INTERVIEW WITH ADINA GEWIRTZ:
How did you get started writing?
In seventh grade, one of our class books was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I was 12 at the time, and I vividly remember finishing the book and saying to myself, “I want to do that.” I was so bowled over by it. After that, I had it firmly in my mind that I wanted to be a writer, and started writing stories in journals and even a little novel about a girl who had annoying brothers (at the time, very much drawn from life, from my point of view.)
When I went to college, I still held onto the dream of writing novels, but since that didn’t seem like a very solid career path, I ended up majoring in journalism.
I worked as a freelancer for years, then taught writing and wrote a nonfiction book about the process. When I’d done all that – years after I’d first had the dream of writing novels – I finally got around to writing one.
Who influenced you?
So many people. Harper Lee, by writing the book that’s still my all-time favorite. Isaac Asimov, Ursula LeGuin, Natalie Babbitt, Kate DiCamillo and countless other writers. And then there are the people I actually know. In school, I had wonderful journalism professors who were writing nonfiction as if it was fiction – Jon Franklin and Judith Hillman Paterson, to name two who were most important to the writer I’ve become. Finally, there were the people closest to me: my father, who nurtured my dream of writing from the time I was 12, and faithfully read even the novels I wrote in those years, no matter how awful they were. He always talked to me about them at length and would mark them up with his notes, praise, and questions; my mother, whose incredible insight into people influenced how I create characters; and my husband, who can spot a plot hole a mile off and still checks through what I write to make sure I’m not leaving big gaps in the story. I also have a wonderful close friend, Katie McCabe, who’s my writing partner. We bounce ideas and language off each other all the time while she’s working on her books and I’m working on mine.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I love small towns and large forests, and they don’t even have to be on earth, because I love science fiction and fantasy as much as I do realistic fiction. As for characters, I like exploring the intricacies of family relationships, especially between brothers and sisters.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Write and read all the time, and don’t lose hope, because the more you do it, the better you’ll be. In the meantime, find a good day job or a very good spouse, who cares about your dream as much as you do and so is willing to make sacrifices for it, and to be very, very patient.
The only other thing I’d tell aspiring writers is don’t share too little or too much of your writing as it’s developing. You don’t want to let everyone see it, because too many opinions can distract and dishearten you while the story’s still developing, but you do want some trusted friends whose work you admire to have a look. They’ll ask you the questions you might have forgotten to ask yourself and point out problems (or wonderful passages) that you haven’t noticed on your own. A second good set of eyes and ears is a wonderful thing.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I have an office just off my bedroom, with a small desk and a window that looks out on trees. I could stay there all day and frequently do.
What else would you like to tell us?
Just that I love writing for kids, much more than I ever imagined I would. The books I read while growing up stick with me to this day, and when I get letters from readers telling me how deeply they loved Zebra Forest, it makes my day. My week, actually. Maybe my year. Yes, definitely my year.