July 31, 2012 by Alice in Readerland
“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.”
Alice in Readerland: What inspired you to start writing?
Jody Gehrman: My first “novel” was really a very long letter sent to my best friend about us riding around on our flying dogs. I was eight. We’d moved to Canada for the year and I missed our imaginary games, so I wrote about them instead. I guess writing for me has always been about delving into imaginary worlds. I still tend to think of each of my novels as long love letters–to a place, a time in my life, a person, a feeling.
Alice in Readerland: Can you tell us about your writing process?
Jody Gehrman: Well, I tend to start with lots of rambling notes that I scribble out by hand. Then I write a loose outline. My first draft I try to write in a fairly constant stream without too many distractions. I call this my “organic draft” because though I have an idea of where I’m going, I let myself be surprised. I don’t let anyone see this drat until it’s completely written, and I try not to talk about it either. After some small edits, I give this draft to my writing group and my family. I get notes, revise, repeat. I may go through as many as twenty drafts before I’m satisfied.
Alice in Readerland: I heard that you’ve acted in theatre and have always loved theatre; did/do you have a dream role that you’d like to play?
Jody Gehrman: Harper in Angels in America. What a role! She’s such a beautifully rich and complex character. Also, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I long to play evil characters, too, especially evil and funny. I usually got cast in the sweet roles, but I like to play the wicked ones.
Alice in Readerland: There are hints of Shakespeare throughout your works, so what’s your favorite Shakespeare play?
Jody Gehrman: I love A Midsummer Night’s Dream—so magical! But I also like some of the darker plays, like Hamlet and Macbeth. It’s hard to pick a favorite…
Alice in Readerland: Looking back from when you first got published to where you are now, what advice would you have for the newly-published you back then?
Jody Gehrman: I’d tell myself that this is one step among many. I’d also try to explain that you can’t expect everyone to be happy for you. That was kind of a shock to me, but looking back it makes perfect sense. When good things happen, it’s a blessing and a curse; the more golden our accomplishment, the more we risk attracting others’ envy. I’d tell myself that it’s natural to feel a slight letdown when this amazing dream has come true and still life isn’t perfect. As my writer friend Stacey Jay puts it, “Getting published doesn’t mean you get to ride off on a sparkle pony.”
Alice in Readerland: You also write plays, so what can you say about the differences between writing plays and writing novels? For you, what are a few pros and cons of each?
Jody Gehrman: Plays are all about dialogue; it’s your only tool. I think writing plays hones my dialogue skills so when I go back to novels the 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 or a monologue 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. For me it’s ideal moving back and forth between the two forms. I call it “cross-genre pollination.” My work in one form inspires and strengthens my work in the other.
Thank you so much for the interview, Jody!