The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Photo by TJ Klune
INTERVIEW WITH TJ Klune
June 07, 2022
How do you begin writing a new book?
Typically, writing something new is one of the last things I do. Before that, it begins with the spark of an idea, usually coming from something exceedingly mundane. From there, I spend a lot of time just thinking. How would this particular story work? Who are all the characters? What are their motivations? After, I’ll start doing any necessary research, and create an outline of how I think the story will go, knowing there’s a good chance I’ll deviate. Once all that is done, I start writing.
What was your favorite childhood book?
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Not only is it my favorite book from my childhood, it’s still a book I read at least once a year to this day. There’s a strange sense of comfort in the story for me, even knowing how it ends. If you’ve never read the book before, just know that you should definitely stock up on tissues before starting.
Do you listen to music while you write, or do you need complete silence?
I don’t listen to music while writing, but I do craft large playlists for each book I write so that when I’m doing something else–chores, driving, shopping–I’m listening to music that reminds me of the story I’m working on. It helps to keep me with the characters.
However, when I’m writing, I do have NPR playing in the background. There’s something about the soft cadence in the voices of NPR that helps me to focus, even when they’re talking about the world being on fire.
Do you think being a writer isolates you or connects you to other people?
I think it can do both. Writing, for the most part, is a solitary journey. I spend more time in my own head than I do out of it, and it can show, sometimes. I can get easily lost in my own imagination–and it doesn’t help (hurt?) that I have ADHD too.
However, the sharing of a story–that moment when it no longer belongs to me and instead belongs to whoever reads it–creates wonderful connections. Those books aren’t about me, it can give the reader a little insight as to who I am as a person. And I’ve found that nothing connects people like the joy of a good book. Writing can be lonely, yes, but through it, I’ve met people from all over the world, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Some writers will tell you that to actually be a writer, you have to write every day. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There are some days where the words just will not come, and forcing them to can lead to disaster. Call it writer’s block or a brain fart, it happens to everyone. For me, the best thing to do when that happens is to take a step back. Give yourself a few days to clear your head–either by working on something else or nothing at all. Usually, if I give myself that distance, I can see where I went wrong as soon as I come back to the manuscript. Forcing yourself through it is futile, and more than a little maddening. Be kinder to yourself, and let yourself take a break should you need it.
TJ SPECIFIC QUESTIONS
Who is your favorite kid?
It’s probably going to end up being Chauncey because his dreams are somewhat simple yet profound. He wants to grow up to be a bellhop some day, and I like his simplicity.
Any tips for raising magical kids?
Never look away from them because like normal kids the moment you look away something bad is going to happen. But the fact that these kids have powers beyond anything anybody can imagine make things infinitely worse.
What 3 words would you use to describe Marsyas Island Orphanage?
Dangerous. Mysterious. But life-affirming. Not even going to explain that.
What do you love about found families?
That is essentially one of the biggest tropes that I write about because of the fact that’s what I find myself in. My family is made up of people I’m not related to by blood, but the fact that we have all come together from different life circumstances, and we have made ourselves a home out of people who don’t share any relation…it’s important for me to see that family isn’t defined by blood. It’s defined by the people that you surround yourself with.
How would you describe Linus and Arthur’s relationship?
It is, at first, slightly combative as they are wary of each other. But then it moves onto something that is slightly prickly but still very sweet.