Author’s Interview at Teens Read and Write

Alyssa from Teens Read and Write asks some very intelligent and provocative questions; the answers to which provide valuable insight on both So Shelly and myself. http://www.teensreadandwrite.com/2011/01/author-interview-ty-roth-so-shelly.html

Blog Tour

Stop back each weekday for the next two weeks as So Shelly goes on a Blog Tour. Each day, I’ll provide a link to various bloggers pagers, where various interviews with me and a character or two from the novel will appear, along with other interesting tidbits concerning me and So Shelly.

A Matter of Taste

Whether regarding food or a work of art, my simple mind has always been boggled by taste. I’ve never understood how two people can eat or drink the exact same thing, yet one find it delicious and the other disgusting. I’m sure there is some anatomical explanation for this discrepancy, but it still makes little sense to me. I guess that’s why we throw up our hands and proclaim, “There is no accounting for taste!” A similar frustration exists in attempting to make sense of the divergent responses found in the world of artistic appreciation. As So Shelly’s release date nears, my thoughts have turned frequently to this notion of taste, as an increasing number of people have shared that they can’t wait to read my book, for it is inevitable that a significant number of them will most likely not like my writing style, my plotting, my choice of topics, nor any number of authorial choices I’ve made.

As evidence, I present Stephen Chbosky’s 2001 novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. A visit to Amazon reveals the wide disparity of taste possible in response to the selfsame work. One reviewer scored it at five stars and described the book as “simply amazing. I couldn’t put it down and have read it several times since .” A second reviewer rated the exact same novel as one star and wrote “a lousy book lousy writer . . . it was one of the few on the list of ‘the worst books I have read.” How do you explain that? Here’s my best stab at it. If I understand the science correctly, every individual  has a unique set of taste receptors that determine our perception of how food tastes. Recent studies even suggest that our sensual taste may be genetically influenced. Similarly, I would suggest that we all have a different set of life experiences and have inherited personality traits that account for our positive or negative responses to works of art. The fact that we prefer different foods and art doesn’t make one of us more correct than the other in our preference, nor does it reflect on the quality of the object in question. It simply reveals a difference in taste.

 My point, in my own convoluted way of making it, is that no one (family, friends, or strangers) should feel bad if he or she does not like So Shelly (especially if you bought it rather than borrowed it from the library – just kidding – sort of). It will not hurt my feelings. Although I wish I could please everyone with my brand of storytelling, I know that it will not happen. Just do me one favor: if you like Shelly, tell everyone you know, but if you don’t like Shelly, keep it to yourself (just kidding – again – sort of).

Upcoming Appearances

I currently have two Readings/Signings scheduled: Monday, February 14th, at the Sandusky Library beginning at 6:00 pm., and Thursday, February 17th, at the Ida Rupp Public Library in Port Clinton. I am also available for visits to private book clubs. If interested, contact me through one of the means available at my web page: http://www.tyrothbooks.com/contact.php.

VOYA Review

So Shelly has received a very positive review from VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates). VOYA”s web page describes itself as “a bimonthly journal addressing librarians, educators, and other professionals who work with young adults. The only magazine devoted exclusively to the informational needs of teenagers, it was founded in 1978 by librarians and renowned intellectual freedom advocates Dorothy M. Broderick and Mary K. Chelton ‘to identify the social myths that keep us from serving young people and replace them with knowledge.’”

SO SHELLY

By Ty Roth

Delacorte Press

VOYA; circ: 7,000

February 2011

Until now, high school junior John Keats has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate, and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron—that is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident. After stealing Shelly’s ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly’s body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last “so Shelly” romantic quest. At least that’s what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly’s and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end.

So Shelly is told by Keats, the confidante of both Gordon and Shelly, which makes for an absorbing plot. This reader is unsure whether knowing about the real-life poets is a hindrance or a help. The smooth, playful writing style skillfully intertwines the stories of the protagonists. Roth has penned a contemporary story of three teenagers’ coming-of-age that takes the reader on a turbulent journey. The story contains a spattering of social issues—abortion, suicide, and sexual abuse—which are best suited to an older reader. The visually beautiful cover immediately catches attention. This novel may have limited readership but is one that teenage girls will thoroughly enjoy.—Amanda McFadden.

Taking Stock

 I’m sitting at my desk staring at a box. The words Random House, Inc. are printed in blue along the bottom beneath the company’s logo. Inside the box I can see a stack of author’s copies for So Shelly with my name on the cover. I know, “Pinch me, right?” It’s literally a dream come true, so why am I just not feeling it?

