I'm honoured to be joined today by the wonderful and extremely talented Emily Gale, author of the moving and adorable YA contemporary novel, Girl Out Loud.
If you missed my review of Girl Out Loud click here, or simply scroll down a bit (it's the post below this one).
1. Welcome to Bookish Emily! Thank you so much for being one of the guests during the Contemporary Fiction Month feature! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Hi Evie, thanks for inviting me to be part of this feature. A little bit about me: I’ve worked in the book industry since leaving university; first as an editor, then finding new talent for a literary agent and now as a book buyer for a gorgeous independent bookstore in Melbourne, Australia, where I’ve lived for four years. I’m originally from London. I have two children and two cats. I can’t drive. I’m a tea snob. I have a quick temper but a good sense of humour. I’m constantly surprised by how old I am (37) (crazy) (how did this happen?).
2. Your recently published YA novel, Girl Out Loud, has made a huge impression on me! It was funny, emotional and very meaningful, and I had a wonderful time following Kass' story! Could you tell us who or what inspired you to write it?
I started writing it in 2006 when I was 8 months’ pregnant with my second child. I knew I had one more month before things got really crazy in my house so I decided to try NaNoWriMo. I got to 35k words and then, being approximately the size of a blue whale, gave myself a rest to have the baby and get settled. I’m not sure I ever got settled but eventually I did finish the first draft.
At that time there were a few British celebrities beginning to talk about how bipolar disorder had affected their lives, so it was becoming part of public dialogue. But I wanted to write a story about how a disorder like that might affect an average family. My great-grandfather had bipolar disorder, possibly triggered by serving in WW1, and his illness had a profound affect on everyone, especially my grandmother who was a wonderfully unique woman quietly suffering with her own mental health demons while she lived a bold but difficult life. So mental health is something that my family have coped with in various ways and I felt it was a subject I could write about with conviction. However, something else that’s a hallmark of my family is using humour to cope with just about any situation so I knew I wanted to make this a funny book as well as an emotional journey.
The X Factor was big in the UK and I remember being struck by a few early auditions - the ones in which the parents seemed to have so much more invested than the children who were auditioning. You know the type - the ones who would march in and demand justice after Simon Cowell had told their tuneless kid to find a new career. I wanted to create a situation where it was the parent who was desperate for their child to live out some dream of theirs. On the other hand I didn’t want Kass, my main character, to be a pushover - it had to be more complicated than that. I wanted to like her and understand why she made the choices she made.
3. Could you share with us your favourite quote from Girl Out Loud?
I think my favourite scene is when Kass is leaning out of her parents’ bedroom window trying to flirt with the boy she likes (who is out of bounds because her best friend likes him too). While she’s talking to him she’s cursing herself inside, and she uses a newspaper headline style to do this.
“Guess I’ll see you Friday,” he says.
“Really? Why’s that?”
“I’m one of the bouncers for that party. Your dad asked me.”
GIRL ASPHYXIATES SELF WITH SHEER CURTAIN.
“Oh, right! Awesome, that’s . . . awesome.”
GIRL FOUND FACEDOWN IN VERY SHALLOW POOL OF ENTHUSIASM.
“He said you were going to be singing.”
“That’s the plan. Dad’s plan, that is. I’m not exactly very good.”
GIRL CRUSHED TO DEATH BY MASSIVE UNDERSTATEMENT.
“I bet you’re just being modest. My band might do the X Factor thing, too. Just talked with your dad about it — he’s a cool guy, figures we should all just go for it. He’s so positive, you know?”
What is my dad up to now? Is he going to lead the entire population of local teenagers down to the X Factor auditions like the Pied Piper?
“Um, I guess that’s one word for it. He can be kind of a pain.”
“Yeah, well, what would I know? He’s your dad. I haven’t even seen mine since I was two.”
GIRL SMASHES SKULL AFTER TOPPLING OUT OF SECOND-FLOOR WINDOW WHILE TRYING TO RETRIEVE PREVIOUS SENTENCE.
4. What would you say is the most important quality your characters possess?
It’s Kass’s sense of humour that carries her through. She can be self-deprecating but I think she quite likes herself really, and that’s important. Even though she messes up a few times, I think she has a fiercely loyal streak.
5. Have you always wanted to be a writer? At what point in your life did you decide that writing is something you want to do?
I always wanted to write fiction but I also had big plans to leave home after university and live with friends in London, so writing didn’t really fit in with that because of a really inconvenient thing called money. What a pain. So I became a children’s book editor instead. It was a career I loved and it was a great help when I had my children because it meant I could work from home. I’ll always write, but like the majority of writers I need to supplement my income. I’ve just started working in a bookshop - choosing all the children’s and YA stock - which feels like the missing piece in my publishing career.
6. How did you get your first publishing deal and how did that feel?
I’d written a few pre-school books during my freelance career so I knew what it was like to have my name on the front of a book, but getting the contract from Chicken House felt like it was a long time coming and I had a huge sense of relief apart from anything else. I was so invested in the whole process of becoming published that it felt like I was finally validated - but that feeling doesn’t tend to last, I’m afraid. In this business I think lots of authors, myself included, are always looking for the next sign that they’re doing a good job or deserve to be here - that can be really crippling, I find. We have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s the writing of each book that matters most. I keep rediscovering that all the time. It’s like writer’s amnesia.
