Hello! Sasha here! I’m joined by the incredible Will Walton. You may have seen Will on social media posting pics of his beautiful cats or on YouTube doing interviews about his books. His newest book, I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain, came out in May and is filled with poetry, deep messages, and lots of book hauls. Looks like we’re not the only ones excited about it! Let’s get to the interview. And be sure to stick around for the giveaway at the bottom of the page!
Sasha: People all over social media are raving over this book, adding it to their summer collections and sharing their favorite lines. Can you give our readers a brief description of what it’s about?
Will: I’m so excited to hear that people are sharing their favorite lines, ah!! That’s such incredible news. Thank you for telling me! And, yes, I’m happy to offer a brief description. I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain is about Avery Fowell, a sixteen-year-old, who’s processing the death of a loved one for the first time in his life.
Sasha: I Felt a Funeral, in My brain is unlike anything I’ve ever read. What inspired you to choose this unique format for your book?
Will: It was important to me that readers get the full picture of Avery’s mind and how his grief informs his imagination at times. I wanted to show Avery, in real time, writing through his pain, which was something I was encouraged to do. I was often told I could use writing as therapy, but it’s definitely not that simple. It is definitely still helpful to go to therapy when you need it, rather than simply write about what’s troubling you.
Sasha: Avery sees his entire world through the eyes of a poet. Who are some of your favorite poets?
Will: I know I’m going to think of like ten more poets to name after this, but here are some at the top of my heart: Sabrina Orah Mark, Franny Choi, Shane McCrae, Eileen Myles, Jacqueline Woodson, Lucie Brock-Broido, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Emily Dickinson.
Sasha: Pal and Avery had a deep connection. They were able to talk about anything and everything without it being uncomfortable. Are you more like Pal or Avery?
Will: Day to day, I’m definitely more like Avery. I think that’s because I feel like I’m still figuring myself out a lot of the time. But Pal and Avery are a lot like nesting dolls. There is a major part of Avery that exists within Pal, and vice versa. They share DNA. Also, I get the sense that Pal, when he was younger, went through a lot of the same stuff Avery is going through.
Sasha: Both Avery and Luca struggle with having parents that are alcoholics. What advice would you give to teens in a similar situation?
Will: Alcoholism doesn’t always show up in the same ways, and advice can vary depending on the circumstance. My foremost advice is that, if your parent is abusive to you (with or without having had a drink), call the Childhelp Hotline: 1-800-422-4453. And if you are in present danger, please get out of the house immediately. Your safety is the number one most important thing. Call someone to pick you up from a meeting place located a safe distance from your home. Then, once you are safe, call the Childhelp Hotline.
I hear people refer to themselves sometimes as “functioning” alcoholics. That can get confusing, especially if your parent is trying to convince you they’re “functioning,” when you suspect otherwise.
We want to believe that our parents or guardians are telling us the truth. And the path that a child has to take in order to confront that their parent might not, in fact, be “functioning” is a tough one. If you are concerned about a loved one, please talk to a counselor or a trusted mentor who can provide you with resources. If you don’t have access to a counselor or mentor, call the Childhelp Hotline: 1-800-422-4453.
Sasha: Avery is simultaneously trying to get through the pain of a lost loved one and coming to terms with his sexuality. What do you hope your queer readers take from the book?
Will: I hope queer readers of my book feel encouraged that a queer writer wrote about queer characters and queer love. I hope they’ll write about queer love too, someday—that is, if they’re not doing so already!
Sasha: Avery goes to the store and buys a ton of books at once. It got me wondering... what's the largest book haul you've ever had?
Will: This is the best question. Honestly the biggest book haul I’ve ever had was when I went to Strand Bookstore in New York for the first time with David Levithan. I filled an entire tote bag! I’m trying to remember what all I got, but right now the only title I can be sure of is Baby & Other Stories, by Paula Bomer. It’s out of print now, but that book is extraordinary.
Sasha: What are some 2018 releases that you'd suggest readers add to their own book hauls?
Will: No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L. Moore, Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender, The Summer of Dead Birds by Ali Liebegott, Minority Leader by Stacey Abrams, Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, Brass by Xhenet Alieu, One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson, which publishes on September 11, and Wild Milk by Sabrina Orah Mark, which publishes on October 1.
Sasha: Do you have any new projects in the works?
Will: Yes! At present, I’m working on grad school applications. LOL. But there’s always a book happening. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted!
That’s it for today’s interview with Will. But don’t leave just yet! We’re teaming up with our friends at Scholastic to give away two copies of Will’s book, along with some awesome “Read With Pride” pins. Enter the giveaway by clicking the picture below. And be sure to come back again next week when Essence will be chatting with Rebecca Schaeffer about her upcoming thriller, Not Even Bones.