Edward Bloor was 47 when he wrote Tangerine, the young adult novel he is most famous for.Â It took him two years to write.Â Since then he has written six more books.Â His new novel, Journal of the Plague Year, is due out from Random House in the spring of 2011.Â The second and last part of this interview focuses only on Tangerine.
What inspired you to write Tangerine?
It was more opportunity than inspiration. In my job Iâ€™m actually required to read young adult literature and I had never heard of that genre before. Iâ€™d always wanted to be an adult writer. And all of a sudden I saw this whole genre that had great plots and characters and stories, and I thought I could do this. So I took that opportunity.
Was the writing process of Tangerine difficult?
No. It went very smoothly. I didnâ€™t really know what I was doing but Iâ€™d read all these young adult novels and I had this idea for a story. [My publishing company] assigned me to an editor and he and I went around a little bit about changing some things and moving them around. But no, it wasnâ€™t difficult. It takes a long time to get someone to accept your book and to publish it, no matter what. Unless thereâ€™s a vampire in it. You just have to be patient.
Why did you make Tangerine set in Florida?
That goes back to the saying â€œwrite what you know.â€ I was living in Florida so I wanted to write about that. And Tangerine itself is a place in transition. It used to be a citrus growing town, like where I live in Winter Garden, which is about ten miles west of here. Then the freezes came along and people had to decide: am I gonna hang in there and sell citrus for two cents an orange, or am I gonna make a big killing now and sell off my land? So Tangerine is set in a time of transition, between the time of the citrus industry and the big housing developments that are out there now.
What inspired you to use the name Paul in Tangerine?
Well, Saint Paul was struck by lightening and blinded on the road to Damascus. And after that he could see in a new way. So thatâ€™s how Paul got his name. Heâ€™s visually impaired but heâ€™s able to see in ways that other people canâ€™t.
Yeah. In Tangerine a lot of people get struck by lighteningâ€¦
What made you want to end Tangerine with Arthur and Eric going to jail?
Well, I remember when I was putting the book together, Caroline Cooneyâ€”a very, very big young adult fiction author who wrote The Face on the Milk Cartonâ€”I went to see her speak and she said, If youâ€™re writing for young adults, you have to make your good guy good, and your bad guy bad. And you have to make sure the bad guy gets it in the end. Beyond that you can do whatever you want. So thatâ€™s why they went to jail. Thatâ€™s also why they were so evil.
After someone reads Tangerine, what do you want the reader to walk away with?
Just a feeling that this character triumphs, not through violence, but just by being a good guy and hanging in there. And being honest with people. Thatâ€™s really the way to succeed in life. In the end he kind of has everything he wants. Ironically heâ€™s considered to be kind of a bad boy. But heâ€™s not at all. Heâ€™s still the same nice person he was.
What were the pros and cons that went through your head when Tangerine was released?
Bad reviews, I guess. I was a little worried about that, but it all went so well. It won six different state awards. I thought it would always be like that, and it hasnâ€™t been, so I think thereâ€™s an advantage to your first book because itâ€™s new and people are really excited about it. I had nothing to lose, so it was all good.
Were you passionate and sure about Tangerine as a book?
Oh yeah. All my books are my outlets and Iâ€™m really committed to helping people and to changing the world.
After writing Tangerine, were you worried you wouldnâ€™t be able to top it?
No. Some would say I havenâ€™t topped that book, but Iâ€™ve never felt that way. I think that every book is better than the one that precedes it. You have no control over how many books are gonna sell or what the reviews are gonna be. You can only control what you do. And so I think the books have gotten better each time.
Is it always your goal to try and top the last book?
It is for me. I always try to improve on what Iâ€™m doing. Make it more exciting. Maybe make the first fifteen pages better. My new book Journal of the Plague Year opens with a horrendous robbery with people trying to rip an ATM out of a supermarket with a tow truck. So I try to make it very exciting at the beginning. I think that the first line of Taken is: â€œOnce youâ€™re taken you have twenty-four hours left to live. That means I have twelve hours remaining.â€ So they tell you to light a fuse at the beginning of your book so people will want to follow.
Of all the books youâ€™ve written, is Tangerine your favorite?
I would say Crusader is my favorite. I think itâ€™s the most ambitious one. It wasnâ€™t that well received because it wasnâ€™t Tangerine II, so Iâ€™ve kind of always defended it. And Iâ€™ve never written Tangerine II. I get that question everywhere I go and every time I open a letter: Will there be a sequel? I say, â€œNo.â€
Wasnâ€™t there a joke on your website about Tangerine II?
Yeah, on April 1st, I put on my website that I was finally gonna write the sequel. It was called Blood Orange. And it was about Eric turning into a vampire and preying on the cheerleaders of the school. Then two weeks later I posted that it was an April Fools joke, but I still get e-mails asking me when Blood Orange is coming out.