Justin Olson: Earth to Charlie
April is here! Wahoo! There are so many wonderful books this month! Are your eyeballs ready?
Earth to Charlie
by Justin Olson
Convinced his mother has been abducted by aliens, Charlie Dickens spends his nights with an eye out for UFOs, hoping to join her. After all, she said the aliens would come back for him. Charlie will admit that he doesn’t have many reasons to stick around; he doesn’t get along well with his father, he’s constantly bullied at school and at work, and the only friend he has is his 600-pound neighbor Geoffrey, and Geoffrey’s three-legged dog, Tickles.
Then Charlie meets popular, easy-going Seth, who shows him what real friendship is all about. For once, he finds himself looking around at the life he’s built, rather than looking up. But sooner than he expected, Charlie has to make a decision: should he stay or should he go?
April 16th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
My name is Justin Olson, and I wrote a contemporary YA novel called EARTH TO CHARLIE, which comes out on April 16, 2019 from Simon & Schuster! It’s about a high school freshman searching for UFOs because he believes his mom was abducted by aliens. But he meets the new kid and begins to question his own existence in his small Montana town. It’s basically about grief and friendship and what it means to belong.
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
Honestly, it’s the pleasant responses from people who have read my novel. I spent over a decade writing and not getting anywhere, so I *might* have begun to question my own writing abilities. So now when I hear people say how much they love my characters and story and writing, I’m more than a little surprised and humbled.
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
I’m going to give a shout out to my friend and fellow S&S imprint buddy (and since we’re pubbing in the same month!) Quinn Sosna-Spear and her novel The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It took me about 8 months, roughly, to write the first draft. Then another six months or so to revise the first time. Then I did more smaller revisions. At the time, it was the fastest book I had written.
Describe your main character in 3 words.
Oh, so many to choose from! But three: thoughtful, independent, loyal.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
I’d say to never give up. I know how cliché that sounds, but there were so many times after putting my heart into five separate novels that I thought about giving up. But I actually realized – in all the rejections – that I was mostly interested in writing to discover my own sense of self, and interests, and to broaden my own horizons. I thought that it was more important to love the stories I was telling, and keep telling them, and the rest would maybe eventually happen. So if you’re a writer, just keep writing.
How do you select character names?
I partially subscribe to the theory of being “in the moment” or, like, a gut-instinct approach with writing. So for instance, if I need a character name, I’ll mostly use what comes to mind in that moment. If I don’t like it, I’ll just think of other names. Usually I have a first letter I want – and the rest just comes. In the past, I have resorted to phone book or internet searches. But my favorite names are those that come to me when I pause and say, What’s the name of this character?, and my brain does its job.
What book or author has most influenced your own writing?
One author who has most influenced me is Jose Saramago. His writing was so inventive and playful! (Though admittedly hard to get through sometimes.) But I read him without abandon in my early twenties, and he taught me it was okay to play with language and sentence construction (and even novel format). Funny enough, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but if he turned in a high school English paper in the style he wrote his novels it’d be returned as an F! So I think we should look at how we teach language to students – it’s not so stuffy or stale as many students think (I say this as a former high school English teacher).
Link to a favorite song!
One of my favorite bands of the last ten years is a band called Foals. This is one of my favorite songs from them, Black Gold, from their second album. (I may write to Foals a lot.)
Go check out Justin's book on 4/16/19!