5 questions with local author Rick Yancey


Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 12:19 a.m.

Gainesville resident Rick Yancey, author of several books, including "The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp" and "Confessions of a Tax Collector", discusses his writing influences and his push to encourage children to read.

Q:Do your wife and children provide you with ideas for your writing?

A: Oh, definitely. They influence me by the things they say and do, as well as the feedback they give me on my books. My main character is 15 going on 16, and my son is a sophomore that age, so it's hard not to be influenced by him.

Q:How does your work experience with the IRS help your story development?

A:One of the great benefits of working there is that you are exposed on a daily basis to the psychology of people in crisis. People I visited by the IRS generally had other problems. Financial crisises were just at the surface. There were other things not right with their lives. It was really a mirror into the insight of people and human behavior during hard times.

Q:Do you see writing as work, or is it therapeutic?

A: That depends on what I'm working on. To make a living, unless you're really lucky, you generally have to have more than one iron in the fire. It's work, but it's not work because you care deeply about the characters you create, and they become quite real to you. In my opinion, the best writing usually involves looking into instances about your own experience, your own past, so it's therapeutic in a sense. And you can totally lose yourself in the story. Sometimes I'll sit down and write for two hours, but it will feel like just 10 minutes have passed.

Q:Will you be involved in any aspect of turning your memoir, "Confessions of a Tax Collector," into a television series or your novel, "The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp," into a movie, as is being discussed?

A: That's hard to tell. Sometimes, with television series, producers will involve the writer by letting them write an episode. But when you sell your book to Hollywood, you don't have much input in the process because movies are such a different medium than books. They hire a screenwriter for that. They might send me scripts and ask for my input, but they have no obligation to do what I say. There's also no time frame for the series or movie. So many things have to work, such as finding the right director, writers, and actors, and having them stay with the project, that it often gets stalled in the process and can take a long time to develop.

Q:What is your purpose for speaking at the Alachua County Library?

A:The main reason I'm doing the library talks and school visits is to encourage reading, particularly among boys. I didn't set out with that in mind when I wrote my book, but I've had an enormous reaction from parents who said they could never get their sons to read and now they can't get them to put down my books to go to bed! Hearing that response was totally unexpected, but very gratifying. There are so many alternatives, particularly for boys and just in media alone (television, video games, iPods), which compete for children's attention to reading. But there are so many exciting books out there, which offer experiences unavailable anywhere else. I think kids often see reading as something that is "good for you," that's it's a distasteful chore they must do. If a child sees reading as something fun, they'll have a new attitude for it. One thing that helps is if children see their parents reading. Believe it or not, even with middle school aged children, parents have a pretty big influence. Also, parents should find books their children are interested in; those kinds of books, which are read for entertainment and not for assignments, will change the way they view reading.

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