Today we’re talking with Lucky13 author Tim Federle, whose debut BETTER NATE THAN EVER is available in bookstores, just waiting for you to grab your copy. You guys. This book is the BEST. Funny and heartfelt and thoughtful… and I could gush all day, but I’ll let the blurb speak for itself:
Nate Foster has BIG dreams.
His whole life Nate has wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune?
With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom. Now’s his chance to explore the city, wow the casting director, out-sing the competition, and hop the last bus home before anyone notices he’s gone. No big deal, right? But exciting as it is, the Big Apple can be big trouble. And if Nate isn’t careful, he’ll be lucky if he makes it through Times Square, much less the audition.
Tim Federle writes a warm and witty debut that’s full of broken curfews, second chances, and the adventure of growing up—because sometimes you have to get four hundred miles from your backyard to finally feel at home.
Ahhh! Doesn’t that sound AMAZING?
And now. The lights dim, and the curtain opens. A hilarious, brilliant author named Tim Federle (a young man with brown hair and a bright smile) steps onto the stage, followed by Lauren Magaziner the interviewer (a young woman with a mop of curly black hair). The audience falls silent as Lauren crosses the stage:
LM: Hi, Tim! How did you come up with the idea for BETTER NATE THAN EVER?
TF: I moved to New York City to dance on Broadway. After 10 years and 5 shows, I ended up on the artistic staff of BILLY ELLIOT. I was so inspired by the wit and fearlessness of these children, and I thought that if these kids can face these giant audiences, I can face the blank page, which is something I had wanted to try for a while. So I was inspired by the kids.
BETTER NATE THAN EVER, for those of you out there who don’t know, is about a boy who runs away from home to crash an audition for ET the Musical.
Were you ever in E.T. the musical?
Actually, there isn’t—
Oh my gosh, there isn’t one!
I specifically chose something that wasn’t real. I love musicals, but sometimes they can be a bit… cheesy. I thought it would be funny to take a movie that was perfect and imagine it as a show that’s not.
Well, I’m a huge musical theater buff, and I didn’t even realize until just now. You made it so believable—well done! So, are you currently on Broadway?
These days I do some freelance choreography, but I’m currently writing full-time. My tap shoes are temporarily hung up.
How has your past theater experience help you to write BETTER NATE THAN EVER?
I’ve been in a lot of shows—ones that have gotten good reviews and some that have gotten bad reviews. Writing books and dancing on Broadway are similar in that you’re putting your heart on the line. Any artist who puts himself out there for review is like a writer. With books, it’s a slower and quieter process as things trickle in. The difference is that shows are all about collaboration, but for novel writing you can spend months, if not years, with your characters and the computer before you share.
So what was your path to publication like?
Strange, but also similar to a lot of other things in my life: I do a ton of preparation and research and then it all goes out the door in the final hour. Basically, I wrote Better Nate Than Ever — a bad, big, overwritten first draft — in a month. Then I polished and refined it during the mornings and researched agents at night. And then one day, without my expecting it and without having sent my first round of queries, I heard from an agent (Brenda! Bowen!). She’d been passed some of my writing by a colleague of hers/friend of mine. Brenda had brilliant thoughts on Nate, and we revised and then sent it into the world, and it found a very happy home at Simon & Schuster with the great David Gale.
What was the most surprising thing about publishing a book? Or exciting? Or both?
The surprising thing is how long it takes from sale to publication. It’s like… the longest pregnancy ever, and then OHMYGOD THE BABY IS COMING.
The most exciting thought is that my book could make people laugh or feel something. And it is exciting to lend my voice to something that is singularly my own. (My own, plus a lot of hard-working people at S&S to partner with me. It takes a village to raise a book.)
That’s so reassuring to hear that it moves so quickly in the end. What’s your typical writing day like?
Well, when I was writing BETTER NATE THAN EVER, I would wake up at 7:00 a.m., and I’d write until about noon. Almost always, I’d finish a chapter. They weren’t very good chapters, but it would be a chapter. I’d send them to my friend secretly and rehearse for Billy Elliot until 10 pm. When I got home, I’d go to bed—then wake up and do it again.
Woah. That’s intense!
Yeah. But now that I’m writing full time, I’m trying to find moments to carve out time in between making plans and setting up events. I try to wake up early. It’s changed—there’s a big difference between writing when no one’s expecting something from you and writing on contract. Both have plusses and minuses.
So… now that you’re writing every day, we must know what future projects you have in the works!
I have three. In the spring, I have a recipe book called TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD: COCKTAILS WITH A LITERARY TWIST from Running Press, which is all about literary cocktails. It includes drinks like, “Are you there, God? It’s me Margarita!” and much more.
Then, in 2014, the sequel to BETTER NATE THAN EVER comes out from Simon & Schuster.
Lastly, I’m working on a middle grade book that comes out from Disney Books in 2015 about a rambunctious boy who gets out of trouble by getting into tap dancing.
Those all sound AMAZING, and I need them all NOW. *Grabby hands* I won’t keep you away from your writing any longer (for selfish reasons because I want more Tim Federle books!). Last question: since we are a community All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what 2 or 3 books inspired you as a kid?
MATILDA was my favorite! I so admired, even as a kid, that Roald Dahl was able to say, “Some people are not as nice as other people,” and that’s a reality. He didn’t sugar coat it. Even though Roald Dahl was writing about fantastical things, it felt real.
Then, there was a book called SONDHEIM & COMPANY. It was non-fiction, and I read it cover to cover. I remember thinking it was the coolest, greatest book ever. I just wanted to lose myself in that world.
And there was STUART LITTLE by E.B. White. Such a good reminder that you can do things in children’s literature that pushed the realm of believability—like talking animals. But these talking animals had such real feelings, and I loved that about Stuart Little.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Tim! Congrats again! You have a standing ovation from the OneFours!
Meet the Author:
Tim Federle was born in San Francisco, raised in Pittsburgh, and moved to New York as a teenager to dance on Broadway. His debut novel, Better Nate Than Ever, was recently named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Junior Library Guild selection. Say hi at TimFederle.com and on Twitter @TimFederle.
This interview was conducted by OneFour member Lauren Magaziner, whose MG novel (title to be determined) releases from Penguin Books for Young Readers in Summer 2014. This interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.