Children's writing

Author Interview: David Lubar

Years ago, Linda Stanek recommended I read Punished, by David Lubar, because of my penchant for wordplay. Indeed, the story is built on wordplay.

And thus a fan was born.

I’ve read many more of David’s books since then, including the one that’s being released today. That’s right: T-O-D-A-Y. I scored an advance reader copy. That means I’m important.*

Don’t worry, I’ll still talk to you, but first, let’s talk to David on this momentous occasion.


David Lubar, Author of Children's and Teen's Literature

Meet David Lubar, the man he was and is.


Today is the official launch of your latest book, Character, Driven, published by Tor. By allowing me to post this interview today, I’m officially on your launch team. What color is our uniform, and what is our cheer?

Given the non-event nature of launch day, I think our uniforms are either camo or cloaks of invisibility. Our cheer is the only truthful one: “Buy my book. Buy my book. Please buy my book.”

What, in reality, is a book launch? Do you know? I can’t help it: I envision a book strapped to a model rocket—or two or six model rockets, perhaps. I think the model rockets I launched as a kid would have a hard time getting a book off the ground . . . which seems appropriate, now that I think about it.

They used to use rockets, but with YA novels growing alarmingly heavy, there have been several tragic misfires recently. Many of us have gone back to using a trebuchet, mostly because we enjoy showing off our knowledge of that word.


Character, Driven book launch with David Lubar

Character, Driven book launch with David Lubar


Now, describe your ideal book launch. Anything goes. A parade, perhaps? Competitive stand-up comedy? Jousting?

I actually thought about having some sort of open microphone at my launch event, or inviting some of my friends who do improv. I could read a chapter, and then they could perform scenes based on that.

Oh, please do this and invite me!

I think my ideal book launch would be a party for all the people who helped either with this book or with any part of my career. Since they are far flung (due to an unfortunate timing problem while loading the trebuchet), I decided to mark the launch by having dinner with my wife, who is near flung. At least I know this is the one time in the history of launch events when everyone invited will be there.

A book fling for the near flung.

What was the idea seed that sprouted Character, Driven, and how did the story grow from there?

The whole thing started as a response to seeing so many editors say they were looking for edgy books. This was years ago. I wrote a scene that starts out violently. And then, the narrator intrudes to ask if it’s edgy enough. I write tons of scenes. Many of them never get revisited. I happened to read that one to my editor, Susan Chang. She felt it was a good start for a novel. So I hunkered down, started writing, fell in love with the characters, and didn’t stop until I had a novel.

An edgy novel with a main character named Cliff . . . 🙂

Reveal a behind-the-scenes secret about Character, Driven, please.

The setting is based on my home town, Morristown, NJ.

A GoodReads reviewer said Character, Driven “has what may be the most awkwardly hilarious sex scene ever to appear in a YA novel.” A lot of writers feel embarrassed tackling sex scenes. What’s a scene that you’d find especially embarrassing to write? Is there a topic or scene you actively avoid?

I can’t think of anything I’d be embarrassed to write. If I felt hesitant about something, I’d like to hope I’d see it as an artistic challenge or growth exercise.

Your character names are thoughtfully chosen. What are some of your favorites and why?

Thank you for noticing that. I put a lot of thought into these things. I really hate go give anything away, but I guess I’ll go with the one that pleased me the most. With Lucas Delshannon, look for a connection to a song in his last name, which is a clue to what he does. And, of course, I am giddy with delight that the gym teacher is Mr. Dumshitz.

I completely missed the Delshannon reference because that group is out of my ken, though the song is not. I wonder what other jokes and references I missed.

As I said before, I was introduced to you via Punished, directed to it by a friend because of my own proclivity for wordplay. I know that a lot of wordplay will just spill out naturally as you’re writing, but what additional thought or effort do you put into it?

Much of the wordplay that’s part of the narrative or dialogue spills out during the first draft. I do a lot of revision passes, so whatever magic my subconscious does while I’m elsewhere tends to pop up during the tweaking. The character names, as just mentioned, usually take a bit of thought, as do the chapter titles.

I trust you’ve always been a player with words. I loved employing wordplay in school papers and assignments. What early wordplay do you recall? What made you feel proud or clever as a punster?

I can’t remember anything from back in the school days, but when I worked on a computer magazine after college, I had a lot of fun with the article titles, though my editor killed the one for the review of the NEC computer because she thought “NEC Romance” had negative connotations.

You say you like to eat. Describe your ideal menu for a day, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beverages. Do you cook?


Brisket prepared by David Lubar

Brisket prepared by David Lubar


Cinnamon buns prepared by David's wife

Cinnamon buns prepared by David’s wife


My wife and my son-in-law both have culinary arts degrees, and my daughter is a skilled cook and baker, so I am often fed amazing things. I don’t cook much, but I have a smoker and I make decent ribs. I really can’t narrow my cravings down to three meals. Let’s just say, at some point in the day, there’d be pho, because it is not only one of the world’s greatest meals but because it is so adaptable for puns.

So you have no problem, then, playing with your food.


Pho: One of David Lubar's Favorite Foods

Pho: One of David’s favorite foods.


You took up magic for a while. What did you do with your magic? Did you ever perform? Do you ever perform magic now?

