Brian Farrey is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of September. Brian has written a thought provoking book called With or Without You. Please take a minute to read this super awesome interview so you can find out the inspiration behind the book as well as other cool stuff about Brian.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m originally from Wisconsin, where With or Without You is set. I never lived in Madison but it’s a city I’ve always been fond of. During the day, I acquire young adult fiction for Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide. In October, I’ll be celebrating two years of marriage to the most incredible man I’ve ever known.
- What inspired you to write With or Without You?
It was kind of a perfect storm of inspiration, I think. I had just started in the MFA program at Hamline University and we were all learning about our process. It’s an oddly intimate and personal experience and you really need to approach it with your eyes and mind open because it can teach you a lot about the things you gravitate toward naturally and the things you shy away from. Both are worth pursuing in your writing.
I found early on that I was interested in writing about change and its effect on people: How it occurs, how it affects us, when we embrace it, when we fight it, etc. And as I played around with the idea of change, I started thinking about those forces that can change people on a massive scale. I kept coming back to two such forces in particular: art and AIDS. So I set out to find a place where these elements intersected in a young man’s life, and that’s where the book came from.
- Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book. Did you do that? Do you have anything in common with your characters?
I didn’t really put myself in the book. At least, not on purpose. I think Evan has his head screwed on more at eighteen than I did. And Erik is more what I aspire to be, in terms of being someone’s boyfriend/lover/partner (you’ll have to ask my husband if I stack up; I suspect I don’t, but I’m no slouch either). If there’s anything of me in the book it’s Evan’s fears. He has a lot of them. But I think he and I approach our fears very differently.
- HIV and AIDS was once a disease that made national headlines. Do you think that sexually active people have forgotten the risks?
I think we, as a society, have become very complacent about HIV and AIDS. In talking to high school students recently, I found that none of them had learned about it in school. That really scared me. I think that comes from the days when AIDS was considered strictly a “gay disease.” It’s not. It never was. But because it appeared to be, the more conservative elements in the country did everything in their power to discourage research into the disease and create an infrastructure to warn everyone about the dangers. (For anyone looking for more information on the history of HIV and AIDS, I highly recommend what many consider to be the definitive work on the subject, And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts.)
- In your book With or Without You, characters Evan and Davis join a group called the Chasers. Is this a real group that people can join today?
No, there is not a group called chasers that people can join. The concept of bugchasing—people who seek to intentionally contract HIV—is real. It’s not a big thing. In fact, most people have never heard of it. I don’t want to create the impression that there are thousands and thousands of people like this. But there are people who—for a variety of reasons that I’m sure make perfect sense to them—are not afraid to be infected. I think a lot of that goes back to the question about our society becoming complacent about HIV and AIDS. I’m just not convinced it’s “real” to a lot of teens today. Or maybe it’s that the promise of new treatments takes the edge off the fear. I don’t know exactly. But I firmly believe people aren’t as aware of the dangers as they should be and the fact that bugchasers exist supports that.
- Do you have any advice for GLBTQ teens reading your book?
Keep your eyes and heart open at all times.
- Do you like to read? What authors or books influence you?
As an editor, a love of reading is part of the job. In fact, if you don’t love reading, editing is not for you. So, yes, I love to read. J I find myself most influenced by authors who accomplish things with they’re writing that I’m not sure I can do myself (but I hope to learn by studying what they do). I often cite David Almond as a writer I really admire. His novels are practically textbooks in how to achieve a lot with a little. I love Jonathan Stroud, who is a masterful storyteller. The two writers I’m learning the most from right now are A.S. King and Andrew Smith. They’re doing very exciting things in young adult books and I push their stuff into as many people’s hands as I can.
- I know you have a new book set to release in October, can you tell us a little bit about it?
The new book is a departure from With or Without You. It’s a middle grade fantasy called The Vengekeep Prophecies. It’s about a boy named Jaxter Grimjinx who comes from a family of thieves. His family commits the greatest heist of their careers but, in doing so, accidentally trigger a series of cataclysmic prophecies that will destroy their hometown…and they’re the only ones who can stop that from happening.
- With or Without You won the MN teen book award this year. What was your reaction when they called your name?
You’d have to ask my husband because I have very little recollection of the moment. I went to the awards to support my fellow writers. The thought of winning never occurred to me. NEVER. For a start, I’d read the other books nominated in my category and they were amazing and beautiful and the kind of books you give awards to. I never saw my book that way. Apparently, someone did because they called my name that night. My husband had to shove me out of my seat and push me toward the stage.
- Tell us in one sentence why we should read With or Without You?
You should read With or Without You because I am really, really, supremely terrible at answering questions like this and you should take pity on me as a result.
If you would like to win a copy of Brian's book, With or Without You, please enter here: