Bob Madison is the author of Spiked! Spiked follows 17 year old Thom Wilcox, during a confusing time that does not get simpler. The novel explores a story of hilarious, sometimes poignant, adventures of discovery. YEM was able to speak with Bob about whether there were any parts of Spiked! Inspired by your life, what it was like to create the character of Thom, and what his writing process was like.
Young Entertain Mag: How did you first get into writing?
Bob Madison: First – let me thank you for this opportunity to speak directly to readers. It’s an honor to be here.
I like to think that I’m an “overnight sensation” that only took… thirty years. I started writing, believe it or not, in first grade. Once a week our teacher had us write a short story and every week I would regale the class with tales of vampires, werewolves and man-made monsters. I not only enjoyed writing them, I loved reading them aloud!
When I saw how my stories affected people – they always wanted to know what happened next – I was hooked. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six years old.
YEM: Why did you decide to make Spiked! about self-discovery and coming into who you are?
Bob: Spiked! is about many things, including self-discovery. It’s also about friendship and hero worship and how to deal with parents, friends and school. It’s a fairly rich tapestry (I hope!).
I would have to honestly say that I’m now well into my adulthood and still have no idea who I “really” am. I think we are all works-in-progress to one degree or another; this progress is particularly hard when we are young. It gets easier, but the job is never really finished. Show me someone who says they know themself completely and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t know themself at all.
Another thing I wanted to touch upon was the question of achievement. We all have achievements of one kind or another, but the most important in life are connecting with friends, family and, ultimately, finding love.
YEM: Was there any part of Spiked! Inspired by your life?
Bob: Lots of Spiked! was influenced by my life. My kid brother, David, was a champion baseball player. He was also obsessed with various players when he was a kid, like Dave Kingman and Thurmon Munson. My folks divorced when he was fairly young, so I took him to baseball games all the time. But I was a bad brother because I sit at the baseball games and read a paperback instead of watching and cheering!
Like Thom, in the book, I was a big nerd in high school. But where Thom likes Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, I loved Sherlock Holmes and James Bond and Agatha Christie and the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy. The great thing about being involved in a “fandom” is that you can find friends with similar interests almost automatically – the downside is that it can be very limiting if you spend your time obsessed by just one thing.
YEM: What was it like to create the character of Thom?
Bob: Thom was very easy to create because there’s a lot of me in him. He’s a seeker, tries to be a good friend, and is something of a smart mouth. He’s also much nicer than I am … so when I tell people I’m like Thom, I’m really patting myself on the back….
There’s another character in the book, Preston, who seems to be a favorite with everyone. He’s actually based on a guy I knew in high school, also named Preston, who was smart and had this preternatural calm. I have no idea where he is now, but he’s probably Earth’s ambassador to Vulcan.
YEM: What was your writing process like?
Bob: As writer Paul Gallico said, writing is easy – you just open a vein.
Seriously, I’ve written many different types of books – nonfiction, westerns, thrillers – and the writing process for all of them is different! If you’re interested in writing, I would say the most important lesson is not to listen to “how to” advice!
For Spiked!, I really just let the characters talk to me. Sometimes your book is very plot-heavy, and you just want to move your characters from Point A to Point B. Spiked! was more like sitting down every day with people who interested me and learning what they had to say. Every day was a surprise.
The other thing that surprised me was how funny the book turned out to be. It’s not a comedy, per se, but it’s got lots and lots of funny bits. The more serious a thing I write about, the more likely I am to make it funny. It’s probably a coping mechanism – but it works. (I think…)
YEM: What did you learn about yourself as a writer when you wrote your book?
Bob: Spiked! is my first Young Adult novel and I wanted to know if I could do that. It’s a very special balancing act – because you’re writing for people who are usually smarter than you are. The thing that I had to do, day after day, was make it honest. If I was taking the easy way out or faking it, people would know right away.
YEM: What does it mean to you to be able to write a book and bring representation to the LGBTQ+ community
Bob: Here’s an unpopular opinion – I don’t think representation is all that important.
When I was a boy, my heroes were Sherlock Holmes and James Bond and Hercule Poirot and Tom Mix and Doc Savage and Allan Quatermain and Dracula and The Frankenstein Monster and Buffalo Bill Cody … well, you get the idea. I had a lot of heroes!
But none of them were gay (like I was/am!) and it didn’t matter. I gravitated to heroes not because I wanted them to be like me, but because I wanted to be like them! I wanted to be stout of heart and brave and honest and mysterious and smart and stylish.
The least important thing about anybody is their sexuality; how you behave, what you think, how smart you can make yourself, how much good you can do in the world – all of that matters much, much more.
YEM: What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a writer?
Bob: Don’t! The field is too crowded already!
Seriously, though… You cannot be a writer unless you are also a reader. If you do not read, you don’t have the background, tools, or temperament to write. And read everything: nonfiction, spy novels, westerns, horror novels, comedies, detective stories, war stories, love stories, tragedies, plays, adventure stories and satires. Reading is how we learn about other types of people, but also how we learn about language, story structure, technique and personal voice. You can’t write if you haven’t read.
YEM: What is something from your book that you hope your readers takeaway?
Bob: I think young adult books should be replete with joy. When I say joy, I don’t necessarily mean happy, but they have to do something for you to make your life better. Not only should they be replete with joy, but they should be crammed with wonder. When you’re at that golden high school age, everything is magical.
I want readers of Spiked! to be infected with that sense of wonder and to realize that life is a miracle and the fact that they are here and now is simply amazing! Life isn’t always easy, but it’s always fascinating and worth living – so go out and live it!
YEM: Is there an author that inspires you?
Bob: How long have you got?
My list of favorite writers is as long as my arm – longer, as my arms are pretty short! I was deeply inspired by Ray Bradbury as a young writer, but also Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Ian Fleming (James Bond), Bram Stoker (Dracula), Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol), Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple), H. Rider Haggard (She – a GREAT book! Find it now!), Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), Robert Louis Stevenson (The Master of Ballantrae) and Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe) for starters!
The authors that inspire me are the authors that people love to read; who write stories that leave people wanting more, to learn the next adventure, to take the next ride. It’s popular for people to turn down their noses at “popular fiction,” but I think that’s the highest thing a writer can aspire to.
YEM: What is your favorite part of writing for a young adult audience?
Bob: I can’t tell you how many people were moved by Spiked! I’ve gotten tons of notes from people saying, “that was me!” Or, “it’s almost like you knew me!” That sense of connection between a writer and a reader is magic; I can’t get enough of it. It seems to happen most with Young Adult fiction, so it’s something I will return to.
YEM: What are you wanting to write next?
Bob: My next book is not a Young Adult novel, but a comedy called Cash and Carrey that should come out in a few months. It’s very funny!
I have another Young Adult novel in the works called Shadow of War about a fatherless boy in London during World War II. He is sent out of the city during the Nazi bombing; when he relocates to a small seaside village, he learns that Nazi spies have already infiltrated the place.
If any of your readers would be interested in that – please tell them to let me know!
Many thanks for this opportunity! If anyone would like to get in touch with me, they can email me through my Web site, www.thatbobmadison.com.