Jody Gehrman is the author of seven novels and numerous plays. Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft is her most recent Young Adult novel. Her other Young Adult novels include Babe in Boyland, Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, and Triple Shot Bettys in Love, (Penguin’s Dial Books). Babe in Boyland won the International Reading Association Teen Choice Award and has recently been optioned by the Disney Channel. Her adult novels are Notes from the Backseat, Tart, and Summer in the Land of Skin (Red Dress Ink). Her plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She is a professor of English at Mendocino College.
You’ve written and published quite a lot, with 7 books and a few plays under your belt, but Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft was your first paranormal project. What inspired you to try out a new genre?
The paranormal realm has interested me for a long time, but it’s taken me about seven years to come up with something in that vein that I feel is ready for public consumption. I started writing AUDREY ages ago for adults, but I never felt like it was working. Then I realized it would work better as a YA novel, so I pulled out the old draft and gave it a radical makeover, including a new plot and protagonist. It’s been a total challenge, taking on magic. I’ve always been drawn to witches, so it felt more comfortable to me than, say, writing about werewolves or vampires, but still. I’ll be the first to admit I’m new at paranormal-ness. Writing this book took me so much longer than most of my novels, in part because it was so foreign to me. I have fresh admiration for writers who successfully weave paranormal elements into a very rich and believable “normal” world.
Being both a novelist and playwright, do you find writing plays easier to write or vice versa? Does dabbling in both methods of writing help you as a storyteller?
I like moving back and forth between the two. I sometimes dabble in screenwriting and songwriting as well. Variety helps keep things fresh for me. Plays and novels are really very different forms, since in playwriting dialogue is your only tool. I’d like to think writing plays hones my dialogue skills so when I go back to novels that muscle is stronger. Plays are much more communal by nature, too. You usually work with the director and cast; that helps fight the solitude of writing novels. When you see a play performed you get to feel what the audience feels; you know when a joke falls flat, when a kiss moves people. With novels, you have a huge space between you and your readers; only through reviews and emails do you know what they’re thinking. But novels help me reach a wider audience, and I get a bigger canvas to paint on. I can delve into setting and pack in all kinds of sensory details. I hope my work in one form inspires and strengthens my work in the other.
The question I’m sure you’ve been asked more than you’d like – what is your advice to aspiring authors?
One: Write on a regular schedule. You don’t have to be slavishly devoted to that regime–vacations are good–but approaching writing like you would a job can help you improve much more quickly than if you only write when you feel inspired.
Two: Surround yourself with people who support your writing dreams. Try to minimize your contact with people who ridicule your passion for storytelling.
Three: Know that external validation (getting published, getting praise) can only take you so far. You have to love the process itself, savor it every day. That’s where a writer’s true pleasure resides.
Do you have any wacky writing rituals or habits?
I don’t know if this qualifies as “wacky,” but I do have a hummingbird feeder outside my window right in front of my desk. For some reason, their frantic search for nectar totally inspires me while I work. Also, I listen to nature sounds–babbling brooks, waterfalls, and ocean waves are my favorites. I tend to speak my characters’ dialogue aloud; my husband’s afraid to enter my writing room because it sounds like I’m possessed.
What are your YA favorite books at the moment?
I’m really into Katie Crouch’s Magnolia League & The White Glove Wars. I’m loving the whole idea of a Mendocino County girl (which is where I live) traveling to Savannah and encountering this spooky, swampy, witchy world. Plus Katie’s just a really talented writer.
If you could be any character in a work of fiction, who would you be?
Oooh! Tinkerbell, I think. She’s adorable and sparkly and she gets to fly. Of course she’s also kind of jealous and petty, but I think I could live with that. I’m already a really jealous person, so I’ve got a head start!
Thank you for letting me interview you!
Thank YOU for your fabulous blog! Best of luck with your YA fantasy novel, Evie. I bet it’s fab.
Audrey’s Guide to Witchcraft
Falling in love, baking a magical cake, fighting an evil necromancer—it’s all in a day’s work for Audrey Oliver, seventeen-year-old witch-in-training. When her mother goes missing and her mysterious “cousin” shows up out of the blue, Audrey knows something’s gone horribly, dangerously wrong. Now it’s up to her to get her own magical powers up to speed before everyone she loves is destroyed by the sorcerer intricately connected to her mother’s secret past..
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