Friday 6 April 2012

The Write Way with Gabrielle Zevin

With the recent publication of All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin and I am really pleased to have the very popular author herself on the blog today. 
1) You have written books for teenagers as well as adults, which do you prefer to write for?
Neither particularly, and I realize this isn’t a sexy answer. I have stories I want to write and sometimes these are stories for teenagers and sometimes these are stories for adults. And it’s usually rather obvious to me which is which.

2) Do you normally know which age group you are aiming to write for before it is written, or do you leave the decision of who to aim the book at with your publisher?
I always know before. I think the best books are the result of clear intention on the part of their authors. Also, the publishers I have for my adult work versus my young adult work are entirely different companies.

3) I read that you also write scripts too. Do you find it easy to switch from one writing format to another?
It’s actually a joy to switch from one genre to another. Screenplays are always 90-110 pages and usually follow certain structural rules. Novels, in comparison, are the Wild West. They can be anything and are limited only by your imagination. Sometimes, my brain craves the structure of screenwriting and other times, my brain wants to play.

4) Being an experienced writer, do you find the process gets easier with each project you write?
Certain things get easier. Like, I know that I will often reach a point in any project where I want to quit. Not just quit writing the book or whatever, but quit the profession entirely. Now, I know this is normal, and usually, I need to just ignore myself. (I should say – sometimes I do quit – and I’m fine with this, too. Not every book needs to be written.)

5) What made you set All These Things I’ve Done in the future?
The short answer is the necessity of imaging a world in which enough time had passed so that different things had become illegal. The long answer involves anxiety, my grandmother’s long, slow death from Alzheimer’s, my love of prohibition-era stories, and a long walk around Central Park where my dog was attacked by another dog.

6) Did you have to do a huge amount of world building beforehand in order to create New York in 2083?

World-building has become such a buzz word, hasn’t it? An aside: sometimes, readers/reviewers lose sight of the fact that a realist book with a contemporary setting has to have its world built, too. That every book, whether it’s set in the future or not, is a created world. In any case, I would say I did slightly more than the usual amount of world-building for me. But yeah, I looked at everything in my city and imagined what would happen if everything got a little worse every year instead of a little better. What would happen if the economy never improved, and we stopped funding the parks and the museums and the libraries and basically everything I like the most in the world?

7) What kind of research did you need to carry out before writing All These Things I’ve Done?
I studied Prohibition, cacao production, the proposition to legalize marijuana in California, floorplans of New York City apartments and Catholic schools, and various books where scientists predict what the future will be like. And then I paid attention to what suited me and ignored what didn’t.

8) Do you try and aim for a daily word target when writing?
Not really. My only goal is to write at least one beautiful/clever/original/truthful thing a day. The world doesn’t need 2,000 mediocre words from me.

9) Do you edit as you go along or do you wait until the first draft is finished?
I edit as I go along. I start every day by reading everything I’ve written on a project – until, that is, I get too far into the book and then I’ll just read the last couple of chapters. Invariably, this leads to much editing.

10) When is your ideal time to write? Morning, afternoon or evening?
When it is quiet. Both, in my head and in my house. I try never to check my e-mail or go online before I start writing because there is too much to distract me there. Some people are excellent multitaskers; I am not one of those people.

11) Are there any plans for you to come to the UK for a book signing this year?
Not at this moment, but I love the UK and get there on occasion for fun and clothes shopping.

12) Which authors inspired you whilst growing up?
May I take a moment to appreciate your use of the word whilst? Whilst growing up, I remember being inspired by books where a resourceful, not conventionally attractive girl –preferably an orphan – wanted to be a writer. We are talking Little Women or Anne of Green Gables or A Little Princess.

13) If you could have written any other book in the world, what would it be?
Oh, a question like this pains me. I love so many books, but I don’t wish to have written them. It’s like asking me to be a different person. I will say that the only thing I envy in other writers is occasionally the response that their books have brought out from readers.

14) What are you working on right now?
An adult novel. It’s going rather well. I haven’t wanted to quit so far. And I just finished a screenplay, an adaptation of a very old novel set in China.

15) What advice would you give unpublished authors?
Write the book you must write that no one else can write. Getting published is a goal, but it is not the only goal worth having. Invest in a decent desk chair – the importance of this cannot be understated.

16) Is there anything you would like to say to your UK fans?
Thanks to everyone who has written me about Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and Elsewhere over the years! The letters from the UK are often my favourites.
To find out more about Gabrielle Zevin:
Twitter: @gabriellezevin


  1. To write a screenplay does sound hard..but I guess when you lea it gets easier :)

  2. I think Sisterspooky looks like Gabrielle - is it just me?


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