As Gayle Forman's Fairy Blogmother (don't you love it?), I am excited to bring you the first of two interviews in relation to her sophmore YA novel, If I Stay.
Where did the idea of If I Stay originate from?
That should be an easy answer, but it isn't. The book sort of came to me in a flash and I wrote it very, very quickly without having to do much plotting or the usual amount of heavy-duty revising. It pulls from various aspects of my life and was inspired by all sorts of things—music, Oregon, friends who I love, my husband who I love, a real-life tragedy. I guess all these things were percolating and then one day Mia popped into my mind, fully formed.
How difficult was it to make Mia and Adam's relationship realistic (rather than the typical cliche)?
I write the kind of love stories that make me feel melty inside. So as I'm writing, if I'm into the love story, if I'm I feeling the swoon of the characters, then I know it's working. If I'm not? Well, then there's trouble on a bunch of levels, the primary one being that I don't want to write a love story that I don't want to experience as I'm writing it (and who the hell wants to experience a cliched love story?) I guess I do the equivalent of method acting as I write. So in the case of IF I STAY, I was feeling the love of Mia and Adam as I was writing it, and I kind of liked what I was feeling so I had a sense that the relationship was working. But I tell you, some things surprised me. When Adam tells Mia to play him like an instrument. I know this sounds weird, but I was as initially surprised by that request as Mia was. That's the crazy, great thing about writing. Sometimes your characters will come up with things that you yourself NEVER would dream of.
Why the cello?
Yeah! Right? I have no idea. That's what I mean when I say Mia popped into my head, fully formed. And she was a cellist. In my last novel, the heroine was a guitar player, and that made sense. Guitar players, I know. I'm married to one. But cellists? Classical musicians? I had no idea. But it seemed right to who this quiet, deliberate person was. She arrived a cellist. And then I had to learn about the cello in order to do her justice.
The first chapter is very important in order to establish many relationships before everything falls apart. Was that a difficult chapter to write?
On the contrary. That chapter was delightful to write. A happy family having breakfast together. They're all having such a good time, all so grateful to have this reprieve of a snow day together. They have this nice jokiness with one another. I hope this how my children behave with me when they're older.
You mentioned to me that people tend to see Gramps or Teddy as the star of the book. Why do you think that is the case?
It's not no much that people see them as the stars of the book—Mia is the star of the book– so much as the emotional catalysts, or more specifically, when people really cried. And it seemed to be generational. People who had children tended to cry more for Teddy-related things. People who didn't have children, it tended to be thinking about their beloved grandfathers. MInd you, this was mainly adult women we're talking about. I think for teenagers it might different. Teenagers who have little brothers might find Teddy pretty familiar.
Falling Slowly heavily influenced the writing of this novel. Why that song? How?
I don't really know. I'd seen the movie Once around the time I wrote IF I STAY, and I didn't find the film terribly sad, though I loved it. I loved the music though. And I got the sound track immediately and listened to it a lot. And I found myself playing "Falling Slowly" before I wrote and the song just made me feel emotional. It would kick start something in me and I'd start to cry. And then I'd feel all juiced up and in the right emotional space to write. It was like this perfect song to transition me from my daily life—getting my kid off to school, cleaning up cat puke off the floor and all that—and into the dreamy world of Mia.
Your book is in the early stages of a film deal, who do you envision in the cast?
(We conducted this first interview back in January, a few days after the movie deal with Summit, pre-Catherine Hardwicke even being rumoured as attached.)
Kristen Stewart, when I first saw her, looked spookily like how I'd pictured Mia in my head and at first I had fantasies of her playing the part. But that was before Twilight came out (and before it looked like Catherine Hardwicke would direct If I Stay) so now, other than her being busy for the next decade being Bella, I sort of feel like Kristen's so identified with Bella, so I'm over that obsession. As for Adam, hmm, if he could lose the twang, Zach Gilford who plays Matt Saracen on Friday Night Lights, him I could see. I think he's another one of those actors well into their twenties playing teen but somehow I think he could make the transition from jock to indie rock guy. But the truth of the matter is, there are dozens of talented young actors who I've never heard of that I'm sure would be amazing. I'm obsessed with the actor Emile Hirsch these days and I never even heard of him until I saw Into the Wild and then Milk and now he's one of my favorites.
Would you like to tell us what you next project is?
I'm finishing up a new novel that I believe is slated for publication in the fall of 2010. I decided to do something completely different from IF I STAY. This book is about the ultimate, beautiful, popular indulged bitch—and the transformation that sends her to the bottom of the social ladder and leads to her own sort of spiritual awakening. It's a comedy. And a romance. And my attempt to turn that whole genre of Mean-Girl lit (Gossip Girls et al) on its ear.
Thanks Gayle for allowing me to throw questions at you. Be sure to come back tomorrow to see what's up with the movie, Gayle's casting suggestions and more on her current project.