Monday, May 11, 2009

Author Interview: Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman was released April 2009. Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and The New York Times Magazine. Her other novels include Sisters in Sanity and You Can't Get There From Here. She lives in Brooklyn with her family. I want to thank Gayle for taking time out from her busy schedule to answer some questions.

What got you interested/started in writing?
I've been writing as far back as I can remember. When I was like four, I used to come up with silly poems my parents would write down and I of course wrote notebooks full of Very Serious Poetry in high school. I wrote short stories and such in my late teens and twenties, but, and here's the strange part: I did not consider becoming a writer until I was in my mid-twenties and in college, and then it was journalism that captivated me. I don't know what I was thinking in those early days. I just liked writing. I never thought about it going anywhere. I took three years off before going to college and when I finally started school, I planned to study pre-med and become a doctor. That plan fizzled after about six months and I wound up taking journalism classes just for the hell of it and realized that journalism combined my love of travel and my love of meeting new people and my love of writing. But again, I didn't really see myself as a fiction writer. I was a journalist for more than ten years before I ever thought about writing a novel.

What inspired you to write If I Stay?
Lots of different things. Music was a huge part of it. I lived in Oregon in the early to mid 1990s when the music scene in the Pacific Northwest was just exploding and there was this amazing indie music community where I lived. I met some of my best friends there, and the guy who I wound up marrying, so I think that inspired a lot of the book's general musical ambiance. The root of "If I Stay," however, is inspired by a question that haunted me for years: What would you do if something catastrophic had happened to your family and you were aware of it, and you yourself were hovering between life and death. If you could choose to live or die, would you? Then Mia showed up to answer that question for me.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I don't have a single favorite author or a single favorite book. I'm a Gemini! My tastes are all over the map. I'm a huge Philip Roth fan--because his books have amazing characters and narratives and incredible philosophical bents--and I think Junot Diaz is amazing because his words crackle off the page. Sarah Dessen's novels are rich and deep and authentic and always make me cry. I read Sherman Alexie's YA novel first and then went back and read his short stories and now I love him. I love Nick Hornby. I love Ann Patchett. Jumpa Lahiri. Elizabeth Scott. I definitely lean toward contemporary writers and toward fiction, though I'm very into Michael Pollan these days, too.

What are you currently reading?
I just finished "You Don't Love Me Yet" by Jonathan Lethem, which came out a few years ago. My husband picked it up for me. It was great. And I'm about to go on tour so I binged and bought three YA books, "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" by Stephen Chobsky, which everyone tells me is amazing and I have to read; "Living Dead Girl", by Elizabeth Scott, who I love, though I've put off reading this one because I have a daughter and wasn't sure I could take (still not sure). And Blake Nelson's latest novel "Destory All Cars."

What are your current projects?
I am working on my next novel, working on a couple of magazine pieces, and promoting "If I Stay." I'm about to go on tour to Europe for two weeks, which is very exciting.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The books are a constant source of surprise because you never quite know where the writing process is going to take you. The idea for "If I Stay" really began with Mia, who arrived, fully formed, as a cellist. That was a huge surprise because I knew nothing about the cello, nothing about classical music. But that was who she was and I had no choice but to learn about these things to write her. For me, as I write, the characters reveal themselves to me and that is just as surprising as getting to know a true flesh-and-blood stranger. So it's a fun, illuminating process, full of twists.

What’s the hardest part about writing?
Sometimes letting go of your characters is hard. And letting go can mean different things. Sometimes it's admitting that a project you're working on just isn't working, and that happens to me all the time. I have a driveways worth of rusting wreck drafts lingering on my hard drive. And even with a "successful" book, you have to at some point let the characters go; they cease to become yours and they become your readership's. As a writer, that is what you hope for, but it's hard when suddenly the world you have created is open to feedback. It's nice, though, when that feedback is positive.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
Hang out with my family. The days when we are outside, away from the computers, just tooling around Brooklyn, are the best and are when I'm at my happiest. Nothing compares to that.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I didn't write it with any sort of message in mind, and it was only after, when we showed it to publishers, that they all started talking about the themes in the book, change and sacrifice and decision. I think the book is about love, so if there's any takeaway, it would be to think about the people in your life who you love and who love you and feel good about that. It feels really good to feel grateful. Feel free to gag now.

