July 03, 2012

Interview with author, Dom Testa!

In 1999, inspired by volunteer work with local schools, Dom Testa began writing what would become the beloved Galahad series. The first novel in the series, The Comet's Curse, burst onto the scene by winning an international grand prize from Writer's Digest Magazine and an EVVY Award for Best Young Adult Book. Published by the popular imprint Tor Teen, the Galahad series continues to garner critical acclaim and an adoring fan base of all ages.

His love of writing led Dom to work with students, and to the creation of his foundation, The Big Brain Club. Working in conjunction with The Big Brain Club, Dom helps teachers and parents learn how to better reach a generation that is increasingly ambivalent about the importance of reading and writing. 

About Your Books

1. Tell us about the exact moment you came up with the idea for The Galahad Series.

It was 7:15 on a Tuesday evening in 1999, and I had just spilled a glass of wine in my office. Okay, kidding. I don't remember the exact moment, but it was during '99. I'd been hosting writing workshops and assemblies at middle schools for several years, and decided that what young people really needed was a book series that was fun and exciting. I was hoping to create a series of books that didn't beat kids over the head with a heavy message, but rather got them excited about reading in general. That's the way I remember the Hardy Boys books from my own childhood; they were the "gateway" books that got me interested in reading.

2. What was the hardest scene to write in the series?

That's a cool question. I think it was probably when the crew of Galahad was forced to confront their first real loss, the death of a fellow crew mate. I didn't want it to be morbid or overly heavy, but it also had to accurately portray how teenagers would feel and behave when dealing with that landmark moment. It had to have the right balance.

3. What do you feel spurred your interest in space travel?

I was fortunate enough to grow up during the Apollo glory days. Although I was quite young (almost eight years old), I do remember watching Neil Armstrong step out of the Eagle and onto the surface of the moon. After that I was hooked. I remember writing to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Johnson Space Center - and probably a few other NASA outlets, too - and requesting posters and photos. And it was like Christmas when those packages arrived! The walls of my bedroom at age 14 included posters of the Beatles, along with posters of a Saturn V rocket and pictures from the Viking mission to Mars. I was that kid.

4. Do you have a favorite sci-fi author? If so, who is it and why?

Not one, but a handful of favorites. Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous With Rama" was the book that really inspired me to become a writer. Isaac Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy" was a blast for me to read as a kid. Growing up I also enjoyed Ben Bova and Michael Crichton. "The Andromeda Strain" is, I believe, one of the best science fiction novels that's rarely talked about. And John Varley's "Steel Beach" is one my faves, too.

About Your Foundation 


5. Another one of your passions is your foundation, The Big Brain Club. Can you tell us why you feel this foundation is so necessary?

Pop culture today has convinced students that the most important things in the world are to be "hot," and to dumb down in order to fit in with the so-called "cool crowd." I created The Big Brain Club to help students recognize that Smart Is Cool. Way too many young adults dumb down during late middle school and high school, and then have regrets that they didn't prepare for life as well as they should have.

We provide technology for schools and libraries (Smart Boards, iPads, iPod Touches, etc.), and we also professionally publish the creative writing of students. It's one way that we help students to become the best version of themselves. All the info can be found at www.BigBrainClub.com.

6. Were you the nerd in school? Was your head always stuck in a book?

I believe that being "a nerd" is not a bad thing. I was that kid in high school who walked in both worlds: I hung out with a fun, cool crowd, and still focused on my education. That's the message that I share with students today: You don't have to choose between being cool and using your brain; you can do both.

So, yeah, I was a nerd, but it didn't keep me from doing the cool stuff and having lots of fun. Again, pop culture tells kids that if you use your brain you have to have Coke-bottle glasses, wear pants that are too short, have a skin condition, and act like Napoleon Dynamite. Well, that's garbage. My foundation is turning around the image of the smart kid.

7. Oftentimes, it has been shown that young boys have a harder time "getting into" reading than girls, what do you think we could do to get our boys more involved in reading?

I've written a few articles that touch on this, including a blog post that specifically addresses the issue. I'm convinced that it's very much a subconscious thing for boys, because the vast majority of their reading role models are female. SOME dads read to their kids, but in the majority of homes it's the mom. Then, when the boys get to school, chances are all of their elementary school teachers and librarians will be women. Until they're about 12 or 13, practically everyone in a boy's life associated with books is a woman.

We need more fathers to encourage reading, and to read with their sons. Male teachers in elementary school would be nice, too. But, according to surveys, many male educators intentionally stay away from elementary school out of fear of being unfairly labeled "a predator." That's not me saying it, it's male teachers who say it. They would love to teach young boys, but they live in a world that has them living in fear of being suspected of some horrible behavior. How sad for all of us.

Random Tidbits 


8. What advice would you have for future writers out there?

There's so much advice thrown out for writers, and I'm not sure I can add anything that hasn't been offered many times. The constant refrain is "read all the time, and write all the time." That's still probably the best advice. But I'd also add "write a variety of things." I've written humor, horror, science fiction, chick lit (yes, it's true), non-fiction, adult, young adult, middle grade, novels, articles... See what I mean? Expanding your range of writing will exercise your mental muscle much more than writing exclusively in one format or genre.

9. Are you writing any new novels right now? Can you give us any hints :)

Maria, I'm writing way too many things right now! Ha ha! But I have finished the first book in a new series for young adult/middle grade, and I love it. I'm going to knock out the second one (and maybe third one) before I sell them.

I've also written two books for slightly younger kids (likely grades 3-5), and I'm editing them now.

I'm also finishing a non-fiction title that deals with the issue I discussed about education. It's called "Smart Is Cool," and it's targeted to parents and educators. It covers the problem of students dumbing down, and how to combat that tidal wave of ignorance.

10. What is your all-time favorite book?

This is so difficult to answer. I've often said Harper Lee's classic, but it's almost as if my favorite all-time book changes with my mood. On some days I might wanna say Stephen King's "The Stand," and then other days say Christopher Moore's "Lamb." Ha, talk about three books that have NOTHING in common! And that's just the way I like it.


Dom's Site / Big Brain Club / Galahad Series / Facebook / Twitter / GoodReads / YouTube

1 comment:

  1. I love Dom's books!

    And it's great he's founded the Big Brain Club - I think it has so much to offer, and I agree with him, being a nerd isn't bad at all!:)


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