Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Interview with Don Zolidis for War and Speech

War and Speech

by Don Zolidis
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: May 5th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg


Not everyone can be a winner...

Sydney Williams knows this better than anyone. After her white-collar- criminal dad is sent to prison, Sydney fails almost all of her classes and moves into a dingy apartment with her mom, who can barely support them with her minimum-wage job at the mall. 

A new school promises a fresh start. Except Eaganville isn’t exactly like other high schools. It's ruled with an iron fist by a speech team that embodies the most extreme winner-takes-all philosophy.

Sydney is befriended by a group of fellow misfits, each of whom has been personally victimized by the speech team. It turns out Sydney is the perfect plant to take down the speech team from within. 

With the help of her co-conspirators, Sydney throws herself into making Nationals in speech, where she will be poised to topple the corrupt regime. But what happens when Sydney realizes she actually has a shot at . . . winning? Sydney lost everything because of her dad’s obsession with being on top. Winning at speech might just be her ticket out of a life of loserdom. Can she really walk away from that?

Can you briefly describe WAR AND SPEECH and its characters?

WAR AND SPEECH is the story of Sydney, who decides to join the top-rated Speech and Debate team in the country in order to destroy it from the inside out. 

Sydney is funny, brutally honest, and has a mouth that gets her in a lot of trouble. She has a strong bullshit detector and a keen sense of fairness. Her father is in prison for tax evasion, and her life has cratered big time – she now lives in a tiny apartment with her mom and her new boyfriend, and just about everything she counted on has disappeared. She can be a bit bitter. 

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

Lakshmi is probably my favorite character in the book. She’s a basketball star, and in any other school would be popular. Unfortunately, she attends a school for the arts where no one cares about sports, and her teammates recite spoken word poetry during the games. 

Lakshmi is fierce and strong and values her time. She doesn’t have time for nonsense and moves through the world like she owns the place. Sydney says she wants to be Lakshmi when she grows up. Me too. 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

I wanted to write a book about Speech and Debate, since it’s a really fun activity that hasn’t been seen a lot in YA books. I also wanted to do a plucky underdog story where the underdog’s goal is destruction, rather than winning. 

I actually took a lot of inspiration from the Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, and Eight movies. It’s a motley group of conspirators trying to do the impossible and managing to pull it off. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

This question is so hard! When I’m writing, I usually try to only listen to music that seems like it’s in my character’s voice. And then I listen to that artist continuously for the writing process. For this book, I listened to Sharon Van Etten and Courtney Barnett. I think Courtney really gets at Sydney’s irascible, raw voice. Her song “Help Your Self” is a great encapsulation of Sydney’s personal philosophy. 

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

Is it cliché to say Beanie Feldstein? I think Beanie Feldstein would make a brilliant Sydney. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she’s ready to do something outrageous. I might also cast Tom Holland (although he’s maybe a little too good-looking) as Elijah, who becomes Sydney’s love interest. 

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Um… this is a YA book, so I probably can’t say a shot of whiskey or something. I mean I could, but I might be sending the wrong signal to my readers. 

I think, ultimately, this is a really fun caper-style book. So it would go really well with some carefully plotted crimes and/or shenanigans. I’m gonna go with a smoothie and light crime. 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish WAR AND SPEECH?

My first novel, THE SEVEN TORMENTS OF AMY AND CRAIG (A LOVE STORY) is a bit more of a rom-com than a caper, but it’s also hilarious and heart-wrenching. Another kindred writing soul would be Katie Henry, who writes viciously funny and thoughtful books. Check out LET’S CALL IT A DOOMSDAY and HERETICS ANONYMOUS

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

Coming up with the spine of the story is always the most challenging part for me. I’m naturally a playwright, so writing dialogue is always breezy and fun. But finding and honing the right skeleton to hang the story on is a struggle. 

Also, what people are wearing. I have no idea what people wear. Ever. 

What’s next for you?

I just finished a new novel, I HEARD YOU WERE DEAD, which is about a boy who’s recovered from leukemia. He returns to his old high school and manages to fall in love with a girl and her brother.

Don Zolidis grew up in Wisconsin, went to college in Minnesota, and is mostly known for being a really funny playwright. For the past five years, he’s been the most-produced playwright in American schools. His more than one hundred published plays have been performed tens of thousands of times, and have appeared in sixty-four different countries. He currently splits his time between New York and Texas, and has two adorable boys who will someday read this book and have a lot of questions. He aspires to owning a dog. His first novel was The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig.

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds fun, fun, fun! Definitely on my TBR and wish list.