Author Interview – Brent Hartinger

Photo Credit: Tim Cathersal

Brent Hartinger is the author of several novels including Grand & Humble, Geography Club, and the recently released Project Sweet Life. These questions mainly deal with Project Sweet Life which I reviewed here. Enjoy!

1. Where did you get the idea behind Project Sweet Life?

PROJECT SWEET LIFE is about three 15 year-olds who are forced to get summer jobs a year before they had expected to, or wanted to. They feel like, since they don’t have any of the privleges of being an adult, they shouldn’t have to take on the responsibilities. So they come up with a scheme to try to “fake” the jobs, then make the money they need to convince their fathers they’re working, so they can take the rest of the summer off.

Obviously things don’t go quite as planned.

How did I come up with the idea? It’s something I felt very strongly about when I was a teenager. I’d worked hard all year in school. The summer of my 15th year was special: my last summer of freedom when I wasn’t expected to have a job.

But some of my friends were so eager to get summer jobs, so they could have money to buy things. But in exchange, it seemed to me like they were giving up something so precious: their freedom, and that last special summer before true adulthood. As Dave and his friends say in the book, once you start working, you have to KEEP working, until you’re really old, or unless you die. My close buddies and I thought those others friends of ours were insane — we were going to go kicking and screaming into a world where people care more about having a new pair of shoes than they do freedom. But we never went as far as Dave and his friends!

2. What was your first summer job?

Like Dave, I was a lifeguard. Except unlike Dave, I had to be a lifeguard for real. I started when I was 16, but there had been pressure for me to start earlier. I resisted!

3. How did you spend your summers as a kid/teen?

I did exactly all the things that Dave and his friends do, or wanted to do: we rode around on our bikes, we hung out watching movies and playing games, we went exploring downtown, we set off fireworks (which you can’t really do any more, because it’s illegal where I live), we went swimming in the river, and went for hikes in the woods.

Basically, we had a really, really great time! I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, especially not money. I believe there’s a time to work, and when you work, work hard. But there’s a time for play too, and you should play just as hard as you work.

4. What do you love about Tacoma?

Mostly, I love Tacoma because that’s where I grew up. When I was a kid, it was a pretty dirty, bigoted place. But it’s gotten a lot better over the years. And I do love that it’s a city that was once really rich and successful, but then fell on hard times. That means it’s a city with a history, and with lots of secrets — some of which I explore in the book

5. Do you any advice for anyone looking to get rich quick?

You know, I think the only way to get rich quick is blind luck. It happens to some people, sure — but only because they’re lucky (or because they’re unethical). The only way to guarantee getting rich is to do what Dave and his friends do: be clever, work hard, and never ever give up. That’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be successful, if not rich.

6. Are you in the process of writing any other novels? If so, is there anything you can share with us about it?

I’m writing a novel writing now called ROB HOOD, sort of a retelling of the ROBIN HOOD story, except in this case, Rob, my main character, doesn’t steal money — he steals “popularity” from the stuck-up popular kids in his high school, and gives it to the less popular, but deserving kids. Like PROJECT SWEET LIFE, it’s a comedy of errors. It’ll be out next year.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Ah, well, here we go again: be prepared to work really, really hard! The good thing is, it’s hard work at something you hopefully love and that’s pretty fun to do. That’s another secret in life: if you work hard at something you love to do, it doesn’t really feel like work!

8. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just that I hope people have as much fun reading my book as I had writing it!

Oh, and if anyone has any questions, check out my website:

And thanks!

Thank you for answering my questions, and if you have not read any of Brent Hartinger’s books, I strongly suggest you do. I’ve read and enjoyed both Grand & Humble and Project Sweet Life. 🙂


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