Friday, December 9, 2016

5 YALLFest interviews with Carrie Ryan, Diana Pho, C. Alexander London, and Alex Gino

Although I had several pre-scheduled interviews at YALLfest (with Jonathan Stroud, Dhonielle Clayton, and next week's guest), I was also able to catch on-the-fly interviews with some of the YALLFest participants. Between panels and signings and catching up with friends, they all had hectic schedules, so I truly appreciate that they indulged me and my silly questions.

Here's what I asked:

What real-life adventure would you most like to go on?

What fictional adventure would you most like to crash?

Besides storytelling, what skill(s) would you contribute to the group on an adventure quest?

As a writer, what do you think is your strongest skill? And do you have any tips for getting better at it?

And then if they had time, I gave them some markers and a paper with "YA Books = " and had them get creative for their picture.

Today's featured victims are authors Carrie Ryan, C. Alexander London, Alex Gino, and an editor from Tor Books - Diana Pho.

Carrie Ryan

Real-life adventure?  Here’s the problem – I’m such a planner that I’m like, well first of all, I would need to go research what sorts of adventures are available. You know, I would love to go to New Zealand. I’d love to go hiking in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand. And I’d love to go to Antarctica and see penguins in the wild

Fictional adventure?  Growing up, one of my favorite movies was Swiss Family Robinson. I want that tree house, like, I want to crash that house party. Without the pirates. 

Adventure quest skills?  Sleeping. No, I can always find the worst-case scenario of anything. So if you’re curious about how any small thing can go wrong, I can tell you all the ways that it will go wrong. So you’re like, hey, here’s our plan, show me the faults in the plan, and I’m like, here, here and here. Here’s all the ways you’re going to die if you try this.

Strongest skill?
 I think that I can write dark ambience, I feel I can take things really dark. Like creating that sense of dread that almost feels somewhat inescapable. So my advice to anyone working on that – I always remember the very first time I wrote a description of a zombie and gave it to my husband, and we co-write together now, but at the time, he’s like I think you can do better, the description. And it really pushed me to think about what a zombie would look like, to think about the broken fingers from the fence. And I feel like it’s those details that can really make or break something, so putting yourself in that situation and thinking about all the senses and descriptions, but not the obvious ones. 

Diana Pho

Real-life adventure?  I definitely would want to travel somewhere. One of the things I’ve always wanted to do was the Trans-Siberian Railroad. That would be fun. 

Fictional adventure?  I would love to join Lyra from His Dark Materials trilogy because I want to have my own dæmon. And possibly overthrow God. Because why not?

Adventure quest skills?  I would be the cute one. So you would never underestimate the power of cute until you’re facing down a bunch of rogues. I’m like, no, you can’t do anything to the cute one, she looks so sad - you can’t make her any sadder by hurting her party. 

Strongest skill?  I’m an editor, so I’ll answer from an editorial angle. I really enjoy how people figure out world building - that means I really enjoy finding plot holes in world building. One of the things authors sometimes do is, Oh, this is my outline to see how the story will go, and I’ll point out really obvious things. Like, hey, if this person owns a private railway, why don’t the police stop them by going to the end of the railway? Is there some sort of negotiation once borders are crossed? You have to tell me all these details. So I would pester them about all these particularities to make sure they have their world building right. And that’s what I truly enjoy. 

C. Alexander London

Real-life adventure?  My job before I wrote books for young readers was as a journalist – I worked in a war zone, so I’ve had a few too many real adventures. The last one, the one that pushed me over the edge, was fleeing an erupting volcano in rebel-held eastern Congo. And I thought, you know what? I want to not have adventures. I’m going to let my characters have the adventures, and I’m going to stay home with my dog.

Fictional adventure?
 I’d want to go through the Chocolate Factory, but not as one of the bad kids. I’d want to make it all the way to the end.

Adventure quest skills?
 I think I’m more useful on an actual real-life quest as calories. So if it was like a Donner Party situation, I’d say, “It’s okay to eat me, I’m just consuming space. I’m more useful as meat.”

Strongest skill?  I think my strongest skill is doing the work. I’ve been doing this full time since late 2007. And I’ve just turned in my 22nd book, so I think I’m pretty good at putting my butt in the chair and doing the work. So that’s it. I think there are no shortcuts to writing. It’s one word after another, whether it takes you ten years to write one book or you write a book every three months. It’s still the same process of sitting down, opening your heart, opening your brain, and putting one word after another in as humane a way as you can.

Alex Gino

Real-life adventure?  So many! No, no, I know, I want to walk on a glacier while they’re still there.

Fictional adventure?  So the kid in My Side of the Mountain, who lived in the Catskills for a year – I would love to go hang out with him, have dinner, meet his falcon, and then go back to my house with a bed in it.

Adventure quest skills?  I can crawl into the little weird hole to get the key that we need to open the door so that everyone bigger can get through it. 

Strongest skill?  I really like how I do dialog. And the way I do it is I have the conversations in my head and then I’m just writing down what’s actually being said.

Thank you, Carrie, Diana, Alexander, and Alex, for taking the time to chat with me!

How would you answer these questions? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Happy reading,



  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Carol! I had so much fun doing them. :-)

  2. Great interviews! Great read while waiting for my son.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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