any classmate laugh (and they usually got in trouble while I sat there innocently). Super-anxious but keeping it crammed down into my stomach. Always, always, always, always, always with an eye towards getting away to college. Tragic hair. Just… tragic hair.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know that was a possible career at all. I thought, in a sort of twisted logic, that only famous people were authors. I never thought it would happen to me at all. I still got an English degree, but was working as a corporate writer when, to my astonishment, I got a book deal. That was a surprise. A nice one.
What were your high school years like?
High school was… all right, I guess. Could have been a lot worse. I had a seriously sharp tongue on me when I needed, so bullying was almost never a problem, but mostly I was just trying to be friendly, trying to have friends, making huge mistakes, figuring them out.
I had a job as a waiter in a steakhouse in high school (this job reappears in The Rest of Us Just Live Here), which was actually great. Good money, got me out of the house, I could always request the Sunday morning shift so I didn’t have to go to church…
Really, though, high school was a bit of a waiting room. As a gay kid, I was fairly certain my “real” life wouldn’t start until college, so I was biding my time until then. I think that’s becoming less and less true, but not fast enough. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Patrick Ness