 Perhaps, it’s because the journey to this point has been long and slow and full of so many highs and lows. It’s not like winning the lottery, a moment of sudden and life-changing good fortune. Perhaps, it’s because I know what it has cost me in terms of time, energy, and effort to reach this point. Maybe, it’s because I remember too well the countless letters of rejection through four years of failed novels. It could be that happiness frightens me. Bitterness and sadness are much easier. I know I’m scared to death of irony. It’s the great leveler, often turning what we think are the best moments of our lives into the worst. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, the leveling shoe.

 I can’t help but recognize the truth of Keats’s line from “An Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Heard melodies are sweet, // but those unheard are sweeter.” Keats’s observation is that life’s experiences are almost always better imagined than actuality reveals them to be. Think of first dates, first kisses, first lovers. The sad truth is that reality almost always falls short of our imaginings. Thankfully, I think we make up for this disappointment by remembering most things as better than they really were.

Most likely, my lack of giddiness is due to the goal line that is continually pushed further away as I approach it or, maybe, like the addict’s ever-increasing amount of drug that must be ingested to reach the high. I once thought that just completing a novel would be good enough. Then the goal became finding an agent, then a publisher. Now, I feel the pressure to sell a lot of books, and my editor is waiting on book two.

 Such is life.

 I believe that the real reason I am so under-whelmed is because they’re just books, and they will always pale in comparison to the value I place on the people in my life. They are my greatest treasures, and the relationships we have formed are my greatest accomplishments.

 I’m reminded of the line from a James Taylor song: “The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.” In other words, life is properly and best lived in the moment, not in anticipation of or reflection on it. So, for now, I’m going to stare at those books in that box for a while, pinch myself a few times, and count some blessings. I hope there’s a box of dreams-come-true with your name on it being loaded in some delivery truck or strapped to an angel’s back even as I write this. Better yet, I hope you too take a moment to notice the dreams-come-true already present in your life. Carpe Diem, my brothers and sisters, Carpe Diem!

But, Mr. Roth!

With the release date of my debut novel, So Shelly, fewer than three weeks distant, things are about to change. Oh, I’ll be the same person. That is one of the advantages of meeting with this modicum of success at a later age. At this point, I’m too much me to be anyone else or to fool anyone else if I try to be someone I’m not. What does stand to change, however, is the perception of me by others. The vast majority of readers of So Shelly will be complete strangers (Gosh, at least I sure hope so.), but a large number of readers will be former and current students, friends, and family, whose established notions of who I am will be challenged by the content of the story.

Largely due to the controversial sexual attitudes, irreligious beliefs, and outlandish behaviors of the real Byron and Shelley, several scenes of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and the questioning of faith occur in the novel. As a reader and a writer, I’m perfectly comfortable with such scenes, and this inclusion places me in line with a growing and, I think, much needed trend in YA novels and entertainment (as evidenced by such bestselling novels as John Green’s and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson and the MTV series Skins) that portrays the lives of teenagers in a realistic manner and refuses to condemn young people for their sexual natures or for their experimentations with living and free thought. Where this gets sticky for me, however, is in the realization that my parents, in-laws, children, students, parents of students, co-workers, etc. will read Shelly and wonder, “Who is this guy?” The answer is I’m the same guy I always was; however, until now, you haven’t known me as a writer. You’ve only known a sliver of me as a neighbor, teacher, son, or any of the other numerous roles I play in carving out the course that is my life. Some will be surprised; some will be offended; and some will just be a little weirded out because they’ve never thought of me considering such things.

I certainly won’t blame anyone for whatever judgments of me they make as a result of reading Shelly. When I accepted the publisher’s contract, I accepted that risk. Besides, it’s a relatively constant game in the study of literature to attempt to determine where and to what degree the author reveals himself in the behaviors, thoughts, and opinions of his characters, and there is no doubt that I occasionally do so in Shelly, but I will leave that for readers to discern. At the same time, however, a great deal is portrayed that is quite foreign to my beliefs, morals, and values, but, again, I’ll never tell what that is either. It will be part of the fun.

Interview with Author/Blogger D.L. King

Here’s a link to an interview I did with D.L. King. D.L. has a fantastic sense for the literary and asks some of the most insight-producing questions to which I’ve had the pleasure of responding. Check it out: http://dlkingwriter.blogspot.com/2011/01/raising-byron-keats-and-shelley-from.html