The Wonderful Neal Shusterman

April 10, 2018

Neal Shusterman is an award winning American young-adult fiction writer. One of his most notable work is the book “Challenger Deep” which won the national book award for young people literature. He has many works that have been great hits in the library, like one of his most recent works “Scythe”. He came to visit ISB recently and answered some questions from ISB students.

Neal Shusterman was born on November 12, 1962. He was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and was a passionate reader since a young age. At age 16, Shusterman and his family moved to Mexico City and finished high school at the American School Foundation. He expresses this as an experience that “changed his life” and gave him a  “fresh 

perspective on the world and a sense of confidence”. After finishing high school, Shusterman moved back to the United States and attended the University of California, Irvine, and double majored in psychology and theater.

Shusterman’s latest epic series, the Arc of Scythe, is a big hit around the world and in the ISB library. The second book of the series “Thunderhead”just came out January 9th of this year, and multiple copies are currently available in the library. His first book of the series “Scythe” came out in 2016 and has won the New York Times best selling award, and the award of excellence in young adult literature. Shusterman recently came to ISB, and we got a chance to interview him about his book, and tips for aspiring to become a writer.

Shusterman says that he wants to be original, and does not want to follow others. He explains, “if I come up with a idea I’ve never seen before, that excites me.” Ever since his series “Unwind” came out, teen dystopian became a very popular genre. “I didn’t want to just write another teen dystopian book”, so this lead him to a new idea — a utopia, where the world goes right.

“Right before I came up with the idea for ‘Scythe’, my mom had a series of devastating strokes,” he says. Shusterman describes his mom in a locked-in state where she could not do anything except blink. After 9 or 10 months, the doctor met with Shusterman to tell him the news. Shusterman quotes him saying, “she’s not going to recover from this. Maybe it is time to think about letting her go.”

In the end, he was the one who had to turn off his mothers feeding tube, and after a suffering of 29 days, his mother passed away on her 79th birthday. This made Shusterman question whether his choice was right, to turn off the tube. He wondered if it was ok to let her die like this, or rather have her die in other ways? This eventually lead to Shusterman’s new theme of “ending life compassionately”.

During his time writing the book, Shusterman encountered multiple  writer’s block, like many other writers. He describes it as “part of the writing process,” and “something you have to go through with everything you write.” The writer’s block for him is a moment when there is no creativity and the story feels dry. It is a dangerous wall where writers may meet their end. “Things move slowly sometimes it might take weeks to through what the problem is, but you always will. There has never been a point in which I’ve been so stuck I can’t continue.”

Shusterman is a strong believer in creative writing. Without creative writing, you will not be able to develop creativity and imagination, Shusterman says. When asked about schools’ program of analytical writing over creative writing, he expresses, “I think it’s a shame when creative writing gets pushed to the side, because creativity and imagination is what gets you from point A to point B in your life”.

“What I want people to learn from my books is perspective,” Shusterman emphasizes. “I want people to be able to look at their lives and the world’s for perspectives they haven’t seen before. There are so many times when we see things from very narrow perspectives. The narrower our perspectives, the more problems we cause the world. If we can look at things from other points of views, that is really the best way for solving problems, any problem. When you look at any problem, if you only look at it from one angle, you’ll never see the whole problem. If you look at it from every angle that’s how you’ll solve the problem. So now and the future, I want my stories to help create perspective.”

Are you a big reader? If so, Shusterman’s newest book “Dry” is coming out in October and is anticipated by many readers. Do you like his books? Share your ideas with us in the comment section below.


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