Smugglivus Smugglivus Guest Author

Smugglivus 2010 Guest Author: Stephen Wallenfels

Welcome to Smugglivus 2010: Day 7

Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors, bloggers and publishers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2010, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2011.

Who: Stephen Wallenfels, debut young adult author of POD and freelance writer from Washington state.

Recent Work: POD, an awesome, apocalyptic novel about a massive scale alien invasion. POD was one of Thea’s favorite books of Young Adult Appreciation Month and a notable read of 2010 – definitely recommended.

Ladies and gents, please welcome Stephen Wallenfels!

When I’m deep into my writing mode, which for the past three years is essentially all the time, my creative reading energy is relegated to those desperate moments when I can’t take it anymore. I have to leave my own worlds and characters to fend for themselves, and happily immerse myself in the creations of others. My favorite reads of 2010 were an interesting mix of genres and styles—a departure from my normal state, typically dominated by mass-market adult male thrillers. That genre needs some fresh voices, big time. In 2010 I developed (maybe rediscovered is a better word) a fondness for YA voices. Here they are, in no particular order.

Has one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read. To reveal that much about character, tone, genre, setting—all in one simple sentence—sets a gold standard in creative writing. Aside from the first sentence, how was Feed, by M.T. Anderson? Amazing. It offers a sobering look into a future world where media access is instant and addictive. Read this and it will forever change your view of the internet, marketing, globalism, and how we literally “connect”.

One of my favorite humorists. I’ve you’ve ever heard David Sedaris read his works live or on the radio, it is hard not to hear his voice in your head when you read this collection of fables. Served up with his usual mix of biting satire and caustic insights—these twisted tales (and in some cases really twisted) will make you smile, but kind of the uncomfortable, squidgy sort of way.

This book was recommended to me by a writing friend familiar with my novel. I am always on the lookout for views of a post-apocalypse world, and Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, is an excellent, and unique, read. He poses the question: what would happen to the world if humans just disappeared? No bombs, or plagues, or natural disasters—we just were there one minute, then gone the next. How long would it take for all our creations of concrete and steel and plastic and wood, to warp, sag, crumble, fall and eventually be absorbed? Well written, well researched, creative and unfailingly interesting, this book is a must for readers (and writers) of the post-apocalypse genre.

Flash Burnout by l.k. madigan, was a must read for me, seeing as it won the 2009 William C. Morris YA Debut novel award. I enjoyed the protagonist’s voice, contemporary, sensitive and true-to-age, but I had trouble making it all the way through. I think that is more about me than the book. This deals with all the hazards of hormones and the emotional minefield of adolscent relationships to a degree that went beyond my personal tolerance. I just need a little more adventure to keep me interested. Magigan does an exceptional job of a female writing in the male POV, and that (along with the humor) kept me reading all the way to the end.

I’m a fan of short stories, and tunneling to the center of the earth by Kevin Wilson, offers some of the best shorts I’ve read in a long, long time. The quality is consistent throughout, but if you want to know my favorites, here they are in order of preference: Worst Case Scenario (a salesman tasked with selling calamity insurance), Mortal Kombat (two high school geeks exploring their mismatched sexuality) and Grand Stand-In (a woman working for a firm that provides stand-in grandmothers, much like the way a substitue pet is provided after the familiy dog dies).

I try to read 3-5 screenplays a year—very good for scene development and snappy dialogue—and this is one of my favorites. I think this is my third time through, and it’s just as good. The character arcs are solid, and the story, while predictable, is entertaining. Robin Williams needs (and deserves) more roles like this.

I’m always on the lookout for something that reminds me of two of my favorite YA novels (actually adult novels with YA protagonists), Catcher in the Rye, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky). Looking for Alaska has shades of both, although it comes closer to Salinger’s, Holden Caufield. I enjoyed the mystery wrapped in teenage angst dropped into a familiar YA setting: an exclusive southern Prep school. Fitting in is always a challenge and Green captures this emotion better than most.

What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said? Hmmm, well, if I make it on personal terms then I should be safe. As a father with an only child (a son), The Road, challenged me on many levels. I had a three-month long email exchange with my father (he didn’t like the book, “too dark and depressing”) in which I spent way too much time trying to convince him that he needed to get past the darkness to see the light. By making the despair so deep, McCarthy created a father/son love story that transcends all the horrors within, and spotlights that which makes us human and worthy of the gift of life.

Thanks Stephen!

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