David always enjoyed writing, but he was content sharing his passion for literature with his fellow students at Middlebury College in Vermont. It wasn’t until he was working on his master’s degree at Dartmouth in New Hampshire that he discovered he has a talent for writing fiction.
David ended up writing a novel for his thesis, and it became his first book a young adult novel called “Truesight.”
Writing for young adults wasn’t a conscious choice for David. He says, “It just sort of happened that way. My first novel was a dystopian tale and, like many books within the genre (“Anthem,” “The Giver,” etc.), featured a young adult as the protagonist. And then I just sort of stayed on that track.”
Being a high school teacher didn’t hurt either. “It certainly made it easier,” David said. “It might also have to do with the fact that some of my most powerful novel-reading experiences came from reading YA fiction as an adolescent.”
A good story is a good story, David says. “The major difference between YA fiction and regular fiction these days has mostly to do with the age of the protagonist. If ‘Huckleberry Finn’ or ‘Catcher in the Rye’ were published today, they’d probably be considered YA.”
“Spinning Out,” David’s latest book came from an idea he conceived in 2004, but he didn’t get around to writing it until 2008-09. He worked on the rough draft during the school year, teaching in the morning and writing into the late afternoon every day.
It took about a year for the book to get picked up — the economy crashed, editors were getting laid off, all kinds of crazy things were happening in the industry,” David said. “I got some of the most wonderful rejection letters. (‘We love the book and would normally publish it, but we’re only focusing on genre fiction that we can easily market’ was what one editor basically said.) My agent made another push in the fall of 2009 and we suddenly got more interest.”
“Spinning out” is the story of friendship between to teenagers — Frenchy and Stewart. The two decide to try out for the school musical, “The Man of la Mancha.” Surprisingly, the guys are really good, but when Stewart starts to wear his costume all day and displays a hatred of the high-tech windmills outside of town, Frenchy worries that there’s something deeper going on.
David admits he never read “Don Quixote” until he started doing research for “Spinning Out.”
“It’s quite a tome,” David said. “It’s tricky, though, because I was working from two related sources — Cervantes’ novel and the musical ‘Man of La Mancha.’ I really tried to incorporate plot and character elements from both works into my own novel without having it be too blatant. Fans of either will hopefully recognize at least some.”
The major characters in “Spinning Out” are, David says, inspired in large part by the characters in “Don Quixote.” The book is also set in David’s native land, northeast Vermont, and is “certainly colored by the people I’ve grown up with.”
It’s always a joy to see a narrative coming together, and David thinks he elevated his game a bit with this book.
That’s not to say that “Spinning Out” was all fun and games, though. “The major challenge was depicting Stewart’s descent into schizophrenia in a believable way,” David said. “I did a bit of research and consulted several mental health professionals in the process of writing this book to pull it off. To have it match the kind of pacing the story called for was tricky, but I think it works.”
David hopes his readers will enjoy his story — that they’ll laugh despite “heavy” issues. “There’s lots of humor in it,” he said. “In terms of the issues themselves, I hope they’ll take from it the importance of friendship and loyalty, and maybe gain some insight or perspective on how to deal when a good friend falls apart.”
David took a lot of time and care to answer Cracking the Cover’s questions. Read a complete Q&A transcript of his email interview.