Thursday, May 30, 2013

7 Questions For: Author Chris Rylander

Chris Rylander is the author of The Fourth Stall, The Fourth Stall Part II, and The Fourth Stall Part III. He was born and raised in North Dakota and currently lives near the center of North America with his wife Amanda. They have one dog and one cat. He swears he's never participated in any organized crime. (Just don't ask how he got his house.) He's a fan of strawberry jam and one-armed cowboys.  

Click here to read my review of The Fourth Stall.

And now Chris Rylander faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

However, I would also have added books by M.T. Anderson and George Saunders if I were able to choose just one. 

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?
Writing time can vary so much.  It's not consistent at all for me.  If I have an approaching deadline, then likely 80 hours a week writing or more.  But some weeks I don't do any writing at all.  As for reading, I wish I spent more time reading!  I would say when I'm home, an hour a week on average which isn't nearly as much as I used to spend reading.  Though when I travel, which is fairly frequently, then I read much closer to a 10-15 hours per week pace on average.  

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?
For me it was to always keep pushing.  It took me three manuscripts before I finally got published, but I wrote them all in under a year.  I was incredibly driven, motivated by how easy it was to get my foot in the door (a simple query letter.)  I thought that was just the coolest thing: That a simple email to an agent was all it took to get your fair shot.  

Eventually I queried an agent who connected with my writing (after over 150 rejections), and that was that.  There is a whole lot more to the story, of course, but to tell the whole thing I'd have write at least a novella, if not more.  I'll just say that, ultimately, I was just lucky to have finally queried the right agent for me at the right time.    

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I think both can be true.  Some are born with a natural gift.  Others have to work harder to get better, to improve enough to finally get over that hump.  But I do believe that all writers need at least a little of both, natural talent and hard work.  And the very best writers have tons of talent and also work the hardest.  Which I think is the same way it works in sports, visual arts, and even other industries.  I think for me, I have a lot of natural ability.  I must, since I've never taken any writing classes past 10th grade.  That said, I read a ton as a kid and I think that helped me immensely.  Also, I truly believe my love of movies, TV, and video games, (of stories in general) has also helped me become a better writer, even as counter-intuitive as that may seem.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing
My favorite thing is the emails I get from kids.  There's no substitute for what that feels like.  Knowing that your book, something you just completely made up, had any kind of impact on a kid's (or adult's) life.  It's awesome.  Similarly, I have a blast doing school visits. 

My least favorite part is having too many ideas to ever get down on paper.  There's too much to write and not enough time to do it!  It drives me crazy.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

It's to keep going.  Stay motivated, don't be afraid to let go of one manuscript and start another. Be your own worst critic.  The people who are the hardest on themselves, the ones who AREN'T convinced they've written the next Harry Potter, are typically the writers who end up making it.  

Also, I know this is a cliche, but I really mean it: Don't let rejections get to you.  I never did. And I will never understand why so many writers let rejections crush them.  Reading is such an objective thing, we all know that.  Everyone has books they love and books they hate.  So why would your book be any different?  Some people will like it, others won't.  Even to this day, bad reviews never get me down.  I mean, what I am going to do?  Walk around with a knife and threaten people until they like my book? You just can't force people to like anything.  So simply write the best book you can and don't worry about stuff you can't control.  Wow, that was a rant.  I'm sorry.  But, seriously, I don't carry around knives. My nickname is not Steak Knife. I swear.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why

WARNING: This will be a very dark answer.  

Probably John Kennedy Toole.  I'd try to cheer him up if I could. Tell him the future. Convince him to stay with us so we'd get to read more of his amazing, hilarious writing. 

Also, I've always wanted to pick George's Saunders brain.  Literally, I mean.  I want to see if his brain, is, you know, different from other brains.  I bet it's a bright color at least.  Like bright orange maybe.  That'd be cool.  Bright orange brains seem like they'd make for genius writers.


  1. My students LOVE Mr. Rylander's books-- when I picked up the third book, there was a scuffle at the circulation desk over which of two boys would be the first to check it out! (I admit-- I let the fastest reader have it!) The words of encouragement were spot on today; I just taped this quote to my wall for inspiration: "The people who are the hardest on themselves, the ones who AREN'T convinced they've written the next Harry Potter, are typically the writers who end up making it."

    Thanks, Ninja, for a timely interview!

  2. Loved the interview. So interesting to read about Chris' writing/reading process, his road to publication, and advice to the rest of us. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. I frequently hear authors say they have a set writing schedule so Chris R's insight into his random schedule gives me hope. This month I went a week without writing and then one day wrestled with words for nearly 14 hours. Only three hours of sleep arrived before getting up again at 1 a.m. to write a subplot that couldn't wait. My relatives worry about me a lot...Will be reading The Fourth Stall series next as it has been on my to read list for some time. Thanks for the great interview.


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