Wednesday, May 16, 2007

STUCK IN THE 70s by Debra Garfinkle

Marlene P.: Do you remember writing the first words? Are they still the same?

Debra G.: I actually do remember writing the first words for this book. The first line was really the genesis of the book, and I think it’s a catchy one: “There’s a beautiful naked girl sitting in my bathtub.”

With my first novel, STORKY, I wrote many drafts of the first few pages. With this one, the first few pages hardly changed from the first draft to the final book. Soon after I wrote the first page, it was read aloud at a writing conference and got a lot of laughs. That really encouraged me to keep going with the manuscript.

Marlene P.: What are you working on now?

Debra G.: I’m writing the third book in a series of humorous children’s books called THE SUPERNATURAL RUBBER CHICKEN. I’m having a wonderful time writing about wacky situations involving a cranky rubber chicken, bickering twins, their smelly teacher Mrs. Crabpit, and the twins’ neglectful mother, a children’s book author obsessed with winning a Newbery Award. The first RUBBER CHICKEN book will be out in June 2008.

Marlene P.: What kind of research did you have to do for this story?

Debra G.: I did a lot of research on news events, movies, music, fashion, etc. from the fall of 1978, when STUCK IN THE 70s is set. That was fun. I also researched Albert Einstein, since one of my main characters loves him. That was fascinating. And to get the time travel theories down right, I researched physics. That was excruciating.

Marlene P.: Tell us something about you that no one knows.

Debra G.: For many years, my best friend and I collected empty toilet paper rolls from around the world. We wanted to be in The Guinness Book of World Records. When our friends and family went on vacation, they knew to bring us back a roll. We would write down the date and place on the roll. We never did write to the Guinness people. At my friend’s wedding shower years later, her parents presented her with the many, many bags of toilet paper rolls they had stored in their garage.

Marlene P.: How did you become a writer?

Debra G.: I loved to write as a child and teenager, but took the practical route and majored in economics and became a lawyer.

After practicing law for nine years (part-time for the last four years) and having two children, I was falsely diagnosed with cancer. I reevaluated my life. I quit my job, decided to have a third child, and started writing a novel (STORKY). I began it the day after I left my job, and wrote most of it while I was pregnant. Under the “write what you know” principle, there’s a pregnancy in STORKY, as well as a heroic retired lawyer.

I liked practicing law, but I LOVE being a writer.

Marlene P.: What is your favorite line, passage, or chapter from this book?

Debra G.: There’s a funny scene when Tyler goes to the movie theater with Shay and two other girls. He really wants to hold Shay’s hand. A preview for Rocky II comes on, and he predicts it will bomb, that no one will want to see another Rocky movie. The girls go to the bathroom. When they come back, Tyler finally gets up his nerve and holds Shay’s hand. She squeezes it back. He’s thrilled! Then he realizes the girls switched seats and he’s not holding her hand after all. Well, I think it’s funnier when you read the whole scene than when I try to summarize it.

Marlene P.: Was there any part that you struggled with or avoided writing?

My editor at Putnam didn’t like the ending. I had to throw away the last fifty pages. He sort of liked the next ending I wrote, but had me do a ton of revisions to it. Even though the ending gave me a lot of trouble, I think it came out good “in the end.”

Marlene P.: What are your hobbies?

Debra G.: I have three children, a puppy, and a husband who travels a lot. I’ve spent the last year simultaneously writing a trilogy for teens and a chapter book series for children. And I’m supposed to have hobbies? Are you nuts?

Well, when I have spare time, I do like to take walks, watch reality TV, play Hearts on the computer, and watch movies. And I always make time for reading.

Marlene P.: Have you ever wanted to quit writing? Why?

Debra G.: Never! Okay, about every other day. It’s a wonderful way to make money, but it’s also a difficult way to make money. I’d be happy just to draft and revise my manuscripts. The stuff that drives me crazy is having to promote my books as a midlist author, the long waits for responses from editors, the laborious contract negotiations (thank Gawd for my agent, but I still bite my nails until I have both the check and the book in my hands) … I could whine for hours.

I doubt I’d ever really quit writing. I love creating a scene I’m proud of, a character I care about, a joke that makes me laugh, etc.

And just when I’m feeling really low, I always seem to get a wonderful email from a teen reader that makes everything worthwhile.