Home to many seasoned and new authors, the Ontario Teen Book Festival brings together fans of young adult literature from across the state and their favorite novelists for a spectacular completely free event. Fans of all ages are invited to attend a special event full of meet and greets, panels and more! Each author’s books will be available for purchase thanks to returning sponsor, Once Upon a Time bookstore of Montrose.
Join us on Saturday, March 3rd from 9AM-5PM at Colony High School located at:
3850 E. Riverside Drive, Ontario, CA 91761
Spotlight on Anthony Breznican
About Behind the Song
Anthony Breznican will be on th panel for his latest work in the YA anthology, Behind The Song edited by K.M. Walton.
Behind The Song collects the short stories and personal essays inspired by the music that touched fourteen young adult authors and musicians.
About Anthony Breznican
Anthony Breznican was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsurgh. He has worked as a reporter for The Arizona Republic, Associated Press, and USA Today. He is currently a senior staff writer for Entertainment Weekly.
Brutal Youth is his debut novel.
Tell us a bit about “Miss Atomic Bomb” in Behind the Song.
The book is a collection of short stories inspired in one way or another by music, and “Miss Atomic Bomb” tells the story of a teenage girl named Cassie who has been keeping a very serious secret. A boy in her class has figured it out and is trying to blackmail her, but as the tale unfolds we realize the world they’re living in is very different from our own. There are many who, rightly or wrongly, might believe Cassie is to blame for that — if they knew the truth about her.
It’s quite an interesting story! What actually inspired “Miss Atomic Bomb”?
My inspiration was a 2012 song by the Killers, which is a beautiful anthem about memory, and love, and the profound impact one person can have on another. But it’s also enigmatic. I tried to ask: Could these lyrics have a different, darker meaning? And I created a little Twilight Zone-style story out of that.
If “Miss Atomic Bomb” was made into a film, who would you want to play Cassie and Michael, the two main characters?
I would love to see it adapted for a TV show, sort of a Black Mirror or Tales from the Dark Side type of series. Cassie is very strong, but she has to appear vulnerable. And Michael has to be somewhat pathetic, but also menacing. I would prefer to see two unknown actors, rather than existing stars.
You also wrote the novel Brutal Youth. I know which was the hardest to read for me but what was the hardest scene to write?
That’s a book about kids who are trying their best to survive bad situations without becoming as cruel as the people who threaten them. There’s a scene between one character, Lorelei Pascal, and her mother that haunts me. The mother is violently angry, and life with her is like living in a house full of landmines. Halfway through, there is a scene set at dinner in which the mother explodes. That was painful to write because it was difficult to relive. My father was frequently volatile and abusive, and that scene is based on some of my own memories of growing up.
What did you edit out of Brutal Youth?
I wanted that novel to be about the whole community, not just one kid’s story. I was interested in exploring authoritarianism. Sometimes a whole country can become unhinged, and this was a look at one small community — a troubled high school — where fear and anger led to more of the same. So I wanted to dive into the histories of some of the older characters to create some empathy for them. They are cautionary tales. What made them this way? I didn’t want them just to be monsters. But sometimes I had to cut back on that in order to keep the story moving. So there is a lot more history to each of them than you will find in the book.
Do other authors help you become a better author? If so, who has helped you the most and how?
They have mainly helped just by being inspirations. I admire the work ethic of Andrew Smith, for instance, who wakes up at 5 in the morning each day and writes for several hours before his teaching job. Gillian Flynn showed me that a person can work in my profession, writing entertainment news, and still tell your own story. And Stephen King, whose work first inspired me to pen my own scary stories as a kid, continues to be the Michael Jordan who makes me want to go out and play my heart out.
How do you deal with discouraging thoughts or fears during the writing process?
You just have to crawl out from under those and realize that, yes, your book is terrible. But once it is finished, you can get to work rewriting it and make it better. You have to be like Wonder Woman in that No Man’s Land scene. Just put your shield up and push forward against the barrage.
How many unpublished or half-written works/books do you have?
Just the one that I’m working on now. But I spent 18 years in journalism paying the dues that other fiction writers usually pay with unpublished novels.
What was it like going from Senior Writer at EW to published author?
It was a dream come true. I love my day job, telling the stories of the storytellers. But it is wonderful to tell a few of my own. I am especially grateful to hear from young readers, who feel like Brutal Youth captures some of the tragedy that they see, as well as the hope. It’s important to know that the world has both.
Do you write with music? If so, what type?
I often choose songs that put me in the vibe of a certain character, or scene. With Miss Atomic Bomb, the pace of that song was just as important as the lyrics I adapted for my own nefarious story. I loved the pulse of it, and the defiant strength blended with melancholy.
Any new works planned?
I have a haunted house story that is calling to me. Haunting me, I guess you’d say. It needs more attention from me.
And of course, what would an author interview be without any tips for someone trying to become a full-time journalist/writer/author?
You have to break into the business by getting bylines. But it’s not possible to start at the top. You’ll never get your first byline at a big newspaper or a national magazine. Find a smaller publication that needs people. (Don’t work for free, but don’t expect to get rich right away.) Get a few good clips, learn what you can, then move on to the next place. Take a low-level job at a big outlet the first chance you get, and work your way up. This all sounds easier said than done, but it is possible. Too often people waste time trying to jump to the middle of the ladder rather than simply climbing up from the bottom.
Thank you so much, Anthony!
Here’s a mini-review I did of Anthony Breznican’s debut novel, Brutal Youth: