Monday, April 6, 2009

Interview with Gayle Forman!

Today we have the wonderful Gayle Forman with us. Gayle is the author of If I Stay, which was released today. Check back tomorrow for a review. Summary of book:

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeenyear- old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she fi nds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.


What was your inspiration for If I Stay?

There were a number of inspirations. Music, people I love. Oregon. It was also inspired by a real-life tragedy that happened several years ago.

I read on your website that you wrote for Seventeen magazine, as well as a bunch of other well known magazines. What was that like?

It was pretty great. Especially all the work I did for Seventeen. I worked for the magazine for 5 years--3 on staff and 2 as a contributing writer--and I got to travel all over the country and world meeting teenagers from every walk of life and they truly inspired me. I know that sounds cheesy but it's true. And the people I met and those experiences pop up in my fiction all over the place, as an inspiration for my first YA novel (Sisters in Sanity) and then in small random ways. I also loved writing for Seventeen because young readers responded to your stories with so much enthusiasm (even if it was sometimes to tell you that you got something totally wrong and you were an idiot). That kind of engagement is a gift. Older readers were kind of boring by comparison.

I've heard that you've traveled around the world. What was the most memorable experience from those trips?

I went around the world for a year with my husband, Nick. We left in January 2002 so a few months after 9/11. We live in New York City so the attacks were pretty intense for us. One of the amazing experiences of that year around the world was traveling in the wake of 9/11 and having people everywhere—and I mean everywhere, I'm talking about Palestinian taxi drivers in Dubai, transvestites in Tonga, homeless street kids in Cambodia, hotel owners in Zambia—offering their condolences for New York and the Twin Towers. That was one touching thing. Another crazy thing was every so often I'd be somewhere—at a hip hop concert in the middle of Tanzania, or in the mountains of Kazakhstan with a bunch of role-playing Tolkien fanatics—and I'd realize that I was glimpsing a side of the world that few outsiders saw.

What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have a special playlist to listen to while writing?

I listen to a lot of dreamy, indie pop. I go through phases of who I'm obsessed with. Lately I'm very into Sufjan Stevens. I like the Icelandic ethereal stuff like Sigur Ros and Müm. I like Regina Specter. Belle & Sebastien. Also old stuff like Velvet Underground, and poppy, punky stuff. But when I was writing IF I STAY, it was weird. I had to listen to one song every time before I wrote. "Falling Slowly" by Glenn Hansard and Market Irglova from the movie Once (which I also loved). I'd play the song. I'd start to cry. (I can't say why. It's not a particularly sad song. ) And then I'd be ready to write. It was my emotional Pavlovian trick. Now that IF I STAY is completed, I'm starting to get more into classical music, a little Debussy here, some Bach there. I guess Mia rubbed off on me. Also, music is obviously a huge part of IF I STAY so I've put up a downloadable soundtrack of all the songs in the book on my website at

How did If I Stay change from the first draft to the draft that we'll all see when we read it?

Not much at all. And this is highly unusual for most books, or for my books, at any rate. IF I STAY went through a minor revision with my agent and another revision with my editor, but Dutton actually put out a bound manuscript of the unedited version shortly after they acquired it. So the editing process it out there, for all to see. My AMAZING editor at Duutton had some really subtle (and I think hugely significant) suggestions that crystallized and sharpened the themes. For the most part, it was one of those weird books that just came out the way it was meant to come out.

Are you currently working on any books? If yes, are you allowed to say anything about them?

I'm just finishing up a draft—and notice I said draft, this one will go through lots of them—of what will probably be my next novel. I'm allowed to talk about it, but neither my agent nor my editor has read it yet so I don't want to give too much away. If you ask me this question again before you post this in April, I can give you a more detailed answer, including the title. For now, I'll just tell you that I'm attempting to write a book that's completely different from IF I STAY. This one is about the redemption of a totally indulged spoiled rotten nasty girl. It is a comedy (and a romance). It's also my attempt to turn Bitch Lit on its ear. But again, ask me this question again in April and I'll give you more.

What is your best way of writing? Are you an outliner or a go-with-the-flow writer?

I'm a total go-with-the-flow writer. That said, I understand that for other writers, outlines are the way to go. But for me, the magic of fiction is sitting down in the morning with no clear idea of where exactly I'm going to go that day and letting the characters take me there. I sometimes go down wrong roads, but it's still usually pretty fun. And when I'm cruising along and discover how some thread I inadvertently stitched in 20 pages ago will fit with something I'm doing now, it just all kind of clicks and flows and the alchemy blooms. Of course, this is also why when I'm working on a novel I tend to be up half the night thinking/obsessing about where tomorrow's writing will take me. I don't care. I love it.

What is a day in your life normally like?

My daughter wakes me up at 7:30. I get her up and ready for school. My husband leaves with her at 8:30 and I sit down with a cup of coffee, and some food. I catch up on email and update my blog and read the paper for a bit and then get to work. I write/revise/edit if I'm working on a book usually do this until about 2 when my head spins. Then I eat. At 2:30 I go pick up my kid. Somewhere in there, I sometimes manage a shower. As you can see, it is incredibly glamorous.

Who has been most influential in your writing career?

Probably my husband. He is been the person with me for the duration of my career, through its ups and downs and never once has he said to me that I should get a real job, that I should not pay for a babysitter so I could work on a book that I might not even sell. In fact, he's kind of a literary snob. Tends to read writers with unpronouncable last names and when I wrote my first YA book I thought he'd hate it but he actually liked it better than anything else I'd done, which was my first clue that maybe this was something I might not suck at. He now reads my stuff before anyone else does. He's pretty tough, though.

What is your advice to teens who want to be authors?

Don't worry about being an author. Just write. I have been writing my whole life but I never really gave writing professionally any serious thought until I was in college in my twenties and didn't become an author until I was 34. You hear about all these wunderkinds who do everything by the time they're 12, but writing is one of those things that you only get better at the longer you do it, the more life you live. So write. And write. And write some more. The mixed blessing of technology is that you can now publish your stuff online whenever and presto, an audience. I say mixed blessing because while it's gratifying to have a readership when you're 18, I for one am glad that the crap that I wrote when I was younger never made it out of my notebooks. Also read. And pay attention to what you like. Why does it work? I feel like I absorb all the good writing I read.

Thank you so much Gayle!



Carrie said...

Great interview, Hope!! This book looks really good.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Awesome interview. My review should be up this week as well, definitely an amazing book.

That was amazing to hear about all the things she did while traveling, as well as all the people that offered condolences for 9/11. I bet that was just an amazing experience.


Erika Lynn said...

great interview. I love Regina Spektor too! And I can't wait to read If I Stay!

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview!

prophecygirl said...

Great interview! I like Gayle's taste in music :)

SPITsisters said...

Really great interview. Inspiring advice about writing to be a writer not an author. Thanks for the post!