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Author Talk: January 2006

January 2006

Louis Sachar's SMALL STEPS chronicles life after Camp Green Lake for Theodore "Armpit" Johnson, one of the former occupants of Tent D from the Newbery Award-winning book HOLES.

In this interview, Sachar explains why he chose to focus his highly anticipated novel on this particular character over all the others. He also describes his rather slow writing process and reveals how his life has (or hasn't) changed as a result of the success of HOLES.

Question: Of all the characters from HOLES, why did you choose to revisit Armpit in SMALL STEPS?

Louis Sachar: I tend to write about underdogs. It seemed to me that life would be tough for an African-American teenager from a low-income family with a criminal record. Especially someone stuck with the name, "Armpit."

Q: Although this new book is about a character from HOLES, the two books are very different. How would you explain to a fan of HOLES what to expect from SMALL STEPS?

LS: I can't. I'm no good at describing my books. HOLES has been out now for seven years, and I still can't come up with a good answer when asked what that book is about.

Q: Could you imagine future novels about any of the other boys? Do you think about what Stanley is up to now?

LS: I don't think too much about Stanley or Zero. I left them in a good place. Although money doesn't bring happiness, or give meaning to someone's life, the problems Stanley and Zero face now (and I'm sure they do face many problems) are less interesting than those faced by someone like Armpit.

Q: Plenty of teenagers fantasize about what it would be like to be a young rock star. You portray it as lonely. Tell us about that decision.

LS: The media tends to portray the teenage world as one where drinking and sex is taken for granted. In fact, I think most teenagers don't drink, are unsure of themselves, and feel awkward around members of the opposite sex. I thought it was important to show Kaira, a rock star no less, as such a person. Her situation, in many ways, is made more difficult as she has no social contact with anyone her age. She is trapped in a world of agents, record producers, and hanger-ons.

Q: I'm imagining that of all the books you've written, HOLES is the one that has changed your life the most. Not only did it win the Newbery Medal, it's also simply a popular sensation. Is this assessment accurate? What is this novel's continuing impact on your life? Would you consider it the book that you are proudest of?

LS: Not counting SMALL STEPS, I think HOLES is my best book, in terms of plot, and setting, and the way the story revealed itself. It hasn't changed my life, other than that I have more money than I did before I wrote it. I'm still too close to SMALL STEPS to compare it to HOLES.

Q: Why do you typically write only two hours each day?

LS: Small steps. Every time I start a new novel it seems like an impossible undertaking. If I tried to do too much too quickly, I would get lost and feel overwhelmed. I have to go slow, and give things a chance to take form and grow.

Copyright © 2006 by Louis Sachar