:: Interview with Brian James
By Dominique McCafferty, Librarian
Brian James is the author of several amazing novels, including Dirty Liar, Perfect World, Pure Sunshine, and Tomorrow, Maybe. He currently lives in upstate New York. "I believe that what's inside us is more interesting than what is in the world around us," writes Brian on his Myspace profile. "I believe music and words have the power to save us." Visit Brian's Myspace page.
DM: Where did you grow up?
BJ: I grew up mostly in New Jersey, about fifteen minutes outside of
DM: But you loved New York City.
BJ: Yeah, I knew I wanted to live in New York when I was very young. I
can remember being 10 years old and getting some of the New York
television stations where I lived, and I would always watch them. I
watched their news, and their sports. I became a Yankees fan when I
was kid. I just always knew that's where I wanted to be. And then I
finally moved to New York when I was eighteen to attend New York
DM: Did you know you wanted to be a writer when you were a child as well?
BJ: Not really, or at least not in the sense of actual writing. As a
child, I preferred to play alone with toys rather than with other
kids. Action figures, dolls, and stuffed animals were my toys of
choice, and I used to make up stories and act them out for hours. I
really see that as my first step in becoming a writer. I gave my toys
voices and personalities the same way I do with the characters in my
DM: Have you ever taken any writing classes?
BJ: Nope... never, not a one. I never believed in writing classes when
I was younger. I didn't feel that imagination and style—which I
consider to be the two most important things you need to become a
writer in the first place—could be taught. I did take some painting
classes, and I had tons of friends at New York University who were
film majors and writing majors, and so I heard about the workshops,
but I never wanted to subject my work to that. I often find that in
any artistic field there is so much competition to be the best, and
often there is this need to put down other students' work in order to
make yours seem better. There's no real desire to help students become
However, I have changed my opinion slightly in that I think a writing
course could be helpful to young writers if it focused on editing and
DM: Do you consider yourself a young adult writer?
BJ: Not necessarily. Writing IS. My books are about coming of age, and I suppose that is the type of story I've always loved to read, but it's not the only kind of story I love, and it won't be the only kind of story that I write. I think I'll continue to write YA as long as I feel that I have something to say about it. I do have another book that should be coming out in the spring of 2008 which follows the character Elizabeth from Tomorrow, Maybe, but ever since I finished that manuscript, I've been working on decidedly different projects.
I've been concentrating on two new chapter book series that are coming out in 2007—written for first through third grade. I love that sort of writing as well. I'm also working on a middle grade novel, a novel for adults, and a new YA novel that is not a coming of age story.
So to get back to your question as to whether or not I'm a young adult writer, I guess I don't know. I write what interests me at the moment, I suppose. I like inhabiting all kinds of characters and the teenage years are always interesting from a writing perspective. Unlike adult characters, teen characters can be confident and sure of the world one minute, and vulnerable and afraid of it the next—but it doesn't necessarily make them feel ashamed.
The full interview will be made available in the summer 2007 issue of ALA's YALSA.