Ohmygosh I’m way excited about this Students Want to Know post! This one is especially important to me because Gae’s debut, The Pull of Gravity, was the first book I read and reviewed for an author. Gae is also the person behind this awesome (well at least I like to think it’s awesome :)) feature. She and I were emailing about teaching and blogging and reading when she gave me the idea to do this. Gae put me in contact with the fabulous 2011 debut authors and you know the rest! I can’t thank her enough for letting me read her wonderful novel and connecting me with so many amazing authors.
Because Gae means so much to me, I’m very excited to have this interview between her and my students post on the official date of her release. I’m also giving away a copy of her book to one lucky winner! Details are at the end of the interview 🙂
Summary of The Pull of Gravity (From Goodreads): While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him.
Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.
- What kinds of books do you like to read?
I mostly read what I like to write: contemporary YA or women’s fiction. For example, in YA, some of my favorites from the past year or two are Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World or Peter Cameron’s Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You. I loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green. In women’s fiction, I love things like Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love and am just waiting for the chance to read Great House, which is sitting right there on my shelf. *points longingly*
- What did you like to do when you were a teen? (Hobbies, sports, etc.)
From about 6 – 13 (?) I was a gymnast and competed on a USGF team (I mostly sucked at everything except floor and beam). For years, I practically lived at the local gym (6 days per week). I wanted to be in the Olympics and there were other kids in our team training for that. I wasn’t that good comparatively, though, and was always getting hurt. To the huge relief of my parents, I finally quit and switched to acting (and wanted to be Annie on Broadway BAD). I took acting lessons and did school and community theatre until enough people in HS told me it wasn’t cool. One of my big regrets is giving it up (it is way cooler to act in school these days, I think). I also read voraciously. Probably 2 – 3 novels per week and I was very artsy crafty with my sister.
- How did you get the idea for the title?
The first ever title in my computer files was Fat Man Walking because the story came from this article about a really obese man who had decided to try to walk from California to NY in an effort to lose weight. I thought, “well that’s cool, but what about your family?” I decided to write a story from the perspective of the fictional son of this guy who just decides to walk out on his family on a whim. But for a good cause. From there, the whole story morphed. Scooter and Jaycee got into things – not to mention Of Mice and Men — and the story became about Nick and Jaycee’s journey to keep their promise to the Scoot. The working title morphed to Steinbeck, the Scoot, and the Pull of Gravity (the latter part which comes from a relevant Yoda quote).When I sold the book to Frances Foster at FSG, she would refer to the manuscript as “Steinbeck,” I would refer to it as “The Scoot,” and my agent as “The Pull of Gravity.” We decided that was a bad sign for a title, and that the longer one sounded young for the book. So, we all agreed that The Pull of Gravity was the perfect title for the book. And I can’t imagine it as anything but that.
- How long did it take to write your book?
Actually, I speed-wrote the first draft, in a little over a month on a Nanowrimo* sort of mission. Then I spent the next 6 months revising it. Then I gave it to my agent and revised more. Then FSG liked it but wanted another revision. Then, after they bought it, my editor wanted some of the original version restored while keeping some of the good stuff from that other revision. So, um, yeah. Add those up. 🙂
*National Novel Writing Month which takes place every November, except I got impatient so decided to Nano alone in October. That’s why I pounded out a first draft.
- Where do you prefer to write?
I write at a small desk on my laptop in what we call “the piano room” because it has two pianos (one doesn’t play and is just a pretty piece of furniture), and because we have a living room, so we don’t really know what else to call this other room. But I’m also fond of telling people (so, here I go again) that I do my best writing underwater. And it’s true. A lot of my story and character ideas come to me when I am swimming. Which I do 4 -7 days per week, depending on the season. Sometimes I have to rush out of the water dripping and jot stuff down then try to read notes from a very soggy piece of paper.
- Who is your favorite author?
Wow, only one? You’re tough! To me the most brilliant character-driven storyteller is William Goldman (of Princess Bride and Butch Cassidy fame, but I read all of his novels going back to way early ones, and even reread some which I never do).
Some of you that may know me from my Friday Feedback blog may remember this quote from William Goldman that I posted there. I love it especially in light of how prolific and successful his was and is (more in the screenplay dept in the last twenty years):
“One of the things I love to do when I work with young writers is to disabuse them of the notion that I know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. . . as we are speaking, I am looking at my computer, tearing out my hair, thinking, well, is this horrible, or is this going to work? I don’t know. Storytelling is always tricky.”
- What caused you choose Of Mice and Men as a major part of your book?
Once I decided to include a classic novel, I chose Of Mice and Men because I knew my book was going to be about friendship and OM&M is the classic story of friendship, and contains probably *the* ultimate act of friendship in literature. I also love how Steinbeck made you care about George & Lennie in a brief time (the story takes place from a Thursday to a Sunday and the novella is only 108 pages). I was hoping to do the same with Nick and Jaycee (and thereby draw a parallel) – and make the reader really care about, and root for, them (and the Scoot!) in a very brief period of time. The time span of Nick and Jaycee’s actual journey parallels the time span in OM&M.
- Did you find it hard to include tough issues such as death and divorce without weighing down the story? How did you manage to balance happy times with sad times in the story?
As a person, I try to see any humor (and hope) I can in dark situations – and I usually give this trait to my characters. Jaycee’s snarky humor combined with her obvious deep affection for Nick made the sad stuff more bearable. She perks him up. Doesn’t allow him to wallow in life’s hardships. But I do like to allow the characters their moments of pure melancholy and let them be in them, until they pass. I think the reader can handle that.
- I’ve heard time and time again how unique and interesting your characters are. What was your process like in creating them?
Hah, is Mrs. Andersen talking your ear off again? 🙂
I think my characters are interesting because they are dimensional. They are not perfect. They are definitely flawed. Sometimes deeply flawed. So then the trick becomes to give them enough layers to make them complex and funny and vulnerable and sympathetic even when they’re making choices a reader might not like. In essence, to make them seem human and real. I love that challenge when writing. I’m glad people seem to be connecting to them as they read. And, Jaycee is just a crazy kook. I’m telling you, writing her she just took on a life of her own.
** Enter to win a copy of The Pull of Gravity **
Only 1 entry per person
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
U.S. entries ONLY
Contest begins today and ends at 11:59pm EST on May 14, 2011
Winner will be chosen via Random.org & announced on my blog
Winner will be contacted via email & have 48 hours to respond
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