As you should know by now, I’m a big fan of Gail Gauthier’s , so it’s a real pleasure to host a stop on her blog tour today. (Even if she did cause the first ever mention of Shania Twain on this blog.)
Gail is rolling out a new book…
HERE’S THE INTERVIEW:
Q: Your new book is kind of like my book. Set in the real world, where –among other things –kids don’t always have enough adult supervision. But you’ve also written science fiction. Do you find it more fun to write “real” or just make stuff up?
A: Writing only becomes fun for me if I manage to get into what creativity people call “flow,” or other people call being in “the zone” or “on a roll.” “Cooking with gas.” If that happens, it doesn’t matter what I’m writing. Oddly enough, the science fiction title I believe you’re referring to, My Life Among Aliens, is what I think of as one of my suburban books. It draws very strongly from my life as a suburban mother, as do a number of my other books. (My Vermont books draw on my earlier life.) Aliens, as well as its sequel, Club Earth, are not serious science fiction, though I did try to maintain some kind of basic logic. It just wasn’t logic that necessarily related to science fact.
Q: The set-up of your book is a kid who stays at another kid’s house after school, Wednesday and Friday while his mother works. I had a similar experience as a kid staying at Patricia Fishbach’s house every afternoon. And so did poor . Did you go through this weird experience yourself?
A: No. I grew up on small farms, so a parent was always around. My mother did work outside our home for a few years, but we were cared for by our father. All I remember of that period was his making us dreadful meals. Otherwise, I don’t recall what his idea of child care involved. A lot of my writing relates to the period of my life when I was a mother of young children living in a small, suburban town. Working moms, babysitters–that’s where all that comes from. I try to stay up on what’s going on in children’s lives as much as I can so that my writing won’t become dated.
Q: Which kid is more you — the beleagured boy, the over-imaginative girl or maybe one of the “robbers?”
A: I am the over-imaginative girl who feels beleagured and has a certain amount of sympathy for the robbers. I always want to see kids like that surprise the world and excel.
Q: I have a theory about kidlit writers. Some write as kids, some as parents, some as subversive uncles. All three can be terrific or terrible, depending. Which are you? Or is my theory just pointless?
A: No, I think it’s a good theory. I hope I write as a kid. I like to feel that as a writer I am a children’s advocate. I definitely don’t want to be the instructive parent, preaching away about the meaning of life. So what would subversive uncle writers be like? Maybe they’re the kinds of writers who say, “Hey, kids. Don’t you think someone ought to write a Christmas book about a trip to a sewage treatment plant?”
Q: Another theory of mine, is that small stories may have trouble in the post Harry Potter era. For insatnce: can Encyclopedia Brown’s Mystery of the Stolen Calendars compete with, where kids track down a world-famous painting?
But here you come with a story about kids and their neighbors and a cat. Does this mean there’s still hope for small stories?
A: Another excellent theory. However, I think that if small stories suffer a decline post Harry Potter, it won’t last indefinitely. I think publishing is much like the TV and movie industries. Everything follows cycles. Something hits the big time and everyone tries to duplicate its success. Fantasy pushed problem books off the top of the hierarchy when HP came along. At some point a nonfantasy book will make a bundle and that will be the end of fantasy for a while. High concept books get a lot of attention now, but at some point that will change, too.
In the meantime, I think small stories will remain, even if they don’t get Vermeer-like attention. I think we all read seeking some kind of communication or connection with others like ourselves. We’re attracted (at least some of the time) to books that seem to duplicate some part of our own experience. My nephew taught sixth grade this past year, and he had a copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret in the classroom. He had a couple of kids who couldn’t get through it, which surprised me. But it appears that they found the portion of the story relating to early French film making too difficult or too boring. It may have just been so far outside their experience that it held no interest for them.
So a big splashy hook for a book–like art or film–may not be a big selling point for kid readers, if the hook truly doesn’t have much to do with them. But almost all kids have neighbors and most of them know a little something about cats.
Favorite Wyeth: Andrew
Favorite post-80s music video: Man, I Feel Like A Woman, Shania Twain
Book that should have won a : I’m not interested enough in awards to care. I rarely think that there’s any one book that’s so superior to the pool of good books that it should be elevated above the others. I question whether there is truly a way to make an objective judgment.
How many ARCs do you ask your publisher for: I can ask my publisher for ARCs? I think I got around 20 for Happy Kid! For that book I created a marketing plan the way the how-to books say authors should. I really made an effort to promote it. The book has done well, but I don’t know if anything I did made a difference. The effort exhausted me so that I hadn’t recovered by the time A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers was published.
Did you use an agent to make your first sale: No. I am a slushpile author. Can’t you tell? I’ve never had an agent. I’m not opposed to them on principle or anything. I could end up with an agent in the future.
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