7. How do you approach writing a new novel? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m definitely a pantser for a first draft but I recognise the need for multiple drafts - it’s rarely before draft three that the story I’m actually trying to write takes shape. So although GIRL OUT LOUD started as a NaNoWriMo book it was during drafts two and three that the real story was teased out. Input from one of my beta readers, Caroline Green (who has a brilliant new dystopian novel out called Cracks), and additionally from an editorial report I got from Hilary Johnson Author’s Advisory Service were crucial along the way, as were some key changes that my agent, Louise Burns, encouraged me to make. It always helps to get an alternative perspective.
I did try to write a book by plotting it more carefully from the start, pinning down my ideas early, and that’s probably the novel I’m least happy with - so even though my way of doing things can feel arduous, it works for me.
8. What's next in line for you? Are you working on a new book now?
I’ve just signed two new contracts for very different books. One is a diary for girls aged 5-8 (I hope boys will like it too but let’s not open that tired old can o’ worms right now) which is about a really funny girl called Harrie who invents things with her disorganised but genius dad. It’s full of funny drawings, too, but I don’t do those - someone who can actually draw does! I just do the sketches for the artist to work from. My sketches range from embarrassing to unidentifiable but luckily the artist can turn them into something cute and hilarious.
The other book is for teens and it’s set in Melbourne. It’s about three generations of women and how decisions that were made in the 1950s for girls who found themselves pregnant with no partner has had a profound effect on this family. The main character is Hannah, who is really unsure of herself at fifteen and keeps getting pulled in different directions by the strong characters around her - so her coming-of-age journey is about taking charge of her life instead of being lead by others. It’s much more serious in tone than Girl Out Loud but I think that’s just me - one minute I’m doing this, the next I’m doing that. It’s probably a really bad idea in terms of building a career but that’s who I am.
9. Which three of your favourite contemporary books would you recommend everybody to read?
I’ve just finished Cracks by Caroline Green, who I mentioned earlier. I don’t usually read dystopian thrillers but I absolutely loved this. The main character is Cal, aged 14, and he’s simply gorgeous; I was glued to his story about lost identity.
I can’t go more than a few days without recommending Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon. I would like to be buried with that book, please.
I read a lot of adult fiction as well as YA. Sometimes I come across a book that I think would work as a crossover - I’d put Jasper Jones in that category for older teens and fans of YA in general. I was reading that book in the bath a couple of years ago and I was so engrossed that I stayed in there until the water went stone cold. Sorry if that’s a horrible image for your readers but it’s true.
10. If your book had a soundtrack to accompany it, what songs would be on it?
‘Other Side of the World’ by KT Tunstall is mentioned in the book. It’s about a long-distance relationship but I thought it related to Kass and her dad - or indeed her entire family - really well. They’re all in the same house but they might as well be on different planets and the distance is killing them. My US editor Siobhan McGowan introduced me to Florence and the Machine and I think there are quite a few songs that Kass would love and that relate to her life, especially ‘Dog Days’ and ‘Rabbit Heart’.
Music has become a really important way for me to switch between books if I’m editing one and writing the first draft of another, for example. I’m in the middle of writing a new book and absolutely cannot work on it unless I listen to The Cure (especially ‘Caterpillar Girl’) or Aimee Mann (especially ‘Ghost World’). I’m basically a Pavlov’s dog.
11. Do you have a favourite contemporary fiction character/couple?
Jaclyn Moriarty’s characters are always a joy to read; Bindy, Lydia, Emily, Cassie...etc - I read her books the second they come out and then go into a period of mourning as I realise I’ll have to wait months and months for the next one. More recently I loved the very gutsy Mim from All I Ever Wanted, which is a brilliant YA book by Australian writer Vikki Wakefield. And without a doubt my favourite recent couple are Ed and Lucy from Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon. The build-up to their romance is so intense I had to have a little lie-down afterwards.
Emily, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us here today! I'm looking forward to reading your next books!
About the author:Emily Gale currently lives in Melbourne with her partner, children and cats - two of each. Well, two children and two cats but just the one long-suffering partner. Before that she was a freelance writer in London, publishing a fictional magazine column and several picture books including Doctor Pig and the Just Josie series. This was not long after she gave birth extremely loudly on the living room floor, and then wandered about in a daze for months wondering how on earth other women did this. In the phase before that she was slightly more glamorous - well, she wore heels and had time to do her make-up, at least - working as an editor, mainly of children’s books, including a period that she refers to very mysteriously as “the Peter Rabbit Years”. That time was preceded by her reading English at the University of Sussex and getting a taste for editing by working on student magazines. She also got a taste for taking a midnight dip in the English Channel. Pre-uni she was a bit of a groupie who was always falling in love with guitar-playing, long-haired boys. As a school-girl in lurid purple uniform she studied hard by day and wrote toe-curlingly bad poetry by night, which is now safely buried in a locked box on a tiny archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean. Her toddler years are marked by the nickname “Kojak”, because she didn’t have any hair. She did have a temper, though, and didn’t speak to her mother for two whole weeks when her baby brother was brought home from the hospital. And before any of this happened she was born on a snowy day in London, in 1975, and the possibilities were endless.
Scholastic Canada has generously offered to give away one hardcover copy of Girl Out Loud.OPEN TO: Canada onlyEnds: July 10thTo enter:Be a follower of this blogEnter via rafflecopter below:
This Interview + Giveaway was posted as part of the Contemporary Fiction Month feature. Click on the picture for full schedule.