November 13, 2009

Behind the Book: If I Stay

I have the scoop behind one of the best books this year! If you haven't read it you should! (See my review here) Gayle Foreman is the wonderful author and she was so awesome, that she answered my BTB questions:

How did you come up with the story?

Mia just arrived in my head one day, fully formed, a cellist. I am not a musician. I am certainly not a cellist. I don't think I've ever picked up a cello bow, but there she was. The premise of the story was sort of in answer to a question/obsession I'd had: What would you do if something catastrophic happened to your family and you were left hanging between life and death and were somehow aware of what had happened to your family? If you could somehow choose—stay living or go with your family—what would you do? So I've thought about this for YEARS. Then all of a sudden, poof, Mia is in my head, ready to answer that question.

Does it have to do with your life?

All books do. The accident that is at the core of the book has to do with my life, though not my own life, and the whole rock and roll element comes from my years in Oregon. In an early draft, I named Adam Nick, which is my husband's name. I don't think you can write a grocery list without it being autobiographical.

How long did the book take to write?

7 years—and 3 months. Seven years to obsess on the idea, and three months once Mia arrived in my head to get out a draft. (WOW!)

What other books influenced?

Every book I read—especially books I love—influence me. I think I absorb the good ones osmotically and the bad ones, I sort of think, STAY AWAY. Don't make the mistake the author did. It's why reading is so important for writers.

Can you read other books during the writing process?

I can't not be reading during my life. I always have some book working. That said, because of the aforementioned osmosis thing, I am careful not to read anything remotely similar to what I'm working on. It can be too distracting. So I'll try to read more adult fiction when I'm working on a YA novel. Gotta read the adult books sometimes.

How has the book changed your life so far?

Mostly in that it has given me faith that I might be able to keep doing this, keep writing books. I think every writer lives in fear that the awesome privilege of writing books will be taken away, which given the climate in publishing today, is not unfounded. So to have a book that people pay attention to, embrace, read, is like insurance that I'll get to write another one. Indeed, I am working on the next one, so I've been doing less journalism, more fiction, which is nice because I prefer it and also it's easier with small children. With fiction you can work wherever, whenever. With journalism, you're always trying to do an interview and detach a clingy toddler from your lap at the same time.

Why do you write YA?

Because I am drawn to stories about young people and in today's market that means you write YA. Because I am in arrested development and am still sixteen. Because I am very lucky.

What are your favorite books?

I can't ever narrow it down to favorite books. So I can give you four favorite books I've read recently, all YA or middle grade. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Hold Still by Nina LaCour. Those are all 2009 releases. And I just read The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, which comes out next year and is fantastic.

Name 3 YA book that you would call a must-read.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (for the two people out there who haven't read it) I love Twilight. I also think it's good for budding writers to read from a publishing standpoint, to ask why it's so effective. My take: because it's an absolutely breathless ride.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It's a classic. And if it were published today, it would be considered a middle-grade novel. So a wonderful book but also a look at how things change in terms of what constitutes children's literature.

And for the third, I'd say The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky because it typifies the wonderful sub-genre of outsider lit in YA and was a sort of breakthrough YA novel and is a cult classic, deservedly so. It's also fantastic.

There are so many others. Sloppy Firsts (the Jessica Darling novels are perfectly executed YA). The three I named as my favorites from this past year. The Hunger Games. Anything by Sarah Dessen. Harry Potter. There is so much great YA/kids' lit out there!!! Happy reading!

Wow! We have similar taste in books. Thank you so, so much Gayle!
Also, the movie for this book will be made, directed by Catherine Hardwicke; let's hope it could somehow come close to the awesomeness of the book!


  1. Great!! I cried with that book..and I was so "glue" to the pages! :) Thanks!

  2. Great interview. Her book suggestions are very strong. Thanks Gayle!

  3. Good.Well college students do steal, and the yellow line thing well why dont you just stand behind the yellow line, they want to keep open spance thats why they set up an are for a line.

  4. Great review. I can't wait to read this book and there are some good pearls in here. Thanks to both of you!

  5. I need some help with the left behind: kids book series. In our library we have every book apart from number 35 that someone lost and its really annoying, does anyone know what happens in it or where i can find out what happens? the book is Left Behind:the kids book 35 Rise of false messiahs.


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