What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?
I get asked a lot of questions and you asked some unusual ones here. I get asked all the time if there is going to be a sequel but nobody asks me what how I think the characters in "If I Stay" fare in the future. Which is funny because I've thought about that a lot. See what I mean about letting go? It's hard.


Thanks, Gayle!

For more information about Gayle and If I Stay, please check out her website.

33 comments:

  1. Great intrerview! If you read this Gayle, I'd love to know what happens to Mia in the future! Hmmm... how did I forget to ask that?!

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  2. Amazing interview! "If I Stay" was an amazing book.

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  3. As a reader, I have the same problems letting characters go! Sometimes they just really get stuck in my head. (Which is when I start really really hoping there's a sequel!)

    If I Stay is on my TBR list!!

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  4. I've heard such great things about this book. Definitely a must read!

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  5. I love reading your story about hoe you became an author! :D

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  6. It's so cool how she drew upon her experiences in Oregon to write the book; And how the music in the Pacific Northwest inspired her. I live in Oregon, so the setting of the book is intriguing to me. Not many books are set in Oregon.

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  7. Pretty cool that the place that inspired the story was where she met her husband! I am looking forward to reading this one, great interview!!

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  8. This does look like an interesting book. I'd love to win it!

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  9. Great interview. The questions you asked weren't ones I see asked a lot, if ever.

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  10. Great interview. I have If I Stay on my reads list for the year, and have heard wonderful things about it.

    -Amber

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  11. Some authors can't accept that characters become their reader's when a book is out. I think that's a hard thing to do.

    Valorie
    morbidromantic@gmail.com

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  12. I can't wait to read this book! Have fun on your European tour :)

    pepsivanilla14(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  13. Great interview, I would love to win this book!
    Cheers,
    julie.sherritt[at]gmail.com

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  14. Great interview!
    I want to read this book so bad! I've heard some fantastic things about it!
    I would love to win it!

    HarlequinTwilight@gmail.com

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  15. I can't wait to read this!

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  16. Hey, I'm a follower and I linked to your site! I'd love this!!!

    shakespearesmuse.tbc@gmail.com

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  17. Great interview! I have read several reviews and it has really caught my interest!

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  18. thanks for the great interview and some insight into you as an author

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  19. The book sounds great
    KawaiiNeko2008 at aol dot com

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  20. Great Interview. Sounds like a great book!! Thanks

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  21. Great interview. I've been hearing so much about this book that I'll definitely have to check it out.

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  22. Fun interview. I've read her book Sisters in Sanity and LOVED it so I know I'll like this one. :)

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  23. This looks like a great book, can't wait to read it!

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  24. Great interview. I can tell how much I like a book by how much I "miss" the characters. Often I'm so sad to finish a book because that's the end of my link to them. Thanks.
    (http://booksandneedlepoint.blogspot.com

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  25. Great interview! Thanks for sharing!

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  26. I like that Gayle Forman reads YA Lit - there's some great books out there!

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  27. Great interview, I love finding out about authors who are new to me!

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  28. Nice interview. This seems like an amazing book.

    lovinfitch@aol.com

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  29. This is a fun interview! I like it. :)

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  30. great interview, very interesting reading
    hope to read her stuff

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  31. I have to read her books. I like how music is a huge part of If I Stay

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  32. I've only seen great reviews of the book so I REALLY can't wait to read it! Great interview! I guess it's the same for the authors as the readers--for me I find it hard to let go of characters after reading a really good book!

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