Sunday, October 12, 2014

0 Chris Crowe, author of DEATH COMING UP THE HILL, on the art of revising haiku.

What is your favorite thing about DEATH COMING UP THE HILL?

Writing the entire story in exactly 976 haiku stanzas.  It wasn't the format I started with, but when it evolved into haiku, it became a challenging brain buster.  Beyond format, my favorite thing about this novel is the historical stuff from 1968 that provides all the meat of the novel.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

The history of 1968, especially the US casualties in Vietnam.  So much was going on in 1968, it was inspiring to figure out what to include and how to include it.

How long did you work on the book?

The gestation period was several years, but once I settled on 1968 and on the fact that the US death count in Vietnam would be an important part of the plot, the project really started moving.  After I'd done all the research and was ready to focus on writing, it went pretty fast, maybe 8 months or so.  Revision was incredibly complicated and difficult because of the interdependent haiku stanzas.  A simple word change rippled forward and backward throughout an entire chapter.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

The real challenge for this project was finding an editor willing to take a chance on it---well, I suppose that's the challenge for any novel---but the format of this novel is so unusual that many editors passed on it, and one even turned it down overnight!  That's the fastest rejection I've ever received.  I've published about 15 books before this one, and I've written a handful that have never seen the light of day.  Some of those I still have hope for, but you just never know.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I get most of my writing down in a quiet, windowless, no-wifi, no cell phone service room in the basement of my local university library.  I'm most productive when I get there first thing in the morning and start writing before I engage with any of the work required for my full-time job.  While I write, I listen to an eclectic mix of music---during much of the work of Death Coming Up the Hill, I listened to classic rock from the late 1960s.  I start each day by reading and doing some light revision of what I have written the day before.  Then I review my outline, my historical notes, and dive in.  On really busy days, my goal is to get at least 100 words, but on many days I hit 1000.  On good days, four to five thousand.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Read, read, read.  Write, write, write.  Revise, revise, revise.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on being a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better grandfather.  That seems to take an awful lot of my time.  I'm working on an academic book about spirituality in YA literature, and I'm kicking around ideas for my next novel.  I'm sure it'll be another historical novel, but I'm not sure of the particulars yet.


Death Coming Up the Hill
by Chris Crowe
HMH Books for Young Readers
Released 10/7/2014

It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple, like the situation in Vietnam, has been engaged in a “senseless war that could have been prevented.”
     When his high school history teacher dares to teach the political realities of the war, Ashe grows to better understand the situation in Vietnam, his family, and the wider world around him. But when a new crisis hits his parents’ marriage, Ashe finds himself trapped, with no options before him but to enter the fray.

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Chris Crowe, a professor of English at Brigham Young University, has published award-winning fiction and nonfiction for teenagers, poetry, essays, books, and many articles for academic and popular magazines.  He married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth, and they are the parents of four children and grandparents of two beautiful granddaughters and three handsome grandsons.  They live in Provo, Utah.

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