I am thrilled to welcome another YA author to the BookEnds family!
As soon as I finished reading Dane’s book, I knew that I had to work with the author who could bring this particular story to life. A story with a protagonist that is slightly troubled but endearing, that is learning a lot about his place in the world, and that understands the power of a song. Dane Johns wrote one of those books that my teenage self could identify with 100% in some ways, but that also showed me a completely different world from the one I grew up in.
I’m so happy to be able to introduce Dane Johns to our BookEnds blog readers. I hope you enjoy!
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I try to write something every day, but it doesn’t always work out that way. As a parent to two young boys, I get my writing in whenever I can. That means staying up late with my headphones on to finish a chapter or getting up early before they’re awake to knock out a few pages before I go in to work.
Also, Stacy, my wife, will often watch our sons by herself on weekend afternoons so that I can write for a few hours, because she’s the best.
How does music play into your writing process? Do you write with a soundtrack, or do you write in silence?
I listen to music while writing whenever possible. The trick is finding an album that I like well enough to find a rhythm to write to, but not something I know so well that I get distracted and lose focus, because of this I have to rotate the albums I write to pretty regularly.
Right now, my favorite albums to write to are Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered, Sioux Falls’s Rot Forever, and, just recently, the Swiss Army Man soundtrack.
Tell us your top five favorite songs, and why.
As of June 2016, my top five favorite songs of all time are:
- “Jaws Theme Swimming,” Brand New – The summer that this album (Deja Entendu) came out, my friend Gabe and I drove to St. Louis to see Brand New play at this tiny venue called the Creepy Crawl. We were the first people in line, but when the doors opened a few hours later, we found out the show was already sold out. Still, we got to see Brand New do a sound-check of this song through the front window of the Creepy Crawl to an empty room. The lyrics of this song remind me of growing up and, now that I’m older, give me an even greater appreciation for my parents.
- “This Is Not An Exit,” Saves the Day – If, when I die, I get a cool, clip-show montage of my life’s greatest moments flashing before my eyes this is the song I imagine would be playing.
- “The River,” Manchester Orchestra – The album that this song is from, Mean Everything to Nothing, came out the spring after my mom passed away. This song helped pull me out of that fog, and it remains one of my favorites of all time.
- “Afraid Of Everyone,” The National – I was working a lot of midnight shifts the summer that my wife and I found out she was pregnant with our first son. I remember listening to this song a lot then as I drove through the country late at night on my way to work, thinking about what it means to be a father, feeling that feeling that borders between anxious and excited, kind of afraid of what was coming next yet ready for it all at the same time.
- “Torches Together,” mewithoutYou – The closest I ever came to getting a tattoo was when I was in Nashville with the band, Ravenhill, a few years ago and we made the wise decision one afternoon to get matching tattoos of the band’s logo. My only concession was that I would get the words “Torches Together” along with mine. We called around to a few different tattoo artist friends, looking to get something set up, but no one was available. I go back and forth now on whether or not I’m glad that no one was able to give us matching tattoos that day. I think I’m mostly glad, but this song is still great and if I had this song title on my wrist for the rest of my life then I’d be more than fine with it…well, mostly fine with it.
What do you love about writing young adult literature?
The reason I want to create anything is for the potential emotional connection with readers or listeners. What drew me to writing YA are the people that make up the audience.
I work at a children’s shelter and we work with teenagers from all kinds of different backgrounds and situations. They inspire me to write YA, to tell stories that they could possibly relate to. To tell stories that address the things they struggle with on a daily basis along with the simple joys that are found in everyday life. I write for them and for the awkward teen I once was. That’s what I love most, who I get to write for.
What is the hardest part about writing YA?
I think the hardest part is getting the voice right. I want the voice to sound as authentic as possible without being condescending or reductive. I want the dialogue to be current without seeming like a lame parody of what a thirty-year-old guy thinks teenagers sound like. In short, I want to avoid sounding like this Steve Buscemi meme:
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
I love this question. There are several books I could name, but I’ll stick with just two: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Both books have such wonderful prose along with unforgettable, well-drawn characters that by the end of the book feel like they’re friends of yours. What I mean is that the characters feel like they’re real people that you want to be actual friends with and not just like Facebook friends or casual acquaintances. You want them to live next door to you forever so you can see them on a regular basis.
When you’re not writing, what would we catch you doing?
During the week, you will most likely catch me working at the children’s shelter or hanging out with my family.
I also love playing music with my friends. I play guitar and sing for the indie-rock band, Sleeping Tapes. You will occasionally find us playing shows in crowded, sweaty basements for anyone that will listen.
But today? Today, I’m so thrilled to be Tracy Marchini’s new YA client. Thank you for the introduction and for welcoming me to the BookEnds community!
Thank you, Dane – I’m so happy to have you as part of my team! You can follow Dane Johns on Twitter at @DaneJhns.