Monday, 10 September 2012

Author Interview: Gayle Forman

For my first interview, I am pleased to welcome Gayle Forman. In case you don't already know, Gayle Forman is the author of You Can't Get There From Here: A Year on the Fringes of a Shrinking World, Sisters in Sanity and If I Stay. "If I Stay" is Gayle Forman's most recently released novel and I, and many other bloggers, have had the pleasure of reading it. If you want to see my review, the link is here.

The film rights to "If I Stay" have already been bought. It is to be directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the lady who directed the film Twilight. If you'd like to know a little more about Gayle Forman you can visit her website and there is a very interesting bio. Just click here.

And let us commence with the interview:

Music plays an important role in “If I Stay.” Do you believe that music can really shape our lives and has it had any major impacts on your life?

Definitely. I’m no expert on neurology but music must have like some direct link to the part of your brain where emotions live because sometimes I will hear a song that I have not heard in a while and it will literally trigger not just a memory but it will make me feel the way I felt at a certain point in my life. Music can make me feel happy when I feel sad, emotional when I’m feeling numb. I love it in so many forms, whether it’s dancing around to goofy songs with my kid or chanting before a yoga class, which makes me feel tingly. There is a reason so many cultures have music as a central part of celebrations and important rituals. It is just that powerful.

I have seen a lot of excellent reviews of “If I Stay”. Not only is there an online buzz about the book, the film rights to it have already been bought. Did you ever anticipate the impact it would have or predict how popular it would become, all before the release date?

No!! When I wrote If I Stay, my original file name for the book was Why Not? As in: This doesn’t really seem like a viable book idea but hey, why not write it anyhow? Because at that point, I had neither agent nor editor nor publisher. My first teen novel, Sisters in Sanity, had come out, and been read by about 17 people. But then this character of Mia dropped into my consciousness and suddenly this story demanded to be written. I wasn’t sure if was a teen novel or an adult novel or even a viable novel at all. But once I started writing, I didn’t care. Writing it felt right. So, when, later, I found an agent and then it started selling in all these countries and then the movie stuff happened, it all seemed so surreal. It still seems surreal, like it’s happening to someone who I really like a lot and am happy for but who is not me.

Mia’s journey is an emotional one and a lot of people have read this book through cloudy eyes because of the tears. Did Mia’s journey have the same impact on you when you were writing it?

Yes. The places where people cry while reading I was probably crying while writing. It was a very emotional book to write.

You started out writing articles for Seventeen. You wrote articles about things that really mattered, issues that we should all be aware of. How important to you is it that people know about child soldiers, teen migrant workers and what is really happening in the world? Do you wish more people were aware of what was happening beyond their borders?

It’s very important to me that people know about these kinds of things, and most important to me that teenagers do. Because I think if your social conscience is ignited when you are a teen, you never lose your sense of yourself as a global citizen. When I was 16, I was an exchange student in England and I went to this great school where everyone was politically active and that’s when I became involved in various causes, etc. and it’s what formed who I am today and probably shaped who I became as a writer. I’m not so concerned with teens being aware with what’s going on outside their borders so much as them having a sense of empathy, caring about what happens to people outside their reality, whether those people are down the road or on another continent.

Your first book “You Can’t Get There From Here: A Year On the Fringes of a Shrinking World” was based on your travel memoirs. Travel is quite different to YA. “Sisters in Sanity” was your second book but classed as YA. What inspired you to change genres?

I don’t know that they’re so different. They’re both about journeys and about characters and about transformation. It’s just the trip I take with YA, I take in my imagination and I get to make stuff up instead of reporting it. But as to why I changed, here’s what happened: I came home from traveling around the world for a year. I wrote You Can’t Get There From Here. I had a baby. Suddenly, I couldn’t do the kinds of stories I’d done before, or I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to travel and leave my baby at home. And we’d bought an apartment and were broke. And I needed money. And someone suggested I ghost write a YA novel but then said I’d be better off writing my own. And four days later, I had the first 12,-000 words of Sisters in Sanity written, which was based on a story I’d done ten years earlier on behavior modification bootcamps for Seventeen.

What inspired you to write “If I Stay”?

Lots of things. Music. Love. My husband. A real life tragedy. But mostly it was a question that has haunted me for years: What would you do if something catastrophic happened to your family and you yourself were hovering between life and death. And you were somehow aware of what was happening. Would you choose to go with you your family? Or would you stay? Then one day this 17-year-old cellist popped into my head to answer that question for me.

There are certain authors that inspire you to write. They create books that make you want to delve in to your own creativity and start writing. I have a feeling you will become one of these writers. Are there any particular authors who inspired you or that you grew up adoring?

Thank you for saying that. There are some authors that I grew up loving that still hold up. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird still remains one of my favorite books. Jane Eyre is still one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read and gives me a fluttery stomach. I loved the Beverly Clearly Ramona books when I was little and now that I’m reading them again with my daughter I think I love them even more. I loved Kurt Vonnegut growing up. But I also read a lot of trash, like Jackie Collins and this series called Sweet Dreams romances. I don’t think it matters. Whatever books bring you to reading are good.

Mia has to make a really tough decision. Are you a decisive person yourself?

It’s funny. I am very decisive about the big things. Leave home to travel around the world for a year? Yep. Adopt a second child? Sure. It’s the little stuff I waffle over, like what color to paint the living room or what to order for breakfast. All in all, I’m pretty decisive, though.

Have you got any tips for other aspiring writers?

Write. Write. And write some more. And read. You absorb everything you read, whether you’re aware of it or not. But I think writing is something you only get better at the more you do it and the more life you amass to inspire your writing. So don’t worry about publishing (or publish a blog). Worry about enjoying writing, experimenting, playing with it. As my old journalism professor used to say: A real writer is one who writes.

Thank you so much for answering the questions. Is there anything you would like to add?

Just a thank you. My biggest fear is that one day someone is going to take away this amazing privilege I have to write books. The only reason I get to do what I do is because readers like you read what I write. Without you guys, I’d be out of luck.

I would just like to say a big thank you to Gayle Forman for taking the time to answer my questions and allowing me the privilege to read "If I Stay". It is out now.

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