Basil Sylvester

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Author website/social media: I am on Instagram @ghostbasil. I don’t have Twitter or Facebook.

1. When you were my age (11), did you like to read?

I read A LOT when I was your age, and I especially liked books with adventure and mysteries in them. I really loved The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburgwhich is about two siblings who run away from home and go to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It’s got art, it’s got a mystery, it’s got fun characters, and who wouldn’t want to live in a museum when there are no adults around? Awesome. I think between the ages of 11 and 16 was when I read the most! 

2. What is a book that made an impact on you?

Only two years ago, I had given up on being a writer. I thought I would never finish writing a story and no one would want to publish anything I’d written anyway. I thought nonbinary and trans characters were never going to be in books. I decided to stop trying to write anything.

Then in May 2019, Mason Deaver published their debut novel I Wish You All the Best. It’s a Young Adult book (not for kids) about a nonbinary teenager coming out to their parents and friends. Everything goes terribly wrong, and they have to move. This book changed my entire perspective on being a writer. I finally saw myself in a character, and it was a main character. The book was published by a major publisher. It became a bestseller, it was critically acclaimed, and it was nominated for awards. I realized that trans and nonbinary people could write about trans and nonbinary characters and people would read it and understand it. It was really incredible! Then only a few months later my dad and I were approached to write a book with a nonbinary kid in it—perfect timing! 

3. Is it hard to come up with book ideas? 

I think so! Usually, my ideas are more about how I want my readers to feel. I think, I want to write a story that’s spooky and gives the audience shivers down their spines. But then I don’t know how to do that! So I have a lot of sticky notes and notebook pages with very random words scribbled on them. I found one the other day that just said, “vampires, but in Russia.” Who knows what that means. Explain yourself, past Basil! Or sometimes I come up with a vague idea but have no idea how to turn it into an actual story. But I know other people that will just get a full idea suddenly, or have many ideas going at once (like my dad!). So I don’t think it’s hard for everyone, but it’s hard for me!

4. Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of? 

I was lucky enough to get a review copy of The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills a couple years ago. I think about that book almost every day. It’s a middle grade book (ages 9-12, ish, the same as my book) about a girl whose family can see and interact with ghosts. It’s sad at times, but also I absolutely loved it! It’s got good music, and it’s #OwnVoices Indigenous representation. I would love for people to read that book! It’s excellent, and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

5.  What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

My advice is to collaborate with your friends or family. Even if they aren’t writers, talking to them about my ideas really helps. I have a group of friends where we all send each other our writing and have discussions about each story. 

One of the best things I ever did was join NaNoWriMo, which is the (only slightly shorter) acronym for National Novel Writing Month. You have to write an entire novel in the 30 days of November. It happens every year, and the first time I ever participated I was 12 years old. I went with my mom to writing meetups, and I met a lot of good friends! Talking about your writing with other people that you trust is really encouraging and useful, I think. Also, talk to people in bookstores or libraries! We love you and we love to talk books and story ideas. 

Carry a notebook around with you, or make notes on your phone when you see something interesting. Sometimes, they’ll turn into something really special, and sometimes they’ll be good for a laugh later (like me when I try to figure out just what I was talking about when I wrote “vampire dentist” or “ugly seventies architecture but actually it’s magic.”) 

6. You wrote your book with your father, what was that process like? 

We had a lot of fun! We came up with ideas very quickly. Like I said—I find it hard to write sometimes but working with someone else made us get it done way faster. As you probably know, he has written a lot of books! And he’s funny. We made each other laugh. 

7 .    If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?

I love this question but I think it’s so hard to answer! I think maybe Anne of Green Gables. I love that book so much. I have a shelf of all my Anne books and a few small items that remind me of the series because I love it so much. I also have an Anne of Green Gables tattoo! It’s such a lovely world that is full of joy for nature and family and friends and yourself. I never read it growing up but after reading it in University I’m obsessed! I want to wander around with Anne and make flower crowns and lie in the sun. It sounds so nice!

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