One Question, Ten Answers with the Authors of Click
Answers from David Almond, Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Deborah Ellis, Nick Hornby, Margo Lanagan, Gregory Maguire, Ruth Ozeki, Linda Sue Park, Tim Wynne-Jones
3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Question: When you received the manuscript (or idea) for CLICK, what detail leaped out at you to inspire your part of the story?
Linda Sue Park: The character of Grandpa Gee is based on a real person I knew, Dwight "D" Follett. Some fifty years my senior, D was a friend and mentor; a world traveler and adventurer; an international philanthropist; and everywhere he went he was fascinated by the people he met-especially young people. I gave Gee many of Ds traits, including the use of an initial as a nickname and his involvement with his grandchildren. The chapter I wrote belongs to Maggie. But as subsequent chapters came in one by one, I was thrilled to see Gee take on the starring role.
Years after I met him, I learned that D had been the publisher of one of my favorite children's books (What Then, Raman? by Shirley Arora). D passed away several years ago, but I like to think he would be pleased with my career as a children's book writer-and with CLICK!
David Almond: What grabbed me? Seashells and the sea. They started all kinds of possibilities as I read Linda Sue Park's lovely opening chapter. I currently live further from the sea than I ever have (though it's still just 30 miles) and the fragments sent me traveling in my imagination to the chilly and beautiful Northumbrian beaches with their dunes and salty shacks and fascinating rock pools. My daughter was fascinated by mermaids around that time, and the family had been sharing books and films about mermaids and weird creatures from the sea. We'd acted out sections of The Little Mermaid in our local swimming pool, playing with the notion of being half-human, half sea-creature. So, as I wrote, it all grew into Annie's tale, set in a kind of Beadnell (beautiful northern coastal town) by a cold northern sea, with islands like the lovely Farne Islands stretching to the horizon, and with strange half-human things swimming just below the surface with the seals and porpoises. And then along came Gee, strolling out of Linda Sue's tale, with his camera. Click!
Eoin Colfer: This was a difficult story to pick a strand from because everything was interesting in Linda Sue Park's chapter. I liked all the characters and took notes on several possible avenues to follow. Maggie was a good character and of course Grandpa Gee was a treasure trove of possibilities, but Jason was ultimately the one I decided to pursue because he was a blank page. I could do whatever I wanted with him, give him any problem, send him wherever I needed him to go. There was a single short sentence in Linda Sue's wonderful story that opened my eyes to the fact that Jason could be more than a happy, two dimensional big brother character. And this sentence was:
"‘Yeah, yeah,' Jason muttered." Simple as that-"Yeah, yeah." A little impatient. Fed up. Rebellious. I felt that if I peeled back a few layers, I might find some resentment. A disgruntled young man with a problem and maybe a solution. Once I began to wonder about this kid, I knew I had my strand.
Deborah Ellis: The seven-compartment box was intriguing to me because someone had obviously made it. Since Amnesty is an organization that works to free prisoners, I automatically thought of prison-justice workers I'd met in Moscow, who showed me crafts made by death-row inmates. One of my most prized possessions (in addition to the little vial of sand from Blackpool) is a small St. Nicholas figurine made by a prisoner in one of those death-row cells, created out of chewed-up bread and bits of straw. I thought about people being kept in cages, and using what tools they could to create dignity and purpose in their lives even though everything around them was designed to rob them of those things. I could picture the overcrowded cells, the bits of laundry strung up, the eating utensils, the chests thinned by TB, and human beings creating small bits of beauty that could make their hearts sing, for just a while. And, Lev was born.
Nick Hornby: It was Roddy Doyle's photographer, Gee. Photographs provide a kind of life after death that a child can understand, and that led me to thinking about the impact death has on children. And that, in turn, got me to thinking about all sorts of other things; in Maggie's mind, and maybe in my mind too, Gee started to turn from being a real person into an idea.
Roddy Doyle: There were two things that immediately grabbed me as I read the first page of the opening chapter, "Maggie." First, there was the collection of photographs that Gee had left to his grandson, Jason. Second, there was his surname, Keane. The photographs are of interesting, iconic, American sports stars-Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan are named. I had recently read a book called The Big Fight, about a visit Muhammad Ali had made to Dublin in 1972 to fight a boxer called Al ‘Blue' Lewis in Croke Park, the Gaelic football stadium. There is no more interesting or iconic American sports star than Ali, so it made sense to bring Gee to Dublin, to photograph him. I had also been to the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Croke Park in 2003, and I had seen Ali there and had seen and heard the crowd's reaction to this great man.
