Earlier this week I posted a review of a recent read that I adored, Anything Could Happen by Will Walton. While finding Will Walton’s website to link to the post, I stumbled across his email address – and lo and behold, he agreed to answer a few questions. So here it is, my interview with Will Walton!
TO: What was the most rewarding part about publishing your first book?
WW: Really, I gotta say, it’s been the response from readers who have been moved or encouraged by the book in some way. It was also neat to see how my parents reacted to it–very positively! I really wrote this book for them, but honestly, I wasn’t certain how it would go!
TO: Can you describe the process of writing the novel, from when you first had an inkling of an idea to when it finally ended up in print?
WW: The idea started with “Tretch Farm,” the name. Initially, I was like, “This sounds like the name of a picture book character, so I’ll write a picture book.” But then I started the whole coming out process–a time during which I felt pretty dang isolated. Writing a lightheaded story about a resilient gay boy from the South turned out to be just what I needed. So I kept the name “Tretch Farm,” since I liked it for how silly-sounding it was, and ditched the initial picture book idea.
During the early drafting process, two things changed. First, Tretch aged up! Believe it or not, I began by writing an eleven-year-old Tretch. Now, he’s fifteen, which just feels right. I feel like, when you’re fifteen, you are discovering so much about yourself, all while simultaneously trying to learn how to put everything into words! Second, the ending changed. Tretch’s parents were initially going to discover that he was gay and entertain the thought of sending him to a conversion camp. They were never actually going to send him, but still… that would have been a darker turn!
TO: What was the hardest part about the revision process?
WW: Working under a fairly strict deadline was hard, especially since this is my first book and I was used to going at my own pace. Generally, it takes time for me to see what’s working and what isn’t while I’m drafting, and during revisions, my publisher was basically like, “go, go, go!” I had to adjust my work methods.
TO: Who are the characters in Anything Could Happen that are the closest to your heart, as the writer? And why?
WW: I love Lana Kramer. She is definitely more like me than Tretch is. But I also love the grandparents. They are the only characters in the book that are really, truly based on people I know: my own grandparents. And even though the grandparents in Anything Could Happen have entirely different backstories than my actual grandparents, it was so fun to spend time with them because they reminded me so much of my real Grandma and Granddad.
TO: Ellie Goulding’s music plays a pretty pivotal role in the novel. What about her music inspired you to include it?
WW: The album Halcyon had just been released around the time I began drafting Anything Could Happen. In fact, it was playing over the speakers in the cafe I was sitting in when I wrote the first sentence. I didn’t know what a big role Ellie’s music would play… but it came to be a huge one, obviously! I know this isn’t only true about people from small, Southern towns, but in my community growing up, there was such a concentration on politeness and tradition. Talking about your problems was kind of taboo! As a result, my friends and I often found we had a tough time explaining what we were going through to one another. That’s why music and books and movies became so important to me as a teen. They put words to the emotions I was feeling and helped me deal with them… This is exactly what Ellie’s music does for Tretch.
TO: Obviously, “coming out” as a high schooler (or as someone of any age, for that matter) can be pretty difficult, and even stressful, for a variety of reasons. How did you go about figuring out how Tretch would have handled that situation?
WW: I just knew Tretch was my hero, and I knew he would handle it exactly like someone I viewed as heroic would. Tretch is so innately resilient and loving–I knew that love would guide him in handling any situation he was up against. And in the end, I think it did.
TO: Most everyone in the book reacted supportively when Tretch came out to them. I haven’t seen that a lot in YA fiction! It was very exciting. What led you to make this decision?
WW: At the end, the message the book leaves you with is, “It’s going to be better.” This was a lesson I was trying to prove to myself as I wrote Anything Could Happen. In having Joe, Lana, and Matt act individually supportive of Tretch’s coming out, I wanted to remind myself that there were people around me who supported me and loved me no matter what.
TO: Tretch is fifteen in the book, and he definitely encapsulates the tumultuousness of high school existence. What would you say to today’s fifteen-year-olds, if you could pass them along one message?
WW: I would say, just keep doing what you love to do. If it’s dancing, keep it up. If it’s writing, keep it up. I really believe that reading, writing, listening to music, and watching the Independent Film Channel (hilarious, right?) were the things that helped me out as a teenager. And while I didn’t, as Taylor Swift says, “know it at fifteen,” those were also the things that shaped me into the kind of person I am today. So just keep doing your thing and take care of yourself–that’s my main message, I think.
Thanks so much to Will Walton for his words of advice about life, writing, and the power of Ellie Goulding! If you like what he had to say, and you’d be interested in reading a stellar piece of fiction, do check out his book, Anything Could Happen.