Ansha, thank you so much for being here to day! Congratulations on your book. So let's dive right in! Tell the good people of blogland about your book. :)
Ryan is one of my favorite characters. He tells the bully off and isn't afraid of having new adventures, the antithesis of Jonathan. I knew I needed someone to push Jonathan do be the hero, someone daring, equally fun, someone with whom Jonathan could have a relationship that allows him to grow as a character.
Well, I thought he was cool and very realistic, too. I loved that you had the short kid be the one who's not afraid of the bully. That actually leads me to my next question.
One of the themes running through this book (though not in a heavy-handed way) is bullying. I thought it was very realistically portrayed, including the failure of school officials to understand what was going on. Did you have a takeaway message on bullying for kids reading your book?
I'm glad you brought up the bullying. I hadn't intended for the book to have this theme. The idea of hiding in a book has always been in my mind. I was that kid who got bullied at the bus stop, and I was a kid who loved my books.
I have always wondered what it would be like if I could spend a day inside one of them. But in this story Jonathan realizes that bullies can be anywhere, and there's no use in hiding from them. Jonathan builds his own self-esteem with the help of Ryan and his art teacher, and realizes that he doesn't have to listen to the bullies in either the real world or the comic book world. He also learns how to help others who are bullied, which can be tougher than anyone realizes.
That's very true, and btw I love your idea of spending time literally "in" a book. Plenty of times I would've loved to do that somehow, too!
In regard to the characters, I also liked how you made Jonathan just a normal boy who's maybe not the best student or the coolest kid at school, but he happens to be an outstanding artist/illustrator. I knew a lot of boys like that in school, constantly drawing cars and dragons and stuff. What made you decide to make him an artist?
I think everyone has an outlet that they use to cope with stress in their lives. For Jonathan it's drawing. It's the one time that he can relax and create something, a sense of accomplishment that he's not able to find in school or in his relationships. In Gangsterland I tried to show how Jonathan could use his skills, not only to help others but to help himself.
Do you have an affinity for drawing and art, too?
I do! When I was in middle school I took all the afterschool art classes.
Sketching and painting were my way to be creative and a way for me to vent my frustrations with growing up.
Are you a big comic book fan?
I love comics, but I never had an opportunity as a kid to read anything more than the Sunday funnies. I tried to make my own comic strip once. Everyone should be glad that I'm a writer and not an illustrator.
LOL. The other Pop Culture element that you play around with here (if I am not mistaken!) are the noir detective novels of bygone decades. It's funny how your story goes back and forth between a normal suburban middle school kid and the 1920's art-deco, sort of Great Gatsby world of bootleggers, flappers, speakeasies, and trench-coated heavies with tommy guns. It was awesome! Are you a noir fan?
I have always enjoyed watching "old movies". The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart is one of my favorites as well as Hitchcock's "North by Northwest." I love the scene where Cary Grant is being chased by the bad guys while climbing around on Mount Rushmore!
You know, I've never seen that! But I know it's a classic. Netflix time!
Before I let ya go, we love factoids and trivia here. Is there something interesting you learned in your research for this book that you'd care to pass along? Anything cool our readers would like to know about the 1920's world of GANGSTERLAND?
I absolutely loved researching the cars I referenced in Gangsterland. The cars from the 1920's had a style about them that I wish was still around today.
I enjoyed researching Molly's wardrobe too. I was surprised to find that what we think of as a flapper dress with the tassles was not the norm. Most dresses were beaded or embroidered and very few were shorter than below the knee.
Really! Wow on the dresses, Interesting! And those cars were like tanks, weren't they? So finishing up, Ansha, what's next for you?
I'm currently writing Apocalypse Junction which is book #2 in the Ink Portal series. Jonathan and his friends have to find a way to rescue Molly's little sister from the kidnapper who is hiding inside a book about a Geo-cache reality game show. If you know something about geo-caches you'll know it's going to be a great treasure hunt story. The only catch is will they find Margaret before the final page of the book?
That sounds awesome! Well, we'll be looking out for it. In the meanwhile, I always like to give our blog visitors a multimedia experience when possible, so here you go, guys! Molly the flapper in GANGSTERLAND sings in a night club, and here is the original version by a "pop star" of the 1920's and '30's, Ruth Etting. She's a swell dame! A real nice chippy.
Thank you so much for coming to our blog, Ansha. It was wonderful having you as our premiere author guest on our blog! Hope you'll let us know when the next one hits the shelves! Guys, I think you'll really enjoy GANGSTERLAND by Ansha Kotyk! Check it out, and we'll see you next time!