Ask the Author: Gayle Forman

“Ask me a question.” Gayle Forman

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Gayle Forman I decided to become an author because I had stories I needed to tell. I did not become an author to become a public figure or to be the target of trolls. I want to take this moment to point out that right now, a debut YA author, and outspoken Trump critic named Laura Silverman has had her Goodreads taken over by haters and Trolls who are slamming a book they'd never read.

I love Goodreads. I love the democratization of options and reviews and the community it creates. This is the ugly underbelly, and a symptom of a time when dissent, particularly that coming from a woman, is brutally shut down.

Please support Laura Silverman. Read her book. Or rate it 5 stars just to beat the fuckers at their sick game.

And also, be aware, that Goodreads, like so much on social medial, has become vulnerable to hate.

On a book site. That saddens me. Deeply.
Gayle Forman Being a mom. Loving my kids. Sometimes feeling completely overwhelmed by all I have to do. Plus a heart scare five years ago that had me fretting about who would take care of my kids, or me, if I something happened to me.
Gayle Forman Yes. Most of my friends are mothers; most of them work. All of us struggle to balance the demands of jobs and managing families. Most of us are the default parents for our children. Lately, I've been questioning that last bit. Why is it that even though we work, many of us as much as our husbands, we are responsible for the lion's share of childcare and household duties? It used to be assumed: Mom birth the child, Mom raises the child. But maybe we should stop assuming that.
Gayle Forman She's totally fictional, based on no one I know or will ever know. I don't know why you'd ever think that.*

*total bullshit. She is totally based on me.
Gayle Forman I can write anywhere. At this moment, I'm sitting on a stripped bed—it's our last day on vacation, sad face—surrounded by suitcases. But there is a mug of coffee next to me. If there's a way to write without coffee, I have not discovered it.
Gayle Forman I didn't set out to write an adult novel but after ten years of mining the emotional lives of young people, I found I wanted to write about marriage and motherhood and that wasn't something I could in a YA novel, at least the kind of YA novel I like to write. It was kind of a blast writing about families and little kids. The early draft had so much with the twins because I had so much material (I've got two daughters, not twins).

The writing process was the same. Only there is less sex in the adult novel.
Gayle Forman That's an interesting question and interesting that you ask it now because it is something Cody, the main character of my next novel, I WAS HERE, grapples with.

I suppose we all have times when we feel like we are just barely muddling through, when life doesn't feel about fulfillment or enjoyment—living— so much as slogging through—existing. But generally those periods pass and we once again feel life in all its splendor, the ups and the downs, the joys and the sorrows (I sound like a Hallmark card). That is living. Living is being open to things, I suppose.
Gayle Forman Of course. There are times when the story just isn't coming. Some days I'll write through it, and other days I'll just take a break. I'm pretty diligent and fastidious so when I need a bit of a breather, I allow that for myself.

That said, when I'm in between books, I find I have to work on something, even if it's the wrong thing, for the right thing to come to me. I have what I call nurse-log novels. A nurse log is a dead tree from which new saplings can take root in all that rich decomposing soil. A nurse-log novel is a dead novel, one that I'll never publish, but that gives life to sapling books.

When it comes to writing I'm a big believer that momentum breeds momentum and inertia breeds inertia.
Gayle Forman I've traveled a lot. It was one of the reasons I wanted to write a book about the transformative power of traveling. And so I had been to most of the major locales in the book—I lived in Amsterdam when I was younger, I've been to India like Willem (even acted as an extra in a Bollywood film).

But I still had to do some research. I knew I wanted much of Just One Day to take place in Paris, but a side of Paris I didn't know, so I spent a few days roaming around the places Willem and Allyson go. I also went to Mexico. I'd been there before as a kid and I probably could've gotten away with going by memory but it was spring break for the kids anyway so I turned it into a holiday/research trip.

Setting is really important to me. It's almost another character. So if I don't know a place intimately, it's hard for me to write it.
Gayle Forman I thought at the end of Just One Year you all would be able to intuit exactly what happened, as clearly as I had. As I told my readers, Just One Year was like a table that I'd set: all the beautiful china and platters of delicious food. You close the book and gorge.

Then my readers told me that no, it wasn't like that at all. Just One Year's ending was like being invited into the kitchen where a delicious dinner was cooking. You could smell all the smells but not taste anything.

