The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Wes Stuart

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Wes Stuart

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Summary: Luke enjoyed the combination of compellingly-written science fiction which blends themes of innocence and growth with some well depicted moments of horror in My Name is Sam and he had quite a few questions for author Wes Stuart when he popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Date: 29 August 2017
Interviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe

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Luke enjoyed the combination of compellingly-written science fiction which blends themes of innocence and growth with some well depicted moments of horror in My Name is Sam and he had quite a few questions for author Wes Stuart when he popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Wes Stuart: This is a great question! Of course, I can only write the stories that I would want to read. So, I suppose you could describe my writing as a selfish indulgence as I write for my own pleasure. Saying that, I am always excited when someone else enjoys my indulgence too. They invariably seem to be people, young and old, who are willing to immerse themselves in my world from the safety of my book!

  • BB: Sam is a very distinctive and quite unique voice. How did you put yourself in the mind of such a unique character?

WS: It was very easy to create and shape Sam's character. Indeed, I feel I have only just begun to tell his story. My Name is Sam is the first part of a trilogy, and Sam's character will only emerge over the three books. It was simple to put myself in his mind because he has lived within me for longer than I would like to admit. So, a large part of his personality has been drawn from my own experiences, especially that of disability.

  • BB: There's an interesting blend in the book - whilst the overall inspiration seems to be Science Fiction based, some moments definitely veer into horror - whilst not written to shock, some visuals really stick in the mind! What were your inspirations when writing My Name is Sam?

WS: I think this takes us back to the audience that I imagine. The world we now live in exposes us to much more than when I was a child. Young teens today are far less squeamish about things that would have left me traumatised when I was their age. To write without recognising this would, to my mind, patronise teen readers who play video games and watch movies that routinely display graphic details that no longer shock. While My Name is Sam is written for all teenagers, I hope that boys, especially, will feel included by a story that matches their experiences elsewhere.

  • BB: Sam is, at least initially, very much an outsider in the world - and I've noted from your website that is a feeling you've felt for a lot of your life. Did your experiences directly influence Sam, and did you find getting them on paper cathartic?

WS: Being an outsider is, in my mind, what defines the experience of disability. When people meet me they often mistakenly assume that the loss of the ability to do most things for myself, for example, is the biggest issue for me. It is not. As it is for Sam, it is the feeling of isolation that comes with being different. You are never truly able to share what you experience. In my case it is disability. In Sam's it is his unique abilities. Both consign us to a lonely existence. Yet, there are positives too. Sam is able to do amazing things that no one else can. He experiences things that no other young boy would or could. Strangely enough, the same applies to disability. So, if there is one thing I would like the reader to gain from reading My Name is Sam, it is a greater empathy with people who are different.

  • BB: Kay is part of a species that do not have a gender. In today's world, we're seeing gender become classed as far more of a fluid spectrum - did this influence your decision to make Kay non-gendered?

WS: Isn't gender a weird concept? Most of us take it for granted without a moment's thought. We also use it to explain things and activities that have nothing to do with whether we are defined as male or female. I could go on, but I have to agree with Kay's critical questioning of humanity's adherence to strict gender distinctions! More seriously, yes, the contemporary debate about gender today has influenced my decision to create the non-gendered Sereia. I would like young people, especially, to question our gender norms. Just like race or class, gender, to my mind, is a social construct and should not always be seen in absolute terms. I think the Sereia would agree!

  • BB: In terms of content, there are certainly some scary and unsettling moments in the book, but it's focus is on a young boy and a teenage girl - what's the age range you had in mind when writing My Name is Sam?

WS: For me the internet, video gaming, movies and contemporary TV shows have raised the bar in terms of what young people expect to consume. All you have to do is look at the issues TV Soaps address or the graphic violence the average video game contains to understand this. My target audience, teenagers aged 13 and upwards, will not be surprised by my decision to include the more unsettling moments in My Name is Sam. Indeed, not to do so would, to my mind, be quite patronising to this age group. Those young readers lucky enough to read my novel have had nothing but praise for the way I have told the story. So, I think that answers this question.

  • BB: Sam is left in a very different place at the end of the book from where he starts off - would you consider continuing his journey at any point? If so, where do you think you would take him?

WS: Without spoiling the rest of Sam's story, I have barely started to tell his tale. By the end of My Name is Sam, he had lost so much, but gained a greater understanding of himself and his purpose. So, yes, I am definitely going to continue his journey.

Although, saying this, Sam's story is not the only one I wish to tell. I have many more. While most will be for teenagers, I have not forgotten those adults who have enjoyed My Name is Sam as well. Some of my future tales will be for grown ups too!

  • BB: Which authors have most inspired you? Which book would you take to your desert island?

WS: This is the toughest question of the lot! I am nowhere near as well read as one would assume! I am inspired by many things, movies, song lyrics and even things young people say. If I were to pick out a few authors they would be J. R. R. Tolkien, Harper Lee, Ernest Hemingway and Dan Abnett. Okay that's four but I cannot claim to be a fan of reading other author's works.

So, if I had to take one book with me, apart from one of my own (of course), it would be Lord of the Rings. It is an epic story that I love for its scale and a key theme, the willing sacrifice to stop evil.

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

WS: Great, thanks! It would be to have all the time in the world to simply write.

  • BB: What's next for Wes Stuart?

WS: The next part of the My Name is Sam trilogy.

  • BB: We look forward to seeing that, Wes! Thanks for taking the time to chat to us.

You can read more about Wes Stuart here.

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