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January 25, 2017

An Interview with Len Vlahos, Author of LIFE IN A FISHBOWL --- Guest Post by Teen Board Member Mikenzie R.

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As a Teen Board member, I get to review new YA books before they hit the shelves. This month, I read LIFE IN A FISHBOWL by Len Vlahos. Coincidentally, Len actually owns a bookstore, Tattered Cover, right in my hometown. With the help of Teenreads, I was able to meet Len in person and talk to him about his book, writing history and what it’s like owning a bookstore. 

Len Vlahos never imagined he would one day become a YA fiction author. He began writing books with adults as the intended audience and it wasn’t until his wife, Kristen, asked him why there was a 40-year-old man in his young adult book that Len realized he’d missed his mark. With some editing, the 40-year-old was removed and Vlahos released his first book, THE SCAR BOYS. Since then, he has also published SCAR GIRL and much more recently LIFE IN A FISHBOWL, a unique book covering topics like human euthanasia and the effects of media on their subjects. In LIFE IN A FISHBOWL, Jackie Stone’s father has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. In order to support his family after his passing, Jared Stone sells his life on E-bay. Vlahos was inspired to write this book after hearing about Ian Usher, a man who sold his life's possessions --- including his house (with all of its contents), motorbike and car --- while going through a difficult divorce.

Another unique aspect of this book is the set of characters. The book is told through multiple points of view, including from Glio, Jared’s brain tumor. When asked why he decided to add Glio as a character, Len explained Glio was a way of pushing the bounds of writing as well as adding Jared’s backstory into the book because he was deteriorating so quickly. Throughout the plot, we meet multiple characters and get to experience how the events are affecting them. The Stone family had to deal with their lives being made into a television production and presented in a different light. Vlahos used the opportunity to send a message about media, stating, “We should not trust what we see, there is an inherent lie in social media.”

In addition to being an author, Len Vlahos is also the owner of the Tattered Cover bookstore in Colorado. He shared that he spent his “entire professional life working in the book industry.” Vlahos has helped to create a full program of literary events for teen readers and was supported in his efforts by a great community of young adult authors. The biggest piece of advice he offers to aspiring authors or future bookstore owners is to “read every day, whether you are writing or selling books. It needs to be a significant part of life.” In addition to this, he urges writers to write every day and be able to listen and understand, because writers need to know how to satisfy the needs of their audiences. Though “not a voracious reader until [he] was about twenty,” Vlahos states, “Every book I have ever read has helped shape my work.” One of the most memorable books Vlahos read when he was a young adult is THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. 

Get ready for more great work from Len Vlahos because this dedicated author is already working on his next book. For this next book, Len Vlahos is writing a novel that imagines a war in the United States in the near future. In the novel, the coastal states have seceded and our main characters are trapped between enemy lines. We can’t wait for this one to be published!