I have been lucky enough to be granted a interview with the author of one of this year’s hottest books ‘We All Looked Up.’
Welcome to Paranormal Angel author Tommy Wallach.
Where did the concept/Idea for ‘We all Looked Up’ come from?
Tommy – The most direct inspiration was Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” a very serious (and very adult-themed) movie about an asteroid coming at the Earth. In Trier’s movie, the asteroid is a metaphor for depression, which it definitely is not in WALU, but even so, Trier’s movie got me interested in the concept of people trying to come to terms with their lives in the face of imminent destruction. I realized early on that the conceit had been explored quite a lot in adult fiction, but almost never in the YA world. Teen life isalready so apocalyptic, in that everything feels so big and important and life-changing, I thought it made for a perfect fit with the asteroid, end-of-the-world narrative.
When you were writing ‘We all Looked Up’ did base your characters on people you know in real life or are they completely fictional?
Tommy – I took almost all the names from real people, but I can’t claim to have known those people nearly well enough to get inside their heads like this. So no, pretty much everyone is just taken from my impoverished little imagination…with a few real world tics thrown in when they seemed to fit.
Covers can often be what inspires and intrigues a reader to pick up the book. The cover for ‘We all Looked Up’ grabs your attention do in pact to its simplicity. When you were having the cover created what were you look for? Who designed the covers?
Tommy – The cover was designed by the incomparably wonderful Lucy Ruth Cummins, and the photograph was taken by Meredith Jenks, who also deserves super-props. Honestly, I had pretty much no say in the design of the cover. (In fact, my one note was, “Maybe don’t do a photograph”!) That being said, it’s probably good that I didn’t, because S&S came up with such a brilliant design without my input. What do I know, anyway?
To complement ‘We all Looked Up’ you have also recorded a companion album, what was the process of making the album? Did it help you with the creation of the overall story?
Tommy – The album was created after the book had sold. While I was still editing the book while working on the album, the music itself didn’t influence the text in any way. The book, on the other hand, very much affected the music. Many of the songs on the album were written as specific responses to things I’d put in the book (“Natural Disaster,” “No Stars,” “Countdown”).
‘We all Looked Up’ is your first book you have had published. Was there anything that surprised you about the process or path to publication?
Tommy – This is a cliché, but I think the thing that surprised me the most was just how slow the whole process was. I understand now why it has to work that way, but it’s pretty shocking to sell a book and then find out it won’t be on shelves for almost 20 months (and more than that is common!). By the time it comes out, you’ve always moved on to another book. In my case, my second book was finished and submitted before WALU came out!
There have been some amazing books written throughout history. If you could have written any book in history what book would it be?
Tommy – Oh so many. Middlemarch? Sure. I wish I’d written Middlemarch. That would be cool.
What is next for you?
Tommy – My next book is called “Thanks for the Trouble.” It’s the story of a boy named Parker Santé. Parker hasn’t spoken a word since he was in a car accident that killed his father a few years earlier. But one morning, in the lobby of a fancy hotel (Parker occasionally goes there to rob unsuspecting tourists), he meets Zelda Toth. In addition to claiming she was born in Germany in 1770, Zelda tells Parker she’s planning to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge sometime in the next few hours. The book takes place over a single weekend, as Zelda, who may or may not be immortal and may or may not be suicidal, quickly but utterly transforms Parker’s life. I see it as a mixture of “Let the Right One In” (only without any vampires–repeat, there are no vampires in this book), “Tuck Everlasting,” and the Richard Linklater film “Before Sunrise.”
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
Tommy – Hmm. Not too much. I always work in coffee shops, never at home (except sometimes on editing deadlines). I like having just that perfect amount of distraction.
‘We all Looked Up’ could be considered to be a powerful story, with the fact that no one truly knows what is around the corner and that you should appreciate those in your life and strive to make everyday count. Was this the intended message you had for your readers?
Tommy – Heck yeah! I hope that came across
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Tommy – This past couple of weeks (since release here in the US) have been so unbelievably amazing. I just want to say thank you to all the people who’ve bought the book, and said nice things about it, and reached out to say hello to me. You’re all the best.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and answer a few questions.
Tommy Wallach is a Brooklyn-based writer and musician. His first novel, We All Looked Up, will be published by Simon and Schuster in April 2015. His work has appeared in many nice magazines, such as McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Wired. He has released an EP with Decca Records, and will be independently putting out an LP in Spring 2014. He also makes music videos, including one that was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum. You should buy him dinner.