Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today, the Cafe welcomes Jeannine Garsee, celebrating the publication of her second YA novel, Say the Word, published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens Books. She is also the author of Before, After and Somebody Inbetween.

The world expects perfection from seventeen-year-old Shawna Gallagher, and for the most part, that’s what they get. She dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father’s every rule. But when her estranged lesbian mother dies, it’s more than perfect Shawna can take. Suddenly, anger from being abandoned ten years ago is resurfacing along with Shawna’s embarrassment over her mother’s other family. As she confronts family secrets and questions from the past, Shawna realizes there’s a difference between doing the perfect thing and doing the right thing.
Shawna’s honest and relatable voice will draw readers in and hold them until the last page in this coming-of-age story. Jeannine Garsee has delivered a compulsively readable second novel, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Melissa W.: What was your inspiration for this story?

Jeannine: The gay marriage issue received a lot of attention back in 2006, which started the wheels turning. I’d also done a paper in sociology class about the children of gay couples and what happens to these kids when the couples either break up, or one of the parents dies. I wanted to explore this subject, so I wrote the story.

Melissa W.: Do you remember writing the first words? Are they still the same?

Jeannine: Yes, the first paragraph is very similar to the first words I word—unlike my first novel where the opening lines were changed many, many times before the book was published.

Melissa W.: What kind of research did you have to do for this story?

Jeannine I actually did quite a lot—most of it was reading, visiting websites, and familiarizing myself with firsthand accounts by straight children of gay parents, plus the research I’d done for my earlier paper. I also drew on my own experiences for certain aspects of the story.

Melissa W.: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Jeannine: Finding the time to write, first of all. As for the writing process itself, I have a terrible time maintaining the timeline in the story. My first drafts are always all over the place.

Melissa W.: I hear you, sister. What are you working on now?

Jeannine: A YA paranormal that I am totally in love with!

Melissa W.: Oo! Love the sound of that. Tell us something about you that no one knows.

Jeannine: I can play Mary Had a Little Lamb by clicking my teeth with a fingernail.

Melissa W.: You are my new best friend! How did you become a writer?

Jeannine: I was born a storyteller. Then I learned how to write. It comes naturally to me. I’ve never taken a college level creative writing class. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, but it took a lot of years to discipline myself enough to actually write a book and see it through to publication.

Melissa W.: What is your favorite line, passage, chapter from this book?

Jeannine: I love the scene where, at a family dinner, Shawna’s father calls her “stupid” and she tells him off for the first time. I swear I cheered when I wrote it.

Melissa W.: What's on your nightstand right now?

Jeannine: A doggie chew, my alarm clock, and a pack of Nicorette gum.

Melissa W.: Besides writing, do you have any other passions?

Jeannine: I love reading, of course, and live theater.

Melissa W.: Have you ever wanted to quit writing? Why?

Jeannine: I’ve considered it because I’m often overwhelmed trying to balance writing with my regular job and family responsibilities. Although I don’t have any immediate plan to stop writing for publication, if I did I would still continue to write for pleasure.

Melissa W.: If you could be anything else besides a writer, what would it be?

Jeannine: Realistically, I’d like to teach creative writing or work with animals. In my dreams I’d be a star on Broadway!

Thanks so much, Jeannine! And congratulations on the publication of your fantastic new book. You can visit Jeannine at her website.

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Jeannine, post them now! She'd love to hear from you!