Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Q&A with David Teague
David Teague is the author of How Oscar Indigo Broke the Universe (and Put It Back Together Again), a new novel for kids. His other books include Henry Cicada's Extraordinary Elktonium Escapade and Franklin's Big Dreams. He teaches literature at the University of Delaware, and he lives in Wilmington, Delaware.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Oscar Indigo, the story and the character?
A: As for Oscar the character, I’ve always been fascinated by people who love a team, give everything to their team, spend all their time thinking about their team, and yet are actually terrible at their game and almost never get to play.
To me, that is true love of the sport, be it baseball, football, swimming, track or anything else. And I’m always happy when people with a lot of challenges nevertheless work hard enough actually to run out onto the field and contribute.
I wanted Oscar to be one of those people. And as I imagined him, I got to figure out what makes him tick. And hopefully (not to give away the ending of the book) the big payoff to inventing a character like Oscar would be watching him bat in the BIG INNING!
Q: Why did you decide to focus on baseball?
A: Once, I was at a baseball game and I saw a guy sitting near me in the stands with a stopwatch. Now, as you may know, baseball is one of the few sports where time really doesn't matter. The players play until somebody wins.
Maybe it takes nine innings. Maybe those nine innings take three hours. Maybe it takes fifteen innings. Maybe those fifteen innings take seven hours. But nobody is keeping time.
So I wondered what that guy was going at the game with a stopwatch. And it didn’t take me long to figure out: obviously, he was attempting to destroy the universe.
Q: You've written for different age groups. Do you have a preference?
A: I really just think of a story, and then write the book tells it best. And that book naturally decides for itself what age group it wants to speak to. So I love writing picture books, middle-grades, you name it. Right now I’m even working on a Young Adult novel.
I will say that all my favorite books in the world are what we’d call “middle-grade”: books I read when I was 9-13. The Dark Is Rising series, Black Beauty, M. C. Higgins The Great, and so on. So I really love middle-grades books. I still do. I just read Holes and A Wrinkle in Time again.
Q: Do you usually know how your books will end, or do you make changes along the way?
A: I usually know more or less what my hero needs to accomplish, but I only have a vague idea of how they will do it, so that’s the fun part. Inventing the craziest plot I can to get them there.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a middle-grades book called The Society for the Uncovery of No Such Thing and a Young Adult novel called The Ballad Of Pheobe Grey.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I love coming to visit schools, so let me know if you’d like to invite me. I live in Delaware and I don’t mind jumping in my creaky old minivan to drive a little ways. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb