Well, this post was supposed to go up on Friday night, but unfortunately, Blogger decided to go down for DAYS and I’ve been unable to post until very recently. So, please accept my apologies for the delay and enjoy reading my interview with Garret Freymann-Weyr.
Carly Reads: You say on the homepage of your personal website that you do not fully understand Y.A. and that it’s your perception that the majority of your readers are women in their twenties or gay men. However, your books feature teenage characters and I see “After the Moment” and “My Heartbeat” (the two books of yours that I’ve read) as containing messages and characters that have the power to make an impact on many young adults. Therefore, I’m curious: do you write your books with teenagers in mind? And do you believe that teenagers can benefit from reading your books? If not, for whom do you write your books?
GFW: I write my books with a character or an image or a vague idea in mind. I suppose I write because I love to and because I am curious. For example, in “My Heartbeat” I was curious to know what it was like to be the younger sister of a boy that you loved but didn’t know. I wrote “After The Moment” because I knew so many women who had been terrified that after 9/11 a draft would be put in place. It wasn’t, but I was curious to know what it felt like to be a boy in this country who didn’t go to war.
I NEVER think of my audience. That would be paralyzing. I would also, as it happens, despise myself (or any writer) who set out to write a novel with a message. I have no idea if teenagers can benefit from reading my books. I think everyone benefits from reading, but novels are not therapy. Neither are they instruction manuals. They are, amongst other things, a passport to your imagination. They are pure pleasure and to treat a book as a message delivery system is, I think, a crime.
Carly Reads: “After the Moment” is told from the point of view of a teenage boy who’s trying to find his way in the world and trying to discover what it takes to grow into good man. Were there unique challenges that arose when it came to writing a book from a boy’s point of view? If so, what were these challenges?
GFW: I wanted to be respectful of what I didn’t know. And even though I write about young women whose lives and personalities are foreign to my own, a shared gender gives you the illusion of commonality. So there’s a certain comfort level when approaching a female character that was missing when I began spending time with Leigh. I know a lot of smart, interesting and thoughtful men, but you don’t see them very often in YA novels. Instead, you see geniuses or video-playing lunkheads.
I wanted to explore what it was like to be a young man, thoughtful, and battling one’s own surging hormones. I’m not a huge fan of Caitlin Flanagan but she makes a good point in her article Love, Actually (published in The Atlantic in June. 2010 and available here).
“The wishes of girls, you have to remember, have always been among the most powerful motivators in the lives of young men. They still are.”
Leigh really wants to meet Maia’s wishes and as he struggles with his inability to do so, he becomes both more and less of himself. My challenge was to capture that struggle in a way that wove itself into the story.
Carly Reads: Your first picture book will be released in December 2011. What was it that inspired to you to venture into the picture book world? How did writing a picture book differ from writing a novel?
GFW: They are actually going to market this as a middle grade book. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe that the readers should be 8-12? Not sure. Anyway, I just wanted to tell the story about two ducks who learn that sometimes happiness contains some sorrow. It happened that their story fit into one that went well with pictures.
Carly Reads: What five books are on your list of “Books I Couldn’t Live Without”?
GFW: “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, “Mary Poppins” by P.L. Travers, “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton, “A Room With A View” (actually, I would take “Maurice” or “Howards End” if need be), “Rumors of Peace” by Ella Leffland.
Carly Reads: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Sixth Annual TBF?
GFW: Everyone and anyone!
Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers, Garret. It was such a pleasure meeting you this weekend!