Interrogation: Frank Portman

PORTMAN 1Who: Frank Portman (a.k.a. Dr. Frank)

What: The singer/songwriter/guitarist of the Bay Area punk band Mr. T Experience and the author of three young adult novels including most recently KING DORK APPROXIMATELY, a sequel to the coming of age cult classic KING DORK.

Where: San Francisco

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

You published your debut novel, KING DORK, in 2006. What made you want to write a Young Adult novel at that time? Do you think you will ever write a non-YA novel?

In 2004 my band released it’s final/most recent album and attempted to tour on it and promote it in the usual way, not realizing that in the time since the last time we’d done that the world’s music consumers had all gotten together and decided not to buy records anymore.  The tour disintegrated at the end as they always do, leaving me at a loose end and running out of ideas now that recording another essentially valueless album and touring to promote its valuelessness was out of the question despite it being pretty much the only thing I knew how to do.  Writing a YA novel was suggested to me by an agent who was a fan of my songs and who thought the sensibility in them could work in fiction.  I had nothing but time so I gave it a shot.

King_Dork_coverThere’s a lot of arguing over “what is YA” these days (similar to the “what is punk?” trope that used to bedevil me way back when.)  Teen fiction is certainly where I feel most comfortable, and is a logical place to go from rock and roll, which is teenage music if it’s anything.  As a frame for fiction, exploring the teenage self coming of age has a quite a bit going for it, as I am certainly not the first person to note.  And this tradition is a long and great one that I’m pleased to be a part of.  That said, what makes a book YA is that it is marketed that way.  I’m fortunate that this marketing has worked so well for my books, but even in a different marketing category I’d write them the same way.  Which is a roundabout way of saying, I guess, that I don’t see the great gulf between YA and “non-YA” that the question assumes.

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