Then there is Gee's surname. Keane is an Irish name, and it's the name of Ireland's most interesting, iconic, and controversial sports star-a soccer player called Roy Keane. Gee's surname added probability to Gee's trip to Ireland; he wanted to see where and what his ancestors had come from. And I wanted, somehow, to get Roy Keane into the story. I'm not sure why. I just think he's great, and I thought it might be funny.
Tim Wynne-Jones: When I received the manuscript it wasn't called CLICK yet, and there were only five of the ten stories that have gone on to become this fascinating collection...er, jump novel, or whatever it wonderfully is! The first thing that jumped out at me was that Arthur Levine had e-mailed me to invite me to join this illustrious crew. The Arthur Levine, I had to assume-the legendary editor. Then what jumped out at me, in very short order, was that among the very well known names of my five predecessors, if that's what you call them, was perhaps my favorite adult author of recent times-Nick Hornby. Again, I had to assume it was the Nick Hornby and not some pretender. And, by gosh, it was! So I was already inspired-falling-over giddy-before I'd even read a word of the actual manuscript. I liked all of those first five stories, perhaps David Almond's most of all, but for some reason I was drawn to Eoin Colfer's Jason as the character I wanted to pursue. Mostly because he was the character I liked least. I mean, I liked Eoin's story, and I like how he grabbed up poor old suffering Jason by his shirt collar in the last little bit of the story and got him on some kind of track. But I was struck with the idea of seeing what might happen to this lad a little further along the line. What else might he have gotten from the mysterious and magical Gee? What this boy needs is a passion, I thought; something to replace the wonky dream of escape that has been obsessing him. And it never hurts, with a teenage boy, to throw in a beautiful girl, right? A girl who is in need of some help, herself. And so along came Min.
Ruth Ozeki: I was fourth on the list of writers to receive the manuscript, and I got the first three chapters. The first word that popped out at me was on the first page. War. Capitalized, standing alone, with a period after it. Of course, I was thinking a lot about war at that time. Who wasn't? It was early in the summer of 2004, and the Iraq War, although officially over, had been dragging on for more than a year. I'd just written a short essay for the New York Times about maimed Japanese soldiers begging in the streets of Tokyo after their defeat in World War II, and I'd been looking at photographs of them taken at that time. It occurred to me that perhaps Gee had been to Japan and taken pictures like these. I read on. A page or two later, Gee gave Maggie a cricket cage from Japan or China, and my hunch grew stronger. Then suddenly, Maggie's Dad was announcing that he was going to Japan (to Otaru of all places, an area I love), and Maggie was to go along. I knew then that my premonition had been correct: Gee had indeed been in Japan, and by the time I finished the first chapter, I knew I was going to tell that part of his story.
Margo Lanagan: Two things: cameras and shells. I think the fact that Gee was a photographer rang my bells. Both my parents are photographers. I spent a lot of looong teenage afternoons looking through photography books and magazines, so it was a field I'd thought a lot about. I'd used photographs as windows into different parts of the world myself, so I knew how powerful they could be as portals through into different stories, real and fictional. The fact that there were cameras at the heart of the story really blew it wide open for me. It meant that the possible directions it could go in were pretty much endless. Also, years ago, I went to the beach at Vincentia on the New South Wales south coast, and obsessively collected dozens of pale-orange, crinkly, pearly ‘jingle shells,' the type I've used in my story. That gave me the setting for the story, but because Vincentia itself is not the nicest beachside town, I decided I'd set my story in the globally-warmed future and drown all those unsightly McMansions along the seafront (Ah, the power of being a writer!). So my story is set in High Vincentia, one of a whole bunch of ‘High' versions of existing coastal towns.
Gregory Maguire: When I saw the wide range of approaches, characters, and plot twists that my predecessors had settled on, my piece coming last, I was daunted at first. The nine chapters before the conclusion had the power and force of a pinwheel made of nine different colors and even nine different materials. But how could I see it as a single narrative?
In my imagination, I spun the material as lightly as I could, trying to find a focal depth that would lend a coherence to the disparate offerings. That act of mine was, in itself, not unlike the efforts a photographer makes to bring order to the contradictions in subject matter: isolating, framing, blocking out, highlighting. I recognized my own storytelling technique as that of a photographer who has the whole world to play with and must choose. So what I chose was the metaphor of the photograph as a record, not of history, but of the photographer's obsessions.
Since Margo Lanagan, in the penultimate chapter, had moved the story into the future, and deepened the fantastic parallel-world motif suggested by Nick Hornby, I was liberated to create a dignified old age for the youthful central character Linda Sue Park had given us in the seed story. Young adult books rarely get to do this-to move a character that far in time. If there is one thing CLICK can tell us, though, it is that life is precious-a series of clicks, a sequence of spectacular and contradictory moments, adding up to mystery.
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