I did some birthday parties way back, and competed in competitions at several conventions. I’ll occasionally make a coin disappear for an infant, since I’m still skilled enough to fool most kids under the age of two.


David Lubar plays the guitar.

David also plays the guitar—a different kind of magic.


Mango echidna, prepared by David's wife.

Mango echidna, prepared by David’s wife, who apparently also does magic.


You have unpublished novel manuscripts in a file cabinet. Why do you keep them? And if you died tomorrow, what would you want done with them?

I keep them partially for nostalgia, partially because I’m a pack rat, and partially because I might want to revisit them some day. When I die, I want my heirs to get as much money as possible from anything unpublished, exploiting it in any manner they can, because their comfort is more important than my reputation.


David's Unpublished Manuscripts Files

David’s unpublished manuscripts, aka: Files o’ Fun. What would you give to go poking through here?


You love revising your work. When asked for a writing tip, you said, “Learn to love revision.” Describe how you revise and why you think it’s so fun.

When I’m writing the first draft of a novel, I generally start each day reading whatever I wrote the previous day. That gives me a running jump into the next part. When I’m finished, I try to wait a while. I’ll do another pass or two on the computer, then print out the manuscript and do a pass on paper. After I put my changes into the computer file, I’ll do another pass. At that point, unless there’s something major I feel is unresolved, the manuscript is ready for my editor. After I get an editorial letter with general suggestions, I’ll repeat the process. After I get line edits, I’ll repeat it again. Revision is fun for me because it is basically an exercise in problem solving, and I find that sort of exercise intellectually rewarding.

What joke do you think is hilarious that no one else seems to appreciate?

Pretty much half the ones I tell. I have about a 50% hit rate. I actually started to do a thing called “anatomy of a Joke” that I put on YouTube. I think I only did two of them. Nobody seems to like the sewer-fed gator joke. But I love it. And I always will. I hope my heirs can sell it after I die.




Rapid-fire Round (don’t think too hard about these)

Favorite place in NJ: Wildwood


Wildwood, NJ: David Lubar's Favorite Place in NJ

Wildwood, NJ

The Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ

The Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ


Favorite or strangest job you had as a teen: I managed to avoid work when I was a teen.

Well then, this might be one of the strangest jobs you’ve had—way cool, but strange, too:


David Lubar reading at an Iron Pigs baseball game

David reading a Weenies story at an Iron Pigs baseball game. The Iron Pigs are a triple-A farm team for the Phillies. It was the first-ever Kids’ Reading Night at the park.


You’re going to be locked inside a closed factory for a weekend. What kind of factory do you choose and why? An olfactory. I can’t think of a good reason why.

Ew. That idea could stink.

Would you rather ride a skateboard, dolphin, or moose? Dolphin, though a Seahawk or Raven would be fine, too.


Who would you have play Mr. Piccaro in the Character, Driven movie? Joshua Malina.

Sorry, but you’ve been banned from the east coast—every state east of OH, in fact. Where will you live now? New Orleans. I love that place, except when it’s hot and humid there. So I guess not New Orleans.

A book you wish you’d written: I was going to say Geek Love, but if I’d written it I would not have had the amazing experience of reading it.

Are you trying to not answer these questions?

You’re an ace illustrator, but you can’t write for beans. Whose work do you want to illustrate? Stephen King’s.

Oh, wow!


David Lubar painting

David painted this in high school. I think this is a great window into David Lubar!


What word do you find really interesting and why? Struthious. I just love that there’s a word that means “ostrich like,” and that it can convey both a resemblance to something actual as well as to the fictional act of sticking ones head in the sand.

And I just learned a cool, new word.

A celebrity will tout one of your books on a tv show, and you will be instantly wealthy, fit, you’ll have perfect teeth, you’ll be the best driver on the road, and more. Who is the celebrity? What is the book? And what is the TV show? I’d go with Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank, because he seems like a really great guy, and he could probably also advise me on how to manage that instant wealth wisely. I’d have to go with Character, Driven for the book.

Can you hula hoop (that’s a verb, not a noun)? I hula hoop the way I juggle. I can get started. Sometimes, I’ll keep it going for longer than I expect. But, eventually, my balls will be on the ground. Wait. That didn’t sound right…

That sounds like just the right place to end our chat!

Many thanks to David for this very entertaining interview—and for so many entertaining books. Congratulations on Character, Driven!

Friends, if you’re not familiar with David’s books, I hope you’ll check them out, and, if you can and are so inclined . . .

Buy the book,
Buy the book,
Please buy the book!

Or request it at your local library.

Review it on Amazon or GoodReads or your blog or anywhere else readers might see it.

Tell someone about it.

Give it as a gift.


David Lubar's Books

These are David’s books. See why I’m not posting them all here?


A Selection of Books by David Lubar

David’s got a lot of books in print, and I’m not going to post them all here. These, mostly, are the ones I’ve read, but I’m comfortable recommending you go ahead and read any of David’s books that look good to you. There is a whole series of Weenies books, and they are short-story collections. I’m listing the first one I read, but I’ve got and enjoyed several others, as well.

Head’s up! These are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking through a link here, I might receive a modest commission. You’ve been warned.

Fireside Books is my local indie bookstore. They ship.

Character, Driven by David Lubar

Character, Driven

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, David Lubar

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie

*Just ask my mom.