LEE BANTLE is the author of the middle-grade novel Diving for the Moon and the young adult novel David Inside Out. He is an attorney and lives in New York City.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Minneapolis where David Inside Out takes place. The cabin scene, followed by the crash in a snow storm, came right out of places from my childhood. Many events in the book are fictional, but were triggered by the real feelings I had at 16.
What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
One of my early memories of writing was in high school. I wrote an essay about an accountant who was buttoned down and hardworking by day, but a party-time guy and playboy by night. My teacher loved the duality. And of course, it spoke of my own dilemma, an honest expression of self.
What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
What inspired me to write my first book was the AIDS crisis. My friends were dying. Paul lasted only eight days after diagnosis. So, I wrote Diving for the Moon, about a hemophiliac boy who gets infected with HIV.
I write to understand the world around me and to be a witness to history.
What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
My favorite children's books are so many, I couldn't list them all. Grown-ups are missing out if they give up the YA genre. It is filled with treasures. Some of my favorites:
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Jacob, Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson
Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther (non-fiction)
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
After the Rain by Norma Fox Mazur
Holes by Louis Sachar
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
Besides being a writer, I am a practicing lawyer. (It pays the bills.) I represent employees in discrimination lawsuits. You can find out more at my website civilrightsfirm.com. My favorite part of being a lawyer is making the closing argument to the jury. If you want to win, you have to tell a compelling story and capture the jurors' imaginations. This is where my writing career helps out at the office. So I compose the facts in a good narrative and pitch it to each of the men and women of the jury. Then they go out. It's win or lose. I love the drama!
What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
First of all, don't listen to me. Strike out on your own path.
But if you want my top five list:
5. Use humor. Everyone wants to laugh - even in a very sad story. One great source of comedy is when the main character is not aware of something important that is obvious to the reader.
4. Revise, revise, revise! Then get feedback. Then pick yourself up off the floor and revise some more. Your work will get stronger.
3. Be economical. Make sure every sentence either sets the scene, reveals character or advances the plot.
2. Learn the craft. Create scenes. Write dialogue. Don't tell us what happened. Let us be there when the curtain opens and watch it unfold.
1. Find your voice. All it takes is being real. Even when that means writing about very personal things, the thoughts and feelings you think only you have. You'll be amazed at the nerves you touch.
And for the record - the ideal pizza is topped with mushrooms sauteed in butter, fresh garlic, and sweet Italian sausage.
David Inside Out
In this thoughtful yet searing coming-of-age novel, David Inside Out, Lee Bantle offers a raw, honest, and incredibly compelling account of a teenager who learns to accept himself for who...