Sunday, August 30, 2009

Enchanting Interview: Jeannine Garsee

What do you like best about being a writer?

Power. It may sound silly, but being a writer gives me ultimate control over people and situations of which I’m the sole creator. I decide what they do, what they say, what they eat and wear, and, ultimately, I decide their fate. The best thing is that I can change my mind any time.

I also live the solitude of writing. When I’m working on something, I love spending hours of uninterrupted time. It’s a huge contrast to my “real” life.

Why Young Adult?

Because I write the kind of stories I wish were around when I was a teen. It wasn’t until the late seventies or so that the edgier topics began to appear in YA literature. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the books I read in the sixties and early seventies, but I love the raw emotion and absolute reality to find in the YA sections of today. YA for the most part is fast and in-your-face, and without all the (often) unnecessary narrative you often find in adult literature. I’ll read an adult book today and, with few exceptions, I’ll think: Do I seriously care about this? Get on with the story already!

What's your writing process like?

First of all, I don’t outline (though I sometimes regret it)—I first do a rough draft from beginning to end, and then revise and re-revise until I’m satisfied with the results. I don’t do character sketches because I think they’re a waste of time; anything I need to know about the characters, I’ll find it out as I’m writing the story. I think some writers spend so much time on perfect outlines and synopses and multiple, lengthy character sketches that “this” becomes their actual writing; they obsess over it. I prefer to get the story down first and then go back and refine the details. I also have crit partners who will read one of my later drafts (I never allow anyone to see a rough draft) and I’ll send my agent a few pages as well.

I totally loved your book especially with all the recent news on gay marriages. What inspired you to write this story?

It was a story I’d thought about for quite a while. Originally I’d planned to write about a girl with a gay best friend (female) and the problems this posed. Then in 2006, when a lot of attention was first drawn to the gay marriage issue, I was inspired to turned my idea for a new story into something quite different.

How did you come up with the title?

In the second chapter of the book, a younger Shawna, comparing her elegant, beautiful mother to her mother’s less than feminine partner, says with extreme embarrassment, “You don’t look like Fran…so maybe you’re not really, you know, one of THEM.” And Shawna’s mother snaps back, “I’m a lesbian, Shawna. Les-bi-an. Why are you so afraid to say that word?” Shawna struggles with this throughout the story.

Which character gave you the toughest time to write in the book?

Shawna’s dad, one of the nastiest characters I’ve had to write. Nasty in the sense that he is refined and wealthy and highly educated, yet hasn’t a clue how his actions affect other people, especially those he loves. I tend to go overboard with unlikeable characters and it took quite a bit of effort to rein him in.

Hardest scene to write?

There were a LOT in this one: First, there’s a rape scene in the book and I had to remind myself that this IS young-adult. The last scene with Shawna and Arye must’ve been revised a thousand times before I was happy with it. Shawna’s final confrontation with her father broke my heart to write.

Who would your ideal cast be if a movie was made?

I know people will think I’m making this up, but I never think about my books being made into movies. My first novel was optioned for film, so I did fantasize a bit, but the option has since expired. I have such a strong personal picture of what my characters look like, it’s hard to picture them as actors who already exist (though sometimes I surf photo sites looking for similarities!).

Interview by Kim
May 2009

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