This is the view from my front porch overlooking the Hudson River Valley in Upstate New York.
Daniel Hayes told SATA (Something About the Author, Volume 73):
"Much of my life has been spent, I think, trying out things and hoping to find what it was I could do which I not only enjoyed, but could do well. I think there exists that thing, or maybe more than one thing for some, that comes rather naturally for each person and at the same time makes him feel good doing it. Ideally, this thing becomes a career. I remember, as a freshman in high school, dreaming about and working pretty hard at becoming a star basketball player. Unfortunately, at the time I was about four feet two inches tall (my memory may have exaggerated my lack of stature some, but I do remember having to look up at almost everybody) and to be a star basketball player at that height took more ability than I was able to come by. Next, I wanted to be a rock musician, and I worked pretty hard in that direction too, but to little avail. I still don't know many people who have a worse ear for music than I do.
"It wasn't until college that I decided I wanted to be a writer (to the amusement, I suspect, of some of my professors). I remember rereading books like Huckleberry Finn and Great Expectations and being so amazed by them. I'd read these books when I was younger, but at the time I didn't realize how clever, how intelligent, and how funny writers like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens really were. I read plenty of books and studied writing styles so that I could become one of these people--a writer. And the difference I found with this thing was that I didn't have the feeling I was constantly swimming against the current. After a while I was able to sound at least a little like my favorite writers. Still, it was years before I really developed my own voice, meaning my own style of putting ideas into words. After I finished my first book, The Trouble with Lemons, a story told by thirteen-year-old Tyler McAllister, friends would read it and say things like, "That's really amazing! It sounds just like you.' Perhaps what's more amazing (other than the fact that I sound like a thirteen-year-old) is that it took so long for me to learn how to sound like myself.
"I start most of my stories by getting to know my characters and then I give them things to do. The reason I do it in that order is because who the characters are--what they think about and wonder about and worry about--is actually more important to me that what they do. I feel like all my characters (or most anyway) represent different sides of myself. A good-hearted kid like Tyler McAllister sees things pretty much like I do at my best, but I'm not altogether a stranger to the feelings and behaviors of my less admirable characters. This is why I wouldn't be comfortable having Tyler get even with a bully like Beaver Bruckman. It would be like having the victim side of myself punch out the bully side. This bully side of ourselves (most of us have a little of it, I think) is actually the more pathetic side, so it would seem almost more cruel for me to have Tyler go after Beaver than it does when Beaver goes after Tyler. Tyler has an understanding and forgiving nature (at least after the heat of the moment when he puts his fists away), so I never feel as sorry for him as I do some of my less nice characters.
"I'll probably continue using Tyler McAllister as a narrator for quite some time (I've already got quite a bit planned for him), but I'm also working on some new narrators with different points of view. I'm looking forward to all of this. It's fun being a writer.
Amazon.com talks to Daniel Hayes:
Amazon.com: How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing each book?
D.H.: I don't think I really thought seriously about becoming a writer until I was a freshman in college. It was then that I reread some classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Great Expectations, and realized just how good writers like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens were, and it was then that I decided I wanted to do what they did. It was many years before I wrote my first book, The Trouble with Lemons, but the whole idea of me writing books for a living started way back then.
Amazon.com: What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
D.H.: I read a little of everything these days, from Charles Dickens and Jane Austen to Roddy Doyle. I also try to keep up with my competition in contemporary YA field. There are a lot of talented new (and not so new) writers in that field alone. Probably Huckleberry Finn has had the strongest influence on my writing.
Amazon.com: Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)? Do you have a favorite location or time of day (or night) for writing? What do you do to avoid -- or seek! -- distractions?
D.H.: As writers go, I'm pretty laid back. I write when I have something I want to write, and if I don't, I do something else. If I'm driving in my car and get a good idea for a scene or whatever, I'll try to write it down as soon as I get a chance so that I won't lose it. If I force myself to write because I think I should be writing, the results just aren't as good and I end up throwing most of it out anyway. My first two books were done longhand and then typed on an electric typewriter, my third and fourth were done on a Smith Corona word processor, and now I'm finally working with a real live computer, an NEC which has about ten thousand features I don't understand yet.
Amazon.com: Do you meet your readers at book signings, conventions or similar events? Do you interact with your readers electronically through e-mail or other on-line forums?
D.H.: I do plenty of booksignings. They're a good excuse to travel and it's fun to meet people who have read my books. I go to some conventions. The NCTE (English teachers) convention is always fun because a lot of English teachers and reading teachers have started using my books in their classes and it's neat to have a chance to talk to them. I get mail from teachers and kids and regular people who have seen my books in bookstores, but it seems to take forever to get to mail forwarded from my publishers. I've just started e-mail and we just launched my home page, so maybe I'll start hearing from people there too.
Amazon.com: When and how did you get started on the 'Net? Do you read any newsgroups, such as rec.arts.books and rec.arts.sf.written, mailing lists or other on-line forums? Do you use the 'Net for research -- or is it just another time sink? Are you able to communicate with other writers or people you work with over the 'Net?
D.H.: Earlier this year I took a graduate course on using the internet in schools. The teacher said we'd be learning how to make our own home pages and I seemed to be the only one in the class who didn't even know what that was. When it finally sank in and I'd learned about e-mail too, I decided that this computer stuff would be a good way to get information about my books to readers (and potential readers) and a way to hear from some of them as well. I haven't used my computer for research yet (except to snoop around and see if I can find listings for my books, which is how I found Amazon Books), but I think sometime I probably will. Right now I still spend a lot of time cursing at my monitor for telling me I can't do whatever it is I just tried to do. I know it's not my monitor's fault, but I'd feel silly cursing at the tower under my desk.
Copyright 1996, 1997 Amazon.com, Inc.