Friday, August 3, 2012
FRIDAY FEATURES—INTERVIEW WITH YOUNG ADULT AUTHOR JODY GEHRMAN
Welcome to Friday Features! This is where you'll find interviews and guest blogs with and by other authors of juvenile fiction. If you're interested in being one of my guest authors, please email me.
Today's guest author is adult novelist turned Young Adult author, Jody Gehrman.
1. Tell me about your path to becoming a writer. When did you decide this
was something you wanted to do?
My first "novel" was really a very long letter sent to my best friend about us riding around on our flying dogs. I was eight. We'd moved to Canada for the year and I missed our imaginary games, so I wrote about them instead. I guess writing for me has always been about delving into imaginary worlds. I still tend to think of each of my novels as long love letters—to a place, a time in my life, a person, a feeling.
In college I discovered playwriting, and after college I freelanced as a journalist. Both of these experiences really confirmed my commitment to writing, in part because they helped with the inherent loneliness that can become an occupational hazard. As a playwright I love working with actors and directors; as a journalist I love doing interviews. These more social aspects of writing balance out the isolation of writing novels.
2. You are fairly prolific as a writer. Where do your ideas come from?
Ideas are never the hard part for me; finding the time to pursue them all is much more difficult. Inspiration seems to strike whenever I’m doing something that requires minimal concentration, like driving or taking a shower. Occasionally I’ll wake from a dream and scribble ideas like mad. I try to keep all my ideas in notebooks in case I ever run out of inspiration and need to wade through old ones, but generally I find the most promising premises are the kind with teeth; they sink their fangs into me and won’t let go.
3. What are your writing habits.? Do you have a daily word count? Have a set
writing time each day? Or do you write only when inspiration strikes?
In general I write every morning. I tend to push myself much harder when I’m not teaching, sometimes writing up to ten hours a day if I get in a groove and want to keep the storytelling momentum up.
4. You started out as an author of three published adult books, how did you get
into writing young adult fiction?
My first YA novel, Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, just felt like a story that had to be told from the perspective of a teen character. It's a modern retelling of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing set in a drive-through espresso stand. As soon as I got the idea, I knew the characters would be in their
teens; thus a new YA author was born! Once I tried writing from a YA point of view I realized how right it felt, so I've stuck with that audience for the last few books. Youth culture fascinates me, and YA literature these days is in the midst of a true renaissance; I love being a part of that world. I also feel very inspired by the emails I get from readers. Teen readers are so fresh and open; they don’t judge books based on stiff, pretentious ideas they’ve acquired about “great literature.” They’re eager to get lost in stories, and their imaginations are still vivid. That’s a demographic I can embrace.
5. You seem to be able to capture the teenage voice of your protagonists very well.
The concept of Voice can be very elusive to many writers. Do you have any tips
on how to develop an authentic young adult Voice?
Even if you choose to write your story from the third person POV, I'd suggest journaling in the voice of your character to get to know them. You can interview your character as well, though journaling can be very useful because it feels more intimate. I often ask my characters to journal about specific issues, not just ramble on, so it's kind of a two-for-one exercise, because your characters help you work out plot points while also revealing their unique way of speaking and seeing the world. I tend to "cast" my characters, either with real people I've met but don't know very well, or with actors. This literally gives me a "voice" to draw from. I generally try to give my characters idiosyncratic expressions that are all their own. For example, Natalie from Babe in Boyland tends to swear in German.
6. If you’re asked to give three main tips for aspiring writers, what would they be?
One: Write on a regular schedule.
Two: Surround yourself with people who support your writing dreams
Three: Know that external validation (getting published, getting praise) can only take you so far. You have to love the process itself, savor it every day. That’s where a writer’s true pleasure lives.
7. You are the author of 6 traditionally published books, your young adult novels
are published by one of the Big Six publishers, and you have agent representation, why did you decide to go the self-publishing route with your most recent YA Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft?
I decided to publish this latest book independently for a few reasons:
a) TOTAL CREATIVE CONTROL: While authors occasionally get to offer input into book design and marketing strategies, more often we're sidelined or not included in the process at all. With Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, I hired my own model and sketched out my own vision for the cover. We transformed my writing studio into a photo studio and my husband David went to work. We obsessed over fonts and poured over Photoshop tutorials. We've had a blast making it our own. I'm now attacking every aspect of marketing with the same gusto. It's liberating, taking control in this way.
b) MASSIVE INCREASE IN ROYALTIES: I'm not totally naive. I know I'll have to sell a lot of books to earn anywhere near the advances I got with my first two book deals. Still, considering that I'll be going from an average of 10% royalties to approximately 70%, even a moderate success has the potential to work for me financially.
c) NO WAITING: Ask any writer and they'll confirm that the waiting process is endless and creatively draining. You have to wait months for editors and agents to get back to you, your pub date gets delayed, your project is on hold until you can get more feedback. It goes on and on. With this process, publishing happens when I say it does.
d) IT'S FUN: I'll probably be singing a new tune if my marketing falls flat and I join the fifty percent of self-pubbed writers who earn less than $500 a year at their craft. After living with the disempowering lack of involvement I often felt with traditional publishing, though, there's a real skydiving-esque thrill to all of this. I'm taking the plunge. The outcome is uncertain. Wish me luck.
Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft is available on Smashwords.
Connect with Jody on her website.
You can purchase Jody's books here:
Tune in next Friday, Aug. 10, for author Jo Marshall's guest post about how she came to write Twig Stories, a series of children's books about how climate change affects nature, illustrated by Disney and Universal artist David Murray.