Stephen Chbosky is the New York Times bestselling author and screenwriter of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. He joined Sixteen to Read author Jennie K. Brown to talk about his debut experience, the writing process and more…
Jennie: Hey, Stephen! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today!
Stephen: It’s my pleasure, Jennie.
Jennie: Can I get you anything to sip or munch on while we chat?
Stephen: No, I have my coffee.
Jennie: Do you always write with coffee?
Stephen: Almost always.
Jennie: Because we’re a debut group, we want to hear about the beginning of your writing career. Now think back to then … what was the querying process like for you?
Stephen: Well, my situation was unique because I find myself more as a movie guy. I was working more as a screenwriter and director, so my hunting for a publisher and agent was not as intense. That said, I did make a lot of phone calls and asked anybody I knew with ties to the publishing world for referrals. It took me over a year to find an agent. Ironically, at an agency that had passed a year earlier. And I ultimately found my publisher – Simon and Schuster, specifically Pocket books and MTV books, and my editor was Greer Kessel Hendricks.
Jennie: How did you react to the ginormous success of PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER?
Stephen: I think because I did it by myself more as a movie guy, I didn’t get very swept up in it. I was very proud, of course, and I was very grateful, of course, but it didn’t really seep into my identity. I only wish at the time I had had a mentor in publishing who would have sat me down and told me you have to write another book immediately. I didn’t know. Instead I was pursuing a screenplay career.
Jennie: Tell us about your writing routine. Has it changed over the years?
Stephen: My writing process has evolved over the years in relationship to my age and the amount of time I have to spend. When I wrote PERKS, the novel, I was single, living in a single room in NYC, and I had all the time in the world. So I could buy a carton of cigarettes and sit for 16 hours a day and work obsessively. Fifteen years later- no more cigs, have a wife and two children, and now I have coffee and about seven hours a day to write. I made a decision years ago that my writing would come second to my family.
Jennie: I love that.
Stephen: What I’ve found is that both have benefited greatly from that decision. Now my process is heavier on outlines and notes because I don’t have the extra hours.
Jennie: So, pantser or plotter?
Stephen: I started out as a pantser and now I’m a plotter out of necessity. Like with my new novel.
Jennie: Can you talk about it?
Steve: Sorry, but no. 🙂
Jennie: We totally understand! Congrats on a new book! And now we have a few lightning-round questions for you. Answer as quickly as possible.
- Your favorite time to write? Afternoon
- Favorite place to write? My office
- Favorite writing snack? Peanut butter
- Last book you read? Wuthering Heights
- Favorite book? Too many to name
- If you could live in a fictional world, what world would it be? A long time ago, in a galaxy far way…
- If you could be a character from a book for a day, who would you be? James Bond
Jennie: Great answer- James Bond. Thanks so much for talking to Sixteen to Read, Stephen!
Stephen: Very welcome and I’m so glad, and thank you for including me. Good luck!
Stephen Chbosky and Jennie Brown talk debuting