Which sounded horrible and mean. So I sat down to write out the ending to see how it came out and I realized that it needed to be written, not just to satisfy frustrated readers, but because the other characters in Just One Day and Just One Year, those who had helped Allyson and Willem get their shit together, they deserved to see how it all played out.
Gayle Forman I think what Willem is really talking about is the difference between infatuation and love, only he doesn't know that because he hasn't ever experienced real love. In the moment, love and infatuation can feel pretty similar. At the onset, they both have the exact same symptoms—butterflies, anxiety, inability to sleep, goofy smile, monomania, etc. Only time tells you which is a lasting thing and which is an in-the-moment fling.

The thing with love is that it requires work. I think part of being in love is being willing to do that work. Maybe that is what differentiates falling in love versus being in love. When you are really in love, you're willing to stick it out, even when it's not all rainbows and unicorns. It's not very romantic when you put it like that. And yet, it's about as romantic as it gets.
Gayle Forman I'm not sure I'd be the best collaborator. I'm a control freak.

That said, I could see writing a book with Melina Marchetta because I'm in love with her writing. And her, too.

Gayle Forman I don't think that everyone has a choice because, as Mia herself points out, no one would ever succumb to a disease or injury. That said, I have heard so many stories of dying people hanging on to see a child get married or graduate. Or there's my own grandfather, who waited for everyone to leave the room to die. It makes me wonder if there is a tiny consciousness operating.

And wonder, questions…those are the seeds of novels.
Gayle Forman
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Gayle Forman I LOVE these movies so much. They are so romantic and real and true. And yes, I am inspired by them, though in the ways you might think. I looked to Before Sunset for Where She Went (two former lovers reuniting, with a lot to say and not a lot of time to say it and a countdown clock ticking over their heads).

But for Just One Day and Just One Year, my movie inspirations were a bit older.

Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck is one of my all-time favorites. It's about a princess who lives a very constrained life and escapes the palace for a day where she bumps into a newspaper man. They each are pretending to be people they are not and are each transformed by this day together. They also fall in love. And spend a magical day together in a European city.

I also looked to the film An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, which is about a couple who meet on a transatlantic crossing and fall in love. But neither one of them is in a position to be with the other so they agree to meet a few months later, and then, well, there are some, um, accidents. (I don't want to say more.)

Just One Day and Just One Year are love stories, sure, but at their core they are stories about transformation. A look at how that one day in Paris catalyzed both Allyson and Willem to change their lives to be in a place where that they might be ready to be together.
Gayle Forman I've always written. I studied journalism in college and was a journalist for 12 years before I wrote my first novel.

As for messages, I don't plant messages in my books. Even if I wanted to, I suspect I'd fail miserably. It's really gratifying to me as an author seeing the messages that readers get out of my books. It varies widely, as it should. The books are yours. You get from them what you need.
Gayle Forman My favorite part varies—it's the time when you sort of forget you're writing a book because the book seems to write itself. Sometimes this comes during the early drafting phases (and that is magic) and other times it only comes at the very end of revision (that is less magic).

As for the second bit, one of the wonderful things about having a book reach lots of readers is that you have all these readers. But one of the harder things is that now you feel a responsibility toward them. But you also feel a responsibility toward your characters and toward the story you want to tell. Ultimately, I'm writing the books for an audience of one first (that'd be me) and then for you.

Gayle Forman I'm proud of all my books (like I'm proud of all my children) for different reasons.

If I Stay has such personal resonance for me, and I'm continually humbled by the way it affects people.

Just One Day and Just One Year were the most technically difficult to write.

But Where She Went is probably the one I'm the proudest of. It's personal in a different way and it was technically difficult to execute and it's emotional for me, but in a different way than If I Stay.
Gayle Forman I've read a bunch of amazing books as of late and I'm excited to share.

Tim O'Brien's THE THINGS THEY CARRY is a classic, about war and memory and the act of writing. It's a must-read for anyone, but especially for writers. I can't believe it took me this long to read it. It's just so good.

Dara Horn's THE WORLD TO COME is a wonderful novel that hinges on the theft of a Chagall painting but delves into history and mysticism and was both emotionally and intellectually powerful. If you liked Nicole Krauss's THE HISTORY OF LOVE, this is a book for you.

In the YA world, in case you haven't heard me raving about E. Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS, I loved this book for so many reasons that I can't tell you about.

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