Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, June 20, 2016

An Inside Look #2 (Interview with Jeff Zentner: Author of The Serpent King)

An Inside Look - With Jeff Zentner Author of The Serpent King

*I'm always thinking about ways to improve and add to the "ReadWonder" blog.

*It amazes me how far it has come in the last several years, but it is my hope that it continues to grow and improve.

*After reading the novel Finding Perfect, I had some great interactions with Elly Swartz via Twitter.  Last Monday I featured my first author interview with her and had so much fun with that process.

*Here is the link to that first interview...

An Inside Look #1 Interview

*I knew after reading The Serpent King, I had so many thoughts and questions for the author.  It was one of the best young-adult novels I had read in a long time.  I reached out to Jeff and he was just as kind and gracious as Elly and said "sure" to the interview.

*Here are the questions I asked Jeff and his responses.  I couldn't be more thrilled with this second edition of "An Inside Look" blog post...

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (Released March 8, 2016)

1.  How did you come to “know” Dillard (Dill) Early? 
I first came to know Dill in 2005. I had just bought a piece of recording equipment and I started improvising a little song on my guitar to test it. I suddenly realized I had something and began to write lyrics. What emerged in about 15 minutes was the story of a high-school-age young man who watches trains pass by on Saturday nights in his rusty small town. He dreams of something bigger; of leaving. I didn't know it at the time, but that was Dill. Turns out, I hadn't finished telling his story.

2.  What do you think is Dill's most admirable quality?
He refuses to pass on the hurt he's been dealt in life to other people.

3.  Is there anything you wish Dill would have changed or done differently in his story?
I can't really wish that as an author because bad choices by characters make for terrific narrative tension. So all of his bad choices were intentional on my part.

4.  What do you think Dill can offer to other young adults and/or adults that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through? 
An example of someone who seeks ways to leave a toxic life without leaving everyone he is behind too.

5.  How did you “research” Dill and the circumstances he found himself in?
Dill is a composite of many people I've known in my life or whose existence I posited based on observations. I drew some upon my religious upbringing (which was very different from Dill's--I had great parents) to imagine the ways a religious upbringing could be an unhealthy experience.

6.  Do you and Dill share any similarities? 
We're both musicians. We're both drawn to misfits. We've both had to find our own path to belief. We share a sense of beauty and a love for broken things.

7.  What was the hardest scene to write about Dill?
I can't answer this without spoiling. But the second hardest was when his mother explicitly blames him for sending his father to prison.

8.  Who do you think was Dill's biggest supporter and why?
I'm tempted to say Lydia, but I think Lydia, Dr. Blankenship, and Travis were all there for Dill in different, but equally important ways.

9.  Why do we humans try to please our parents before we please our true selves? 
I think on some level we recognize the sacrifices that even bad parents make for their children and we're driven by some sort of sense of obligation to please them, even if it's at our own expense.

10.  What do you think Dill is doing as this present time? 

I have an idea, but you'll have to wait until my second book (which is not a Serpent King sequel) to find out.

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