Throughout December, I will be highlighting 2014 releases that I’m incredibly excited for. I got the idea for this from my friend Kathy, who is doing something similar. Make sure to check out her blog to see what books she’s excited for next year!
Len Vlahos wrote The Scar Boys, which is out January 22!
First, The Scar Boys is set in the 1980s, my favorite decade!
“The backdrop for the story is inspired by my own experiences playing in a band in the mid-1980s. So, while I would love to tell you that I chose the 80s because it was a particularly colorful decade (it was), or that there was some brilliant social commentary wrapped up in the gestalt of the 80s (there wasn’t), it had more to do with my wanting to write about a familiar time and place,” Vlahos said.
Len Vlahos actually used to be in a band himself, so the fact that Scar Boys is about teenagers in a band is not that surprising.
“It’s true. I played guitar and sang backing vocals in a punk-pop band called Woofing Cookies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hemoqLpkDUc (I included a fictionalized version of the Cookies in The Scar Boys, just for fun.) When our van broke down and we couldn’t afford to get home, we settled in Athens, Georgia for a few months. While there, we were picked up hitchhiking by Bill Berry and Mike Mills of R.E.M. We were pretty awestruck. We later wound up becoming friends with Peter Buck (R.E.M.’s guitar player), who was nice enough to produce the song that would become our second single. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIF-AHsBjEo
The road trip and the van breaking down was the original inspiration for The Scar Boys,” he said.
Because of his scars, Harry is very guarded with other people.
“Harry’s personality is a result of his scars. But what he fails to realize, what he can’t realize, is that the way he sees himself is so much worse than the way the world sees him. When I started writing this, it wasn’t a story about a badly disfigured boy; it was about a boy who felt overwhelmingly isolated. That’s something that every person feels at some point in his or her life, often most acutely as a teen. The lightning strike and the scars were a device to make Harry’s isolation complete. As for the way in which Harry changes at the end, in that he’s finally able to step outside of himself, well, yes, I do think it’s permanent. But I don’t imagine that he becomes a new man overnight. Transformation is, to badly paraphrase Arthur C. Clark, always `overestimated in the short term, and underestimated in the long term.’ It will be a long road for Harry, but in the end, a successful road,” Vlahos said.
Best news? He’s already written one other book and is working on another. Less-than-great news? It’s not about the characters in The Scar Boys.
“This didn’t feel like a series to me, so I’ve completed a second manuscript that is unrelated to The Scar Boys, and am part way through a third (also unrelated to The Scar Boys). That’s not to say I won’t come back to these characters, I’m just not ready now. (I have no idea if either of those other manuscripts will see the light of day. I hope so!)“
I hope they do, too—and that he eventually writes more about Harry and the others.
So what’s he looking forward to in 2014?
“I tend not to look ahead. I like to stumble on the next read serendipitously,” he said.
Right now, “I’m reading (and loving) Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan. I just finished Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen, and before that Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (which was flat out brilliant),” he said.
If he could make any book mandatory, he’d pick The Lorax.
“It’s a pitch perfect blend of poetry, lyricism, and message. And it’s timeless. (It’s also the only book I can recite by heart. Really, the whole thing.)“
His favorite books?
“There are seventy books with five star ratings in my GoodReads “I’ve read this” library. If it were a ten-star system, more than half of those would receive all ten stars. Picking five is just impossible. Maybe it would be easier to identify the books I most often recommend to others. In no particular order:
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Truman by David McCullough
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz.
More than five, but every one of these books transcends its genre. (And trust me, I’m leaving out a lot! Like Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, In the Heart of the Sea, Ship of Gold, How Soccer Explains the World, Lord of the Rings, American Gods, Positively Fifth Street, etc., etc., etc.) And everyone on my list is a combination of great storytelling and wonderful prose. Don’t forget the prose. Never forget the prose.”
Thanks, Len! :)