Garret Freymann-Weyr is the author of My Heartbeat, Stay With Me, When I Was Older, and The Kings Are Already Here. All of these books are nothing short of brilliant! If you haven’t read them, you’re seriously missing out. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors. Really, she’s just amazing! And today, I’m very pleased to have an interview with her for you all to enjoy, and enjoy it you will! Her answers to my questions are fantastic (much like Garret herself).
You’ve written about a lot of very diverse characters, and you seem to know all of them so well. Are you like any of your characters?
No. But I do build characters by starting with a trait (for example, determination, curiosity, or fear) which I know well (either from having it or observing it in others) and exploring it. Phebe (the dancer in KINGS) and I are alike in that we both have a lot of determination, but I was a terrible dancer.
I’m a good reader though, and so I did a lot of research. I took ballet class again to remember what it felt like (it hurts), and I read everything I could get my hands on.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
My father is a writer, and I often fell asleep to the sound of his typewriter. I loved his study, which was in our dining room which was, in turn, full of bookshelves. I used to sit at my father’s desk, looking at his stacks of Foreign Affairs and the novels with their old, crumbling bindings and I felt as if I were in the center of ferocious activity.
My guess is that I always wanted to a writer, but it took me a while to figure it out.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read. Really, I can not begin to describe all the times I’ve met people who tell me that they would love to write, if only they could find the time (as if writing were a hobby, although given the quality of much of what is published, I sometimes think it is!), but if I talk to them at length it quickly becomes clear they do not read. That’s like wanting to run a marathon, but not wanting to run. Reading is the only way to learn how to write. It can’t be taught, exactly. It has to be absorbed.
I’ve heard that some authors think this is like being asked to choose a favorite child, but do you have a favorite of your books?
I have two. I love The Kings Are Already Here because it was, after the first draft, a real joy to write. Also, it taught me a lot about both writing and publishing. I love Stay With Me because in spite of its being really, really hard to write (not quite a joy), I managed to find a way to do it.
Which of your books would you most like to see made into a movie, and who do you see playing your characters?
Here is the thing: I’m very old fashioned, and I believe in books precisely because they do what movies, for the most part, do not – books invite you to think. So, other than the potential for making some money, I don’t have a burning desire to see any of my books made into movies. It’s kind of the way I feel about going to Egypt one day. Yeah, sure, I would be thrilled to go, but I’m not learning Arabic or saving money for tickets. Does that make sense?
What can readers look forward to next from you, and what are you working on now (if that’s different)?
I have no idea what I’m working on now – which is often the case when I start something. Next spring, my new novel, After the Moment, will be published by Houghton. It’s about a young man, Leigh Hunter, and how his first experience with true love shapes the man he becomes. I think that we tend to think of young love as purely romantic – but every love places demands on us, and sometimes we can’t meet them. I was interested in a story that depicted what the consequences of that would be.
How different are the final versions of your novels from the first drafts?
My first draft goes through dramatic changes before I finish it, and then I do about 3 or 4 more before I send it to my first round of readers (my husband and father). Then I do another draft, and send it to my agent, who sends it to my editor. For whom I do another draft (this one is usually the most fun). One more draft after copy editing. Which means, I suppose, that the answer is: very different.
I’ve fallen in love with pretty much all of your characters, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Do you ever plan on doing sequels to any of your previous books?
That is very kind of you to say. I do not have any plans for sequels. I tend to think that, fantasy series and Little House books aside, a sequel usually signifies a failure of imagination. Although, A.S. Byatt wrote four books about the same set of characters and she is a literary genius, so what do I know?
Why do you write for young adults?
I have no idea. I used to say that I loved the voice – the way a teenage voice goes from 12 to 35 in the space of a minute – but I’m not as confident in that reason any longer. When I come up with some kind of answer that strikes me as truthful and at least close to articulate, I will let you know.
Your books contain some controversial subject matter (such as Leila’s relationship with a much older man). To your knowledge, have they ever been challenged or banned, and if so, what’s your reaction to that?
I should start by saying that I do not think Leila and Eamon’s relationship was controversial. Lots of young women find themselves entangled with older men. It happens. And in Leila’s case, it turned out to be a really good thing.
But, yes, one of my books has been both banned and challenged. My Heartbeat, which has two bisexual boys in it, is often on lists of books that libraries and or schools ban. My reaction tends to run in the direction of pity. I do not believe that people who ban books understand what they fear. People who ban books about gay people are usually upset about a culture that embraces choice. Or a culture that allows for secular thinking. But they think they are against homosexuality without thinking through what it is about gayness that upsets them. And that makes me sad for them.
Is there any question you wish I’d asked you or anything else you’d like to say?
Nothing except for how much I admire your energy for and support of books. Thanks for asking me to answer these.
Thank you so much, Garret!