One of the books we’re totally excited for this year is the amazing Tim Federle’s debut, Better Nate Than Ever, which came out this week! We
dragged Tim in got Tim settled in our comfy chair and grilled him. Gently.
Better Nate Than Ever
Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune?
With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.
Broadway dancer Tim Federle writes a warm and witty debut that’s full of broken curfews, second chances, and the adventure of growing up—because sometimes you have to get four hundred miles from your backyard to finally feel at home.
Tim, welcome! We think it’s incredibly cool that Better Nate Than Ever is grounded in your own experiences on Broadway performing and working with young performers. Was there a light bulb moment when you knew you wanted to take that experience and write, or was it slower? How did Better Nate Than Ever come about?
When I started the first draft of Better Nate Than Never, I was on the artistic staff of Billy Elliot, where I coached the brilliantly goofy child actors. They were under huge pressure—Billy Elliot is basically Hamlet with acne—and these kiddos inspired me to face my own fears and to get serious about writing. Better Nate Than Never was born out of my dream to tell stories in a different way than I had as a dancer.
From one form of art to another. Geez, talented much? Tell us a little about your journey to publication—how did you and Nate find your agent and your publishing home?
With luck at my back and wind in my shoes, or something similarly Irish Proverb-y. I’d written a novel for adults, first, and showed it to a good friend who happened to edit children’s books. It wasn’t right for him, but he saw something he liked and passed it along to the dazzling Brenda Bowen, who offered to represent me—if I’d write a book for kids. I took the dare and along came Nate. Brenda found an ideal home for the book with David Gale at Simon & Schuster.
Seriously, adults and kids? Stop being so multi-talented! Please at least tell us it’s hard. What’s a typical writing day like for you? Are you a 500-words-a-day kind of guy? How do you get it done?
I’m up super early. If I linger under the covers too long, I’ll talk myself out of those still-sleepy ideas that are often my biggest bursts of Aha! No matter the word count—though it’s usually something like 1500 a day—I type and type till a (big, bad) complete chapter is out of my head. And I won’t go back and edit till I’ve written The End on the whole shebang, about thirty days later. Then: “Revisions, meet Tim. Tim, Revisions. Pull up a red pen and get to know each other.”
Thirty days?! Okay, let’s talk about something else. If you could be transported into your book, which scene would you most want to reenact?
(These questions! Are so! Good!) Scene one, when Nate is standing in his backyard bidding his best pal goodbye. He’s all set to skip town, hop a bus, and crash an audition for E.T.: The Musical, hundreds of miles away in New York City. I’d want to transport there because the start of any adventure is when anything is possible. (Also, backyards are fun. As I remember. #NewYorkProblems)
I read the first chapter over at Broadway.com, and I loved it! Envy aside, your writing is fantastically diverse—you’ve got a middle grade novel, a picture book and a book of literary cocktails in the pipeline. Was it always the plan to diversify? How did it come about?
There wasn’t a plan! I’m just trying to get the most people smiling, no matter their age. And my three editors are (honestly) each incredible advocates and co-pilots. The drinks book came out of a two-line joke-email to my agent: “Do you think a cocktail recipe book called Tequila Mockingbird would fly with the Urban Outfitters crowd? Think: The Last of the Mojitos and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita.” She took the bait! And my picture book is with Disney/Hyperion and stars an irrepressible child who finally gets out of trouble and into the spotlight when he discovers tap dance. (“NOT THAT EVERYTHING I WRITE IS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL,” TIM SAID, TAP-DANCING AWAY TO MAKE A COCKTAIL.)
Speaking of a drink or two, if you could spend a night at the pub with any 3 authors (alive or dead) who would it be and why?
Dorothy Parker, Joan Didion, and Roald Dahl. Because all three of them wrote (and write) up to their audiences and not down to them. Dahl, in particular, made me go: “Oh, my gosh. This guy isn’t afraid to say that some people are nitwits.” I was eight. This clarity was a revelation.
We love to ask our guests this, and for you especially I can’t resist: Mix me a literary cocktail! What elements would you include in your ideal book (i.e. 2 parts fantasy, 1 shot romance, and a twist of mystery!)
Recipe for ideal book: 30 overwritten chapters, 1 patient editor, 320 cut adverbs, 1 shaken author. Garnish with Advil.
I will take one of those, please! Especially the patient editor!
Can’t get enough of Tim? You can see him on YouTube talking about Better Nate Than Ever, OR you can win one of the very last ARCs of Better Nate Than Ever right here on Pub Crawl! This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada.
Not only that, but Tim will autograph it, deliver it to your door and tap dance just for you! Well, he’ll autograph it and post it to you, at any rate. Dancing not guaranteed. In honour of Nate’s story of chasing a dream all the way to NYC, leave us a comment telling us your favourite Broadway show!
TIM FEDERLE is the author of over seven hundred emails. His debut novel, Better Nate Than Ever—about a small-town teen who crashes an audition for E.T.: The Musical—was inspired by Tim’s time coaching the child stars of Billy Elliot on Broadway. Say hi at TimFederle.com and on Twitter @TimFederle.