Monday, March 16, 2009

Welcome, Ben Esch!

I had the pleasure of meeting debut author, Ben Esch, at my book signing last January, and enjoyed his sense of humor so much that I went on to pre-order his novel, Sophomore Undercover.

In the weeks that passed, it was fun to see him leave a comment or two here at YA Fresh--one in particular so funny that it won a Caption It! contest.

The day his book arrived, I read the cover blurbs, with the intention of adding it to my ridiculously large to-be-read pile. But I got stopped dead in my tracks by the author bio. (I know...the author bio?) Which I know from experience that authors usually write. It was so funny and so punchy and so clever that I couldn’t help myself from turning to page one.

And at that point, I was a goner. I loved his book. Loved it. I often read sections twice, once as a reader, and then once as a writer. I laughed out loud. I grimaced. And even before I finished it, I started telling everyone I know they HAD to buy this book.

So, with no further adieu, allow me to introduce the exceptionally funny and quite adorable Ben Esch!

Hey, Ben, could you tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

I messed around with some writing stuff when I was younger, but most of my mental energy was consumed with A) figuring out how to get a basketball scholarship despite being relatively stumpy and unathletic and B) elaborate and ultimately unsuccessful schemes to date girls, so that didn't really leave a lot of time for short stories. Or schoolwork for that matter. I was kind of a crappy student.

I started getting a lot more serious about writing when I was in college, and after I graduated, I decided that I wanted to take a shot at doing this for a living. Now, I'd like to say that this was because of my burning passion for literature, and that's kinda true, but it was mainly because as an English major the only other jobs I was qualified for was security guard and cart wrangler.

Don't get me wrong, those are both fine career paths, but I didn't really feel like either was my true calling. It took me about a year of writing and revising to get a draft of my book together that interested an agent, and then we worked together for another seven months or so before we sold it to Disney-Hyperion.

That was about a year and a half ago and the book just came out a couple weeks ago. It's still crazy to me how long this whole "making a book" thing takes. I kind of assumed that my book would be out in stores a couple of weeks after we signed the contract. So, the last year and a half has been pretty educational in that regard.

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could share your typical writing day schedule. know, I really wish I had more of a writing schedule. No two days are exactly the same, but when I'm really working well, my days tend to go a little something like this:

1. Wake up at the crack of 11. Get some cereal.

2. Peruse the internet. Drink coffee.

3. Sit down to work around noon. More coffee.

4. Break for some more cereal around two.

5. Continue writing. Switch from coffee to diet root beer so my hands will stop shaking.

6. Break for the day around five.

7. Cartoons.

I also try to fit in a couple of hours of reading in there somewhere between the coffee and cartoons as well. I have a really hard time writing if I don't read a lot.

Please tell us about Sophomore Undercover and what we can expect from your characters.

Sophomore Undercover is about a kid named Dixie Nguyen who is an adopted Vietnamese orphan, social outcast, and lead reporter for the school newspaper. He usually has to cover "fluff" pieces about the football team and the chemistry club, but one day he sees some of the jocks doing drugs in the locker room and he finally has the chance to write about something newsworthy as well as strike a blow against his tormentors at the school.

The rest of the story follows Dixie's investigation into the football team and his attempts to scoop the biggest drug scandal in the history of high school athletics with the help of a cheerleader turned goth named Brynn, his older brother and former football player, Brandon, a menopausal journalism teacher, and a hippy counselor named Huggy Bear.

Some of my biggest laughs from Sophomore Undercover came from Dixie’s germaphobia. I know as a writer I often “dig deepest” when a character is expressing some of my own personal traits. That said, do you carry “emergency” antibacterial wipes and stock up on pumice stones and Purel?

I'm actually not that much of a germaphobe. Don't get me wrong, I think carrying around Purel is a good idea and all, but I'm much more of the "five second rule" school of thought for germs and microbes. Intellectually, I know that's a bad idea, but if I drop a cookie on the floor...I mean, that's still a perfectly good cookie, right? The germaphobia thing just really clicked for Dixie, though.

What's up next? Do you have another project in the works?

I am under contract with Disney-Hyperion for another book that I think will come out sometime around Fall 2010. It's not going to be a sequel to Sophomore Undercover, but I'm having a lot of fun writing it and I'm really excited to get it out there.

Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Two things:

1. Write the story that you want to read.

2. Don't question the magic or it might go away.

For example, I fully believe that french vanilla coffeemate and flair tip pens make me write better, and I'm just going to keep on believing that until I don't anymore.

I have to admit to bit of a coffeemate addiction myself...but that's a blog for another time.

Thanks, Ben, for hanging out with us here, and best of luck with your book!

19 fresh comments:

Erika Lynn said...

you can't really go wrong with coffeemate! I have heard great things about this book and I can't wait to read it. great interview!

Janie Emaus said...

What a fun interview. I can't wait to read this book.


Kelly Parra said...

Welcome, Ben!! Tina has highly recommended your book! Looking forward to it!

Jessica said...

I'm with Janie - such a fun interview. I, too, can't wait to read the book.

Anonymous said...

French Vanilla coffeemate is the best! lol

Anonymous said...

You know who also used Flair tip pens?

Bill Clinton

Ben Esch said...


Thanks so much for your kind words and for putting the interview up on YA Fresh!

Also, I want to commend you on your stylistic choice of having my answers in purple. That's an underrated color.

Ben Esch

Nora said...

Great interview, the book sounds like a good one!

TinaFerraro said...

Thanks to all who are commenting. And Ben, for the record, part of my life's journey is to find a word that rhymes with purple. Usurple is the best I've got so far.

Elizabeth said...

Flair tip pens, huh?

As another former crappy student from my high school days, I'm taking you as inspiration.

Ben Esch said...


Is "nurple" a word? At least that's used in "purple nurple" but the less said about those the better.

Oh, and if anyone is curious, that disembodied hand on my shoulder in the picture belongs to my agent. So, I'm sure he'll be happy about making his YA Fresh debut as well.


Samira said...

What a great interview. I'm sold. I'd love to read his book. :)

TinaFerraro said...

Nurple is about as valid as usurple, Ben. And tell your agent if he'd ever like to make a full-bodied appearance here at YA Fresh, he's welcome. Writing and selling a really good book is the easiest way. ;)

Iris Black said...

This interview definitely sold me on the book! I just love "meeting" the author. Have to say, love the Diet Root Beer. And the 5-second rule.

Iris Black

freewriter said...

I have to get this book right away because it sounds like a great read. I love to introduce new writers to my students. I think they will like Ben's sense of humor.

stephhale said...

Great interview, Tina. I read another interview with Ben somewhere and I'm pretty sure I almost peed my pants. Ben just seems like the kind of guy you want to hang with. I gotta get his book!

Anonymous said...

Great writing tips! Thanks, Ben (and thanks YA Fresh!). :D

Monica said...

great interview, Tina. Ben is absofrickinlutely hilarious. I have the book, and its very well written, great characters.

Kelly said...

Great interview with Mr. Esch (can I call you Mr. Esch, or do you prefer Ben, Benji, or Benjamin?). I'm a fan, read the book in a reading marathon where I stopped only to giggle...(Okay, that's a white lie, I have three kids, so I did have to stop a few more times, but again, the book was great fun!).