Rob Wilder is many things: an educator, a humorist, an author; he even had a column in SFR for nearly 10 years. These many parts of him come together in his newest novel, Nickel, out next month from local imprint Leaf Storm Press. It’s a young adult title, yes, but Nickel avoids the overtly emotional sap thanks to Wilder’s real-life, firsthand knowledge of the struggles facing teens. The release is still a ways out, but we caught up with Wilder because it’s the book issue and all.
Why young adult?
I didn’t write it as a YA book, I just wrote it as a book. I just wanted to write from the point of view of the weird, quiet kids I’ve taught or seen. And, as an English teacher, you have access. You meet these kind of crazy, irreverent wild-minded kids who seem invisible. Any teacher will tell you that the shit kids have to go through—parents getting divorced, moving, people dying … I wanted to see how a kid who seemed mild-mannered reacted when something like that happened in his life. Ultimately, it was the publisher who chose how to market it, but if you look back at other books … Catcher in the Rye would be on the YA shelf, To Kill a Mockingbird would be on the YA shelf.
We don’t want names, but do any particular kids from your years teaching feed the characters?
I’ll ask my kids what they’re wearing or what they’re listening to. I had a couple students who were really into the ’80s, which I thought was weird because I lived through the ’80s and didn’t think they were all that great. But, I thought about, what if you’re a kid who isn’t into the pop culture of today? They’re out of sync, but they’re not out of passion. I understand the culture of school and teachers, and so I thought of all the horrible teachers I knew or my own worst sense of being a teacher, and I tried to position this kid in that kind of situation. It’s a survival story.
Did you specifically set out to publish with a local company?
I was kind of looking around, but there’s this great resurgence in Santa Fe. This is the best time—and I’ve been here 26 years—that I can remember in terms of entrepreneurship and DIY. My first two books were Random House, this huge publisher, but Leaf Storm is amazing. They’re doing cool events, they’re really in touch with the booksellers, they really care. And they spend all their time doing it. A friend of mine really tried to convince me to crowdfund it, but I met with Andy Dudzik (note: Leaf Storm co-founder and former SFR publisher), and after talking with him and seeing what they could do. They loved the book and the characters, and I love Santa Fe, so I’m just really happy we could publish it in this community.