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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interview with Jody Gehrman, author of Babe in Boyland & Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft

Jody Gehrman, author of the recently released Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, joins us today to talk a bit about writing books and plays, the publishing world, and why chocolate should always come with peanut butter.
Check it out below, and make sure to stop back by tomorrow for my reviews of Audrey's Guide and Babe in Boyland! =)

Your current book, Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, is very obviously the start to a series - how many books do you have planned for Audrey's story/world?

It's planned as a trilogy. I'm working on Book II right now and I'm having way too much fun with it. I'm not sure why, but so far it's one of my favorite books ever to write. I feel like I'm completely immersed in Audrey's world.

You also write plays; has the play/act structure or the visual aspects of plays helped in your novel writing?

I think writing plays before I wrote novels really helped define my style, for better or worse. Plays are all about dialogue; it's your only tool. I'd like to think writing plays hones my dialogue skills so when I go back to novels that muscle is stronger. Plays are much more communal by nature, too. You usually work with the director and cast; that helps fight the solitude of writing novels. When you see a play performed you get to feel what the audience feels; you know when a joke falls flat, when a kiss or a monologue moves people. With novels, you have a huge space between you and your readers; only through reviews and emails do you know what they're thinking. But novels help me reach a wider audience, and I get a bigger canvas to paint on. I can delve into setting and pack in all kinds of sensory details. For me it's ideal moving back and forth between the two forms. I call it "cross-genre pollination." My work in one form inspires and strengthens my work in the other.

If you could only write one or the other - plays or novels - for the rest of your life, which would you go with?

Ohhhh noooo! Don't make me choose. You're too cruel. I really couldn't. That's like "do you want peanut butter or chocolate?" I must have both!

Working in so many different styles/genres, how do you decide what type of story you want to tell next, and whether you want it to be in novel or play format?

That's a great question. I find plays really help me bond with other artists, much more so than novels, so one way of answering that is to say when I feel lonely I turn my attention to plays, but that's not about the writing so much as the development/production aspect. When a story comes to me in dramatic scenes, it feels like a play. If I hear the character in my head telling me her internal monologue and I see a setting that begs to be described, I'd tend to try that as a novel.

You've gone the traditional publisher route with some of your books, and the indie route with others, like Audrey's. Was this a conscious decision on your part, or just how things happened to work out?

The choice to go indie with Audrey was a mixture of happenstance and opportunity. My first six novels were published by traditional houses (Penguin's Dial Books published all my YA titles and before that I was with Red Dress Ink, an imprint of Harlequin). My agent submitted Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft to a variety of publishers, and when she didn't find a home for it right away, we talked about the pros and cons of going indie. Since I'd been tied up with contracts for almost a decade, it felt like a good time to experiment with doing my own thing. It's a whole new world, and publishing is changing every day; I figured doing this would keep me current. I don't know if I can ever make a living with indie publishing, but I'm learning a lot about the business and I love having control over every aspect of design and marketing. It's very empowering.

How would you say the two compare (control over your work, publicity, etc.)?

Traditional publishing is like living with your parents. You don't always get to call the shots, but they take care of you. You're unlikely to starve under their roof, anyway. Indie publishing means striking out on your own, and it comes with all the pros and cons of that. Most of us don't move out of our parents' house into a mansion. Sometimes indie publishing feels a lot like couch surfing, eating ramen--that sort of thing. But there's something scrappy and fun about designing one's own cover and creating one's own marketing plan. If nothing else, you really start to appreciate all the things your parents did for you!

What would be the most convenient witchy power to have?

The Witch's Wardrobe, a spell Audrey learns. You can conjure the perfect outfit to match any mood. I think that would be so fabulous!

Least convenient?

Mindreading. I don't think I want to know.

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