Thursday, January 27, 2011

Author Interview - Michael Northrop

Today I'm very happy to welcome Michael Northrop to The Serpentine Library.  Mr. Northrop is the author of Gentlemen and Trapped. This was the perfect winter for Trapped to be published because of all the snow (well, in certain parts of the US) that has been falling. So grab yourself a mug of tea or hot chocolate or coffee to help keep you warm while you read about the snow filled Trapped.

Can you give us a quick, two sentence, summary of Trapped
Seven mismatched teens are stranded in their high school during a massive weeklong blizzard. The power and heat go out, the pipes freeze, the roof shudders, and they are forced to make life-or-death decisions.
Would Scotty agree with your summary? 
Scotty would be like, “Oh, great, now you tell me!”
Being stuck at school for a week sounds like it could be a nightmare even in the best circumstances for some people, what's one place you would not want to be trapped for any length of time? 
I’m a little claustrophobic, so I wouldn’t want to be stuck in any kind of small, tight space. Bonus nightmare points for anything underground or without fresh air. I’d make a horrible vampire!
Sometimes being snowed in can be fun…snowy days bring to mind fires, mugs of hot chocolate, playing board games, rereading a favorite book. What are 5 things you would include in your blizzard survival kit? 
Yeah, I am actually a big fan of blizzards, as long as they have the common courtesy to stop after a day or so. I would include coffee (for the morning), a window with a good view, a good pair of boots (so I could go stomp around outside for a while), a roaring fire (I live in an apartment in NYC, so I have fireplace envy), and of course, a good book.
Is there a playlist for Trapped
I didn’t really have a playlist in mind for Trapped, and the music they get on the radio is intentionally fairly random because I think everyone reacts a little differently to extreme situations. Some people might want upbeat music to raise their spirits, some people might want depressing or angry music to match their mood, and some people might just want their favorite music, regardless. I do think it would be kind of hilarious to play some goofy winter song, like Frosty the Snowman, at a really tense point in the book. Which is a pretty good example of why I shouldn’t be allowed to make playlists.
I love hearing about how authors name their characters.  Each author seems to go about it in a different way.  How do you choose names for your characters?   
Just between you, me, and the internet, I sometimes plunder real sources, like military history books or the rosters of Olympic teams. Then I’ll make little changes, like mixing and matching first names. It gives you a good, believably random mix. The name of the main character in Trapped—Scotty Weems—just sort of came to me, though. I kind of love it, and I think authors often reserve their favorite names for their main characters. It’s a fine line: You want some interesting names, but you don’t want to wind up with a narrator named Max Steele or something like that. Jason Bourne is a perfect example: believable but interesting.
Are there any essentials you need with you when you write?   
Caffeine, a computer, and a quiet location. I’m not one of those people who can write in a busy coffee shop. I usually write at my desk at home, but the back of a library will do in a pinch.
Can you gives us any hints about your next project? 
Yep, I’m writing two middle grade (ages 9 and up, basically) novels for Scholastic. The first is called Plunked, and it’s about a little leaguer who gets hit in the head with a pitch and loses his nerve at the plate. He’s always been kind of a jock, so it really turns his world upside down, and he has to fight hard to try to overcome his fear. It’s due out in spring 2012. Both middle grade books will have sports themes—I was a senior editor at Sports Illustrated Kids for years—but I don’t want to call them sports novels. They are novels about kids who play sports.
As a librarian, I spend part of every day recommending books and hearing about the books teens are loving.  I like being able to tell them what a favorite author or an author they have recently read is reading. What book is next on your “to be read” list? 
I am really trying to get to The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey. I enjoyed The Monstrumologist, and I’ve been interested in the wendigo since I first learned about it in the place where most people learn of ancient and sacred folklore: a comic book.
What advice can you give to teens (or anyone really) who are interested in writing?
 I have two pieces of advice. The first is kind of boring and they’ve probably heard it before, but it is so true: If you want to be a writer, you need to read a tremendous amount. The books you read provide an education in storytelling: in what works, what doesn’t, and in everything from the big ideas to the little tricks.
My other piece of advice is to always think about the believability of what you’re writing: Your stories should seem true, and part of that is that people don’t always say or do the right thing at the right time, coincidences work against them as often as for them, and things like that. One of the things that I think has really helped me as a novelist is my experience as a journalist, where I had to make the best possible stories out of the actual facts, which are sometimes fairly ordinary or disappointing.

A big Thank You to Michael Northrop for stopping by today!

Make sure to follow the rest of the blog tour, stop by The Teen Book Scene to see the other blogs participating in the Trapped tour.


  1. Great interview! The part about playlists make me snicker.... :) I'm waiting to read this one (ordered it for my library), since I liked Gentlemen. Nice post!

  2. I just heard about this book the other day and I really want to read it. Great interview!


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