This month we're hearing from Austin SCBWI member Brian Yansky. It's always a pleasure to learn something new about someone you've known for years, and Brian and his wife Frances have been coming to SCBWI meetings and supporting their fellow writers and illustrators in Austin for a long time. This year the lucky winner of the 2015 Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award will get to work with Brian.
Where did you grow up and did that place shape your writing?
I grew up on the edge of town. There were woods close by. I think this proximity to woods and the edge of things, however unthreatening and tame in reality, affected my imaginative world and is responsible for the fantastical and supernatural characters and events that seem to creep into my realistic fiction. At least that’s what I blame the tendency on.
Did you always want to be a writer, or did that come later?
Some part of me did always want to be a writer, I think. After all, I was the author of “Santa Clause and the 27 Bad Boys” in the first grade. I didn’t do anything about this writer-want for a long, long time. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I came to reading late—in high school— and I had a lot to learn. Reading, eventually, led me to writing.
How does your everyday life feed your writing?
One way is I teach at Austin Community College so I have a lot of students just a bit older than my audience. I like being around them, and they sometimes give me ideas.
But, really, everything feeds my writing. The good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. It all goes into the compost. I think writers look at things a little differently. Sometimes we’re consciously eaves-dropping (what writer doesn’t love a great overheard line?) or observing something that is interesting and thinking—OK, I have to use that some day. But more often it’s not conscious. We have a life of the imagination to feed. One of the ways we feed it is by being good observers of our everyday life.
What surprises you about the writing life?
How few millionaire writers there are. How writers do not all get up at noon and write for an hour or two and spend the rest of the afternoon at the pool. Alas, it is not so. What else? The unreliability of inspiration. I really expected it to be more of a factor but the truth is that forcing myself to write when I’m not inspired is how I finish work. And the generosity of writers. Here in Austin, in the kid-lit community at any rate, writers are amazingly supportive and helpful to other writers. It’s a lovely community.
What do you hope readers will find in your writing?
I want to provide the kind of entertainment that I myself look for in fiction. I love novels that can be both serious and comic. I love good writing and interesting and surprising characters and a story that’s hard to put down. So — that’s what I aspire to write.
Bio: Brian Yansky is the author of My Road Trip to the Pretty Girl Capital of the World (his first novel, partly set in Austin) and Utopia, Iowa, which is his latest and will come out February 10, 2015. In-between those two, he published three other novels. He has an MFA from Vermont College and teaches at Austin Community College. He is married to the author/illustrator, Frances Yansky. Website,brianyansky.com; blog, brianyansky.blogspot.com