Can you tell us a little about how The Pull of Gravity came to be? I know that the whole plot line of Nick's dad walking back to Manhattan is based on truth, and of course progeria is a real disorder, and being 15 sucks, but how you decide all these things needed to be in one story all together?
The truth is that the “how” of it all coming together is a bit of a mystery to me, Christi.
I knew I wanted to write a character-driven piece of contemporary YA fiction with a male protagonist. I have two boys and I’ve always liked boys. Boys are good. J But, also, there’s a directness about them and a simultaneous inability (refusal?) to communicate, at least with teenage boys. Like they want to, but stop themselves. It’s an interesting dichotomy to me. As for Nick, my MC, he came to me after I read that article about the obese guy (“Fatmanwalking”) who hoofed it from California to NY to lose weight. I kept wondering about his family. What about his wife and kids? What did they do while he set out for more than a year to walk across the country? I decided I would write a story about his fictional son whose life was rough enough before his dad walked out on some whim. That he would be your average teenage kid, longing to be a little tougher and more self-assured than he is, while he struggles to deal with all the bullsh*t that’s been handed to him.
Which is where the Scoot came into things. Nick needed someone who had it way worse than him – a reason outside of himself to push beyond his usual limits. The Scoot was that reason. He was modeled on a 15-yr-old boy with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome I’d read an interview of, who was basically about to die. He was so matter-of-fact about his life and had this indomitable spirit that rose right off the page. He died shortly after the interview. I knew the Scoot would be a character who could push Nick outside his own constraints, to demand he be more for his friends than he could ever be for himself.
And, last, I wanted a love interest and a bit of a foil, which is where Jaycee came in. I created Jaycee of whole cloth, as the polar opposite of Nick -- quirky, bold, snarky, self-assured, full of energy and life. The kind of girl you would contagiously love (and follow anywhere) despite her oddball ways.
But how to test this? Well, I figured what better way to see if Jaycee was enough of a salesperson than have her sell a boring* old classic novel that kids are still required to read in school! That’s where Of Mice and Men came into things. I wanted to see if Jaycee could do it, while, at the same time, making my own small statement about the nature of classic literature and why it is just that: classic.
Did I even answer your question? J
*clarification: I, personally, do NOT think Of Mice and Men is boring, but you get the gist…
What kind of research did you do for this story?
Of course, I did some research on Progeria, but mostly what I did was endless mapping, and coordinating of how long and how far a very fat person could walk in a day multiplied by a month, keeping track from a fictional upstate NY town (about a half hour from Albany around, say, Saratoga) to New York City, checking mileage and landmarks at points (I also had to map out the distance from Albany to Rochester and the streets of Rochester, even though most of the landmarks in Rochester are fictional). My husband would walk by the living room and laugh at all the Rochester and Albany maps I had printed up from Google maps that were spread out before me, especially because I’m not so good at that stuff in real life. Lastly, I researched that first edition of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men learning about the little quirks that make it so valuable (which Jaycee explains to Nick in the book).
Why trolls and Slinkys? I like both as toys, but I don't think it's ever occurred to me to accessorize with them.
Why indeed? Once Jaycee came to life, she pretty much dictated her wardrobe to me, right down to the suicidal Hello Kitty.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In order of appearance from childhood to college: gymnast, actress, medical examiner (um, I liked the show Quincy), advertising executive.
What have you read and loved recently (YA or not)?
This year it’s been mostly YA: Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco Stork; Someday this Pain Will be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron; Between the Miles, by Mary E. Pearson; OyMG, by Amy Fellner Dominy (soon to be released), and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by David Levithan and John Green.
Can you describe a typical writing day? Do you have any must-do's while you're writing--coffee, chocolate, silence, TV?
It’s changed over time, but since I got my book deal, if I don’t have my “paid”* work on a given day, I basically try to spend the first few hours of the morning working on whatever book is in progress. My only at-home must is that I really do write in silence. I’m not one of those people that have a soundtrack or can work with lots of noise around me. And, of course my other must: I swim almost every day which is really an extension of my writing. A lot of my story ideas come to me when I am underwater. My muse is apparently a water nymph.
*I still work at my part-time divorce mediation practice. It’s the source that pays the big bills.
Can you tell us a little about what it's like being part of the Class of 2k11? How you found each other, how the authors provide support, etc.
I found the group through pure serendipity. My first agent had a client who was a member of Class of 2k10 so she suggested it to me. And I’m ever-grateful. The 2K classes date back to 2007 (with Jay Asher and Rebecca Stead coming out of past classes, to name a few) and serve a two-fold purpose: the first is joint marketing and promotion efforts, and we’re doing a great job. Most notably, during BEA week in NYC this year (May 23- 26) we have a blitz of events set up which I’m totally excited about (check the Class of 2K11 website (http://www.classof2k11.com/) as the dates near). But secondly, we are huge moral support for one another. The publishing business is in a great state of flux right now, and there’s a lot you don’t know when you get that first, elusive deal. It’s been amazing to have others to ride the daily rollercoaster with . . . and our group has hit it off particularly well. We’re full of gushy affection and daily ridiculousness. The Class of 2K11 is a good, good thing.
(I'm so excited to hear this, as I'll be at BEA for the first time this year!)
Would you tell us a little about your road to publication?
It was long.
What? You want more than that?
Okay, fine. Very long. J
What do you like to do when you’re not reading or writing?
I’m an avid swimmer and last summer was my first season of Open Water swimming. From end of May – October, I wade out early every morning with a hard-core group of OWS’ers into the harbors of the Long Island Sound. It’s addictive. And, except for the jellyfish, it’s total bliss.
I’m also a bit facebook happy. I spend too much time there.
And finally, can you tell us about any current projects you're working on?
I’m working on two YA manuscripts – both very different from one another – and am going back in for some new revisions on my second women’s fiction manuscript called Swim Back to Me, that has received some great editorial feedback but hasn’t been picked up yet.
Thanks for the interview and blog space, Christi!
Thank you, Gae, for taking the time to stop by! I wish you the best of luck with The Pull of Gravity, and perhaps I'll get to meet you at BEA!
Enjoy your reading!