By Ethan Cross
Barry Lyga’s novel GAME, the sequel to I HUNT KILLERS, has been described by BOOKLIST as “the most serious (and bloodiest) crime series yet for teen readers.” What if your father was the world’s most notorious serial killer? In the first book, readers met Jazz and watched as he used the skills taught to him by his father to track down a brutal serial killer. Now, in GAME, Jazz’s father Billy has escaped prison and is on the loose. Plus, a new killer has New York City terrified. Can Jazz help New York’s Finest and also find his father, without losing his soul in the process?
Tell us about GAME in one line.
I think the first sentence of the book sort of sums up its mood and intent: “She screamed, but she did not cry.”
Describe your typical writing day. How do you balance your writing with marketing, editing, plotting, and all other commitments?
There really is no “typical” day, despite my best efforts! I try to have some kind of schedule or routine, but it’s usually interrupted. But on a good day, I tend to get up, eat breakfast, then spend a couple of hours focused completely on writing. Then I hit the gym, eat lunch, and spend some time on e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Basically, whatever needs to be done in those realms. Then I usually jump back into writing until dinner or — depending on where I am in a project — spend the afternoon doing research.
I try to at least pretend I have a real job — I leave the week for “real writing” and do as much reading/marketing stuff as possible on the weekends.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Given that I’m usually working on two or three projects at once, I feel like I’m always writing! But to relax, I admit that I love to sink into the sofa with my Xbox controller and just immerse myself in a virtual world where it’s perfectly acceptable for me to kill things. Lots and lots of things.
If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would it be?
Oh, man, what a tough question! I’m a terrible, terrible collaborator, but I think it would be a lot of fun to team up with my pal Libba Bray for a project.
As a reader, what are some of your personal pet-peeves? In other words, what’s your list of writing dos and don’ts?
I’ve never really thought about this before! There’s nothing specific I can think of that bothers me as a reader — I just don’t like bad writing! Not terribly helpful, eh? I guess I also don’t like cynical writing, no matter how well done. If you don’t have respect for your reader, please keep that to yourself. I’ve read books where the author just blatantly disrespected his audience and, in some cases, his own characters. That’s a hell of a turn-off, no matter how talented you may be.
What kind of research did you conduct for GAME?
I did the usual round of reading everything I could get my hands on about serial killers, police procedure, forensics, and so on. But then I also interviewed an NYPD detective and an FBI Special Agent who had been involved in a serial killer case. I felt like I needed that extra little bit of insight that you can only get by speaking to someone who’s been there. I also relied on the emergency room doctor I spoke to when writing the first book in the series, so that I could be sure to get the murder scenes nice and gory for my readers!
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books/authors and who has had the greatest influence upon your own work?
Right now I’m actually reading a manuscript for another author, so I can’t really talk about that. As to favorites… I really love Stephen Gould’s JUMPER books. I recently rediscovered them because a new sequel is out, and they’re just as well-done and twisty as I remember. I’m also a huge fan of the late Ed McBain/Evan Hunter. He managed to cram three books’-worth of plot and character development into each and every book. A massive talent.
My biggest influences probably aren’t even novelists, which is a little weird, I guess. But as a kid I was hugely influenced by Bruce Springsteen, who is really more a storyteller than anything else — he just happens to use music to tell his stories. If you look at most of his songs, you can find character development, plot twists, careful use of language…everything you’d find in a novel, compressed into a five minute song. Pretty damn impressive!
What’s something that you’ve learned about the publishing business that you weren’t expecting?
I’m always amazed by the level of interaction between readers and authors. It’s something I couldn’t have imagined as a kid, and to live in a world where I can sort of directly interact with readers and get an immediate sense of how or if they’re enjoying something I’ve written… That’s really astonishing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring (or struggling) writers out there?
I always tell people what a friend of mine told me when I was killing myself to finish my first book: “Just do it ’til it’s done.” I wish there was a magic formula for y’all instead, but unfortunately, you just have to sit at the keyboard and write until it’s finished. And then start on the next one!
Called a “YA rebel-author” by Kirkus Reviews, Barry Lyga has published eleven novels in various genres in his seven-year career, including his latest, the I HUNT KILLERS series. His books have been or are slated to be published in twelve different languages in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia. He lives in New York City, with a comic book collection that is just too damn big.
To learn more about Barry, please visit his website.