Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jeannine Garsee - Author of Before, After, and Somebody In Between

Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Jeannine Garsee. She's the author of "Before, After, and Somebody In Between." Her novel, is a compelling story of a fourteen year old girl, who is trying to follow her dreams to a life beyond the cycle of poverty into which she was born. Martha, the protagonist, aspires to become an accomplished cellist. She yearns to attend the Julliard School of Music in New York City, but her alcoholic mother dashes her dream of success and a better life. She insists that her daughter accept the circumstances of their dysfunctional life, and that she let go of any possibility of realizing her talent.

This book is a great young adult novel. It shows how parents lacking desire and ambition in life -- regardless of wealth or status-- can poison their children’s potential. For better or worse most early teens are deeply influenced by their parents, and still others are consumed by their family’s problems not of their own making.

The author, Jeannine Garsee, is an RN in an inner city hospital and a self-acknowledge people watcher. She’s fascinated by the complexities of the human condition, both the good, and the bad, and she fells lucky to have a career in which she comes into contact with people from all walks of life.

'BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN,’ is her first YA novel and is being published by Bloomsbury. It is set for release in July 2007.

E. I. Good Afternoon! Thanks for stopping by, Ms. Garsee. Would you kindly tell your readers how did your debut novel 'Before, After, and Somebody in Between' get written? Is it inspired creativity, or a more disciplined hard work approach, with detailed outlines, scheduled writing times?

J. Garsee : I did not use an outline when I wrote this story. I always consider my first draft my “outline.” I’m kind of quirky in the sense that if I veer from the outline, I feel as if I’m doing something “wrong”—which is silly, of course. But I prefer to start at the beginning and see where the story ends up...kind of like watching a movie, with no clue how it ends. This is actually a very disorganized way to write. I envy authors who can outline their stories from beginning to end, thereby avoiding certain pitfalls (like freaky time warps!). But I do thrive on chaos.

Because I work full-time, my writing time is carefully plotted out. I find it difficult to write for only brief periods, so I generally wait till I have a day off and then dive into a marathon. It’s nothing for me to write for two days straight, six or eight hours each day, and then write absolutely nothing for two or three days.

I’d like to say I’m an “inspired” writer, and I guess I was when I was writing the first few drafts of Before/After. Once the story was sold, however, and I needed to do serious revisions with my editor, I learned to organize my time and actually write in a serious way. Now that I’m working on a second novel, that experience has served me well. I can no longer wait to be “inspired”—I have to sit down and make myself writer whether or not I feel I’m in the mood. Now writing is more than pleasure—it’s a business.

E. I. It seems that you have a fully fleshed-out, “real” characters can you explain that to your readers?

J. Garsee : I’m a people watcher. I’m fascinated by humanity, the good and the bad. I’m lucky to have a job where I come into contact with people from all walks of life, and I pay very close attention and try to remember details. I’m also in love with the English language, with different dialects and speech patterns, and I try to incorporate much of this into my characters. Once the characters are created, however, their personalities seem to take off on their own. Sometimes all I can do is sit back and go, “Wow!”

E. I. Can you tell your readers a little bit about Martha and what we should expect?

J. Garsee : Martha is a smart, passionate, quirky fourteen-year-old, stuck in poverty with a crazy, alcoholic mom, and her mom’s obnoxious boyfriend, Wayne. A talented cellist, she dreams of one day attending Juilliard and becoming a professional musician—but as her mom likes to point out, a “white trash” girl from the ghetto has NO change to succeed. At home, she’s overwhelmed by her mom’s drinking and Wayne’s volatile behavior; at school she’s mercilessly harassed by the school bully. Only her music and her two best friends help keep her sane.

Then, after a fatal drive-by shooting for which she blames herself, Martha abruptly “switches” families, hides her past, and invents a fabulous, alternate identity—an identity that becomes harder and harder to maintain as it dawns on her that her new family isn’t “perfect” after all, and that she’s not the only person hiding a terrible secret.

E. I. Who are some of the authors you keep returning to as a reader because of their ability to create vivid, three-dimensional characters?

J. Garsee : Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of this. She’s brilliant!

E. I. Why write for teens? Did you write your book specifically for the teen fiction shelves?

J. Garsee : Originally this novel was written as mainstream, but on the advice of an agent I once met at a writers conference, I revised it into a YA. Now I’m addicted. It’s like I’m reliving my teen years all over again—only this time I can say whatever I WANT to say!

E. I. What writers, if any, have influenced your work in YA fiction genre? And what writers who have not influenced you do you continue to read solely for pleasure?

J. Garsee : I’m not sure than anyone in particular “influenced” me. I’m very partial to authors who write in the first person, present-tense, the way this novel is written. I enjoy very contempory, in-your-face styles, and gritty material—Laurie Halse Anderson and E.R. Frank come to mind, but these are only two of many examples. sI’m also a new fan of Patrick Jones and recently had the privlege of reading an ARC of his latest, “Chasing Tailights,” which I loved. And as a member of the Class of 2k7 ( the link is: ) a group of debut authors whose middle-grade and YA novels are all being published this year, I’m also reading their novels, e.g. “Story of a Girl” by Sara Zarr, “Prom Dates from Hell” by Rosemary Clement-Moore, and “So Not the Drama” by Paula Chase—three very different books, and all of them fantastic.

E. I. What can fans look forward from you in the coming months?

J. Garsee : Right now I’m finishing up a second YA novel, something very different from Before/After.

E. I. What is your favorite thing about being a writer? And what is your least favorite thing?

J. Garsee : My favorite thing is the release writing gives me—I’m able to completely escape into a world of my own creation, and I’m totally in control, unlike real life. The least favorite thing is that my time is so limited and I’m not able to spend as much time writing as I’d like. I’m forced to discipline myself, which isn’t always easy.

E. I. What are your long term plans as a writer?

J. Garsee : Eventually I’d like to write full time. I’m not sure if this will ever be possible, so I’m still thinking of it as a dream rather than an actual goal. My “plan” is write diligently, establish a fan base, and hopefully get a new book out there every couple of years. We’ll see!

E. I. Would you like to close the interview with any of your writing tip to other young aspiring authors?

J. Garsee : The number one thing is to learn ALL YOU CAN about the writing craft as well as the publishing business. Look for feedback for your writing from people other than your friends and family, people who will be honest with you about the quality of your work. "Hone your skills." The competition is unbelievably stiff, so whatever you submit has to be perfect. Most importantly, don’t give up too quickly; rejections are hard, but even though a hundred agents say “no” there is always that next one who might say yes.

E.I. Thanks again for dropping by and giving us the opportunity to get to know you better. Good luck with your novel.

J. Garsee : Well, Thank you very much for having me.

Jeannine Garsee Myspace:

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