By now, you may have caught on to my habit of jotting down questions while I read and then sending them to the author. I’ve met with great results from writers who are very generous with their time. My latest sneak-attack was on Stuart West. His Tex, the Witch Boy was amazing, entertaining, and very intense. Without further ado, here’s Stuart!
Stuart West: Hey, Heather, oh Queen of Awesome, thanks for having me on your blog!
Heather Brainerd: So glad you could make it, Stuart! So, let’s get right to the Q & A. As a child of a parent who has battled cancer, and as a parent of a child who will start high school next year, I felt a lot of sympathy for Tex. How much did your personal experiences shape Tex’s world?
SW: Long-winded time, Heather, so batten down the hatches (whatever that means). Tex, the Witch Boy is practically an autobiography. Um, except, of course, I’m not a witch and we didn’t have a serial killer running rampant through our high school halls. At least I don’t think we did.
Like Tex, my father had MS, confined to a wheelchair when I was very young. And my mother is a two-time cancer survivor. Unlike the tale, though, my mother’s still living (just had open-heart surgery!) and, sadly, my dad died some time ago. But his spirit lives on in the three Tex books.
Regarding the high school element? Well, yeah, a lot of that’s true. Each bullying incident was drawn from something that happened to me or a friend of mine. I’m still in contact with a high school friend who can’t use several fingers from one of these encounters.
Vice Principal Hastings, Bob Bellman, Red, several others were all drawn from real people (man, if they’re still living, I hope they never read the book!). The more modern characters are based on several people from my daughter’s recent tenure in high school hell. In fact, Olivia is a composite based on my daughter, a girl I knew in high school, maybe a little bit of my wife.
As for Tex? Yeah, he’s me, I am him, we are the walrus. Except I was nowhere near as brave as him. Shared his smart-mouth and aptitude for getting into trouble, however.
HB: I love the way you tell this very intense story in a light-hearted, teenaged way. How did you nail the teen voice so well?
SW: My wife would say it comes with the territory of immaturity. Probably some truth to that. Plus, as I said, I relived the horrors recently through my daughter’s eyes. Talked to a lot of her friends. And, honestly, it was such a traumatic time for me, it still seems fresh in my mind. The most fun I had, I think, in capturing Tex’s voice was including every awkward teen moment I could think of, including each “um” and “ah” and “gah.” Teens have their own language. Why aren’t anthropologists all over this?
HB: Good question. Maybe they are, and we just don’t know it. Anyways, Tex’s real name is Richard. My husband’s name is Richard. I’m thinking about starting to call him “Tex.” Do you think he’d like it?
SW: Kinda’ doubt it, Heather. How about calling him “Dick?” Or, wait! “Sasquatch!” That’s a cute pet name, right?
HB: Hmmm… maybe I’ll just stick with “Rich.” As the book went along, I started to picture Tex as Adam Hicks (circa Lemonade Mouth). Is this way far off? And if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, here’s a quick video:
SW: Oh, my God! It’s me in high school, complete with pasty complexion and red hair. Yeah, he’d make a good Tex, looks pretty normal and non-assuming. However, Tex has dark hair, a little longer. Still better than my cover model. Always thought that guy was a little too…”CW modelly.”
HB: Thanks so much for visiting, Stuart!
Being in high school sucks. Just ask Richard “Tex” McKenna, a Kansas sophomore. Dealing with bullying, burgeoning love, the loss of parents, and dodge ball is bad enough. To top it off, he’s just found out he’s a witch! Oh, and fellow students are being murdered. The suspicious eyes of local law enforcement are looking right at Tex and his loyal group of friends. And so is the killer. Will Tex’s new-found skills prove helpful? Or cause even more problems?
And check out Stuart’s blog!