Sunday, November 27, 2011

Interview with Dan Boehl

Naomi and the Horse-Flavored T-Shirt by Dan Boehl is an imaginative dystopian novel set in Endless Ranches, Texas in a post-gasoline world.  One corporation, the factory, controls all of the food supply, and there is only one food:  paste.  Fourteen-year-old Naomi knows something is amiss and sets out to uncover the truth about Endless Ranches.  You can read more about Dan and his writing at  Following is my interview with Dan about his art and his life.

What were your favorite books when you were a kid?

My favorite books were by John Bellairs. Particularly the House with a Clock in Its Walls and the Trolley to Yesterday.  I also loved Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  So, anything kind of scary and fantastic.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was 13 or 14. I had just read The Blue Sword, and I remember sitting on the front porch of my house with a pad and writing, "Kai had a sword." That was as far as I got on that one.

Where do you get your ideas?

My ideas arise from settings.  I grew up in the country outside of Baltimore, MD and York, PA.  Many of my stories have a country attitude.  Naomi and the Horse-Flavored T-Shirt came about because I traded the story to my friend Naomi for a T-Shirt.  I asked her what kind of story she wanted and the book arose from her request.

Why is your first book a novel for teens?

The book just kind of happened to be for teens.  I really liked the style of writing.  It is like spinning a yarn rather than trying to write literary fiction.  It is fun and exciting, and teens are more accepting of the fantastic and the weird.

In Naomi and the Horse Flavored T-Shirt paste is the only food the characters have available to eat.  Until they discover the delicious taste of vegetables and fruits.  (I suppose only the absence of produce would make vegetables taste good to most children.)  Is the paste--I won’t give away its main ingredient--in any way analogous to the overly processed foods Americans consumer today?

Yes, I think paste is a stand-in for the overly processed foods Americans eat and analogous for American consumerism.  But really I just wanted paste to be something discussing and bland.  Something that people accepted because they had no imagination.  Naomi has imagination, and therefore she hates paste and the conformity it represents.

Your novel is set in Texas after all of the oil is used up.  No more gasoline.  What do you imagine the country would be like when there is no more oil?

Well, I think by the time the gasoline runs out there will be electric alternatives for transportation and a better bicycle and mass transit structure.  There is a lot of coal in America, so we are not teetering on an energy crisis, but there needs to be an alternative to gasoline and car culture.  I imagine fewer roads, more trains, and cleaner air.

The paste corporation controls everything to the point that children are indoctrinated with paste propaganda in their schools.  Do you think corporations have undue influence over what schools teach?

The paste propaganda in schools in Naomi is a nod to Fahrenheit 451, one of the great dystopian novels.  I do feel there needs to be less corporate presence in public schools that make junk food and sodas available to kids.  Also, in Texas, there is an ideological debate being waged about what should and should not be taught in science class.  I wanted Naomi to experience this culture in her classroom.

This is a weird question that I read in an interview once, but in light of the purple horse-flavored shirt Naomi wears, I’ll ask it.  If you could be any color, what would it be and why?

I would be two colors: pink and grey. These are my favorite colors. One is soft and pretty, the other soft and strong.

Who is your favorite Beatle?

George.  Is that the right answer?  I like his spiritual mindedness.  Have you seen that interview with him on the Dick Cavett show?  He is amazing when he talks about the Beatles and how he fits in, how he doesn't fit in.

What is your favorite food?

Maryland crabcakes.

What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

I was a high school English teacher in a Baltimore County prison.

What would you do if you weren’t a writer?

I would be a lawyer and I would sue the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice on behalf of incarcerated teens.

Do you have any advice for people who want to write?

Get up every morning and write 300 words.  Do it 5 times a week.  Get one person to read your work and make sure they are only allowed to tell you good things. 

If you'd like to order the Kindle version from Amazon, click here: 
Naomi and the Horse-Flavored T-Shirt.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to read this. Thanks for a great post! -T