Josh Berk - Writer Woof?
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Josh Berk - Writer

Josh Berk, author

BIO (one line)

 Josh Berk is the author of the teen novels The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (named a best book for teens of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews & and Guy Langman: Crime Scene Proscrastinator (2012). He has also written the "Lenny & The Mikes" series for younger readers (beginning in 2013). He lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Photo by Olaf Starorypinski
BIO (short-ish)

Josh Berk is the author of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (Knopf 2010), named a best book for teens of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews and It was also awarded a Parent's Choice Silver medal, a starred review from School Library Journal, and a perfect 10 from VOYA. His second comedy/mystery teen novel: Guy Langman: Crime Scene Proscrastinator, was published in 2012 (also by Knopf). In 2013 a new series for younger readers began with Strike Three, You're Dead. He has previously been a journalist, a poet, a playwright, and a guitarist (mostly in bands known for things other than fine guitar-playing). He is a librarian and lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with his family.

BIO (longer than you need)

I am the child of two librarians! I didn't really ever think I'd be an author, but I always loved books. Some of my favorite authors as a kid were C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander. In high school I discovered Kurt Vonnegut who remains one of my favorites. Later I became fascinated with authors like Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and Tom Robbins. I didn't study literature in school, but I did (of course) take a job as a librarian after college. I then went to grad school and studied young adult literature at the University of Pittsburgh. I got really excited about all the fantastic things going on in YA and started writing my own.

A few years of blood, sweat, and tears later, I now am able to see these books on the shelves! I have also published poems and written for newspapers, but I love fiction best of all! Making stuff up is clearly what I was born to do.

Yes, this is really Josh's prom photo. Hair has not been photoshopped.

I am married to Kelly Berk, the fine lady whose pictures you can see here. She went to prom with me even though I had that insane Jewfro. Later, she fronted a punk band I was in. These days we have two little kids. I love being a Dad. We live in Bethlehem, PA. We have two dogs who are more or less completely insane. Yup.


The inspirations for THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN are embarrassingly non-literary. First, I had a dream about a kid reading lips on a school bus. The dream felt really neat --- who wouldn't want to be able to read lips in high school? But the dream also felt scary. It was like what he was lip-reading was dark, ominous even.
After waking I did what all writers do -- I asked myself questions. Why was he reading lips? What dark secret was he uncovering? Why was he able to read lips? I answered with more questions. What if he was a deaf kid at a mainstream school? What if one of his classmates was missing and possibly murdered? I remembered a field trip to a coal mine where they turned off the lights and we all stood in total darkness. What a perfect setting for a murder!

The next piece of the plot came to me after watching several episodes of MTV's "My Super Sweet 16" -- a reality show about teens who throw lavish birthday parties. One of the party-goers on the show remarked that "someone would kill for one of these invitations" and I heard that ominous music play in my head. Dum-da-DUM! Would someone really kill for one of those tickets?

Josh spent a lot of the '90s playing in loud bands and having a questionable beard.
So I decided that I would write a mystery -- something dark and full of ghosts and murder -- using the big party and deaf narrator and the coal mining setting. I began to research Deaf culture and found it fascinating! I knew this could add something really interesting to the story. Also, the fact that I'd have a wealthy kid throwing a ritzy party in a part of the country that is rather poor brought up some class dynamics that I found intriguing. The way the old world coal mining parts of PA bump into the wealthy "bedroom communities" from New York and New Jersey makes for lots of conflict -- always a good element to any novel.

These all seemed like dark, mysterious, possibly deep things to write about. But then Will's voice developed and he was just... funny. This is probably not surprising because anything I've ever tried to write has always ended up having an element of humor: movie reviews, plays, whatever. (Let's hope I never have to write obituaries.) I just have a naturally comic voice I guess, and I can't resist a punch-line or a humorous setting. So it's a funny mystery set in a contemporary high school -- a little action, a little adventure, a lot of jokes, and a narrator who I hope will resonate with anyone who reads it!

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