|Source: Andover Bookstore Website
Last Monday I drove up to Andover, MA to attend a book signing at Andover Bookstore. The signing opened with Tiffany Schmidt and A.C. Gaughen reading from their debut novels, Send Me a Sign and Scarlet. They both read from chapter three and while their books are very different they both had the crowd in thrall. After the readings they took questions from the crowd. I recorded this on my phone and have transcribed it here. I also apologize in advance for the switching from 1st to 3rd person as I did paraphrase some of the responses Any and all errors are mine. If you were at the signing and notice anything horribly wrong with my accounting please don’t hesitate to let me know.
|Official author photos of AC Gaughen & Tiffany Schmidt
(Source: author websites)
Part of the author introductions mentioned how they were both local authors. One person in the crowd mentioned how exciting it was they were both from Andover. Tiffany corrected her and said she grew up not far from Andover but now lived in Pennsylvania. She also mentioned how she was home for Thanksgiving in order to get some free babysitting from her parents while she revised her next book. A.C. then chimed in to mention that she lived just outside of Boston.
Tiffany was then asked what she was working on now and if it was a sequel to Send Me a Sign. Her next book is not a sequel or companion but its set in the same world and is currently called Bright Before Sunrise which is another standalone contemporary and should be out sometime in 2014.
Q: Is this the first book you’ve written?
TS: Written or published? As they are two different things.
TS: No, was it for you AC?
AC: No. Not by a long shot.
Q: How did you get published?
TS: I was the queen of writing things down and then getting bored or it would get hard or there would be a shiny new idea. So I would get about 2/3 of a way through a book and then would get a new idea that I would have to chase down. Send Me a Sign was the “third” book that I completed and that she was willing to work harder on and to spend time revising and follow through.
AC: I’ve been writing for a very very long time (aside: earlier she read a note that she wrote when she was 9 that was exhibit A evidence on why writing was important.) and I have about 300 composition notebooks filled with writing. Some are just a scene, others are just hanging out chatting with characters but go nowhere…so I have a ton of vague bits of writing but nothing that she’d really call a novel even if they were finished. Before Scarlet got published, there are three works that she considers to be pretty polished and finished and went on submission with and then there was Scarlet and that was just her baby.
Q: You both write YA right? How’d you decided that genre and not Middle Grade?
AC: Well…A) I like kissing and B) YA when I was a kid, maybe around 12 or 13 all of a sudden I started launching into reading far above my grade level and reading books just because she could and by 17 or so she was just bored and over adult fiction. She wanted something inventive and fun and she turned back to YA and never looked back. Every voice she’s ever felt called to write in has been YA. With Scarlet in particular the voice just grabbed her and would not give up on me or let me give up on her. She had no choice in the matter.
TS: I am also a very big fan of the kissing scenes. I was also a teacher and I feel that YA is such an age of flux. An age where we start to have autonomy and go out and do things on our own and get into trouble and have consequences that parents can’t fix. At least not like they can at younger ages. But its also this incredibly controlled period so its both freedom and control and everything matters so much because you are making these important decisions about where your life is going to go. And there is so much pressure and we expect so much and its really just this crucible time that she’s always been fascinated by the power that teenagers have even while dealing with all this pressure on them. She feels like the dynamic is fascinating to explore and that as a culture we are fascinated by it. Why are so many tv shows set in that time period? The bulk of YA readership isn’t teenagers its adults. So I think that as a culture we’re just fascinated by it all.
Q: Is there a particular author that has influenced you the most?
TS: This is like the hardest question.
AC: Its super difficult and yet it just gives me a chance to say a million different people. One of her favorite English teachers ever told her that ‘a writer is a person on whom nothing is wasted.’ So in that sense every single thing that I’ve ever read has had some influence on my writing and my life for sure. But beyond that she was obsessed with Tamora Pierce who writes very strong, tough girls. Ann Rinaldi who writes incredible historical fiction. Meg Cabot whose books are just fun and I was a shaking mess when I got to meet her about a year ago. Libba Bray is one of those people whose books I wish I had when I was younger.
TS: She’s fabulous.
AC: OMG she’s so fabulous and I met her the same night I met Meg Cabot which was awful* but amazing. Wow..I could go on forever…I think see a Bernard Cornwall book over there…whose historical fiction that I adored. But yeah. Millions.
*awful in the sense that its so very very nerve wracking to meet an idol. Not that it was a bad experience.
TS: Now, did you go through that Flowers in the Attic phase? Because I know I did and this is what I read in high school and my friend and I though we were like the naughtiest children ever and our parents just laughed at us.
AC: So your Flowers in the Attic phase was just reading the books, right? Not, like reliving them?
TS: YES! Just reading.
AC: Just making sure.
TS: *laughing* I was like passing this book back and forth thinking i’m getting away with something but now I’m like worst book ever.
AC: I think my naughtiest book was this book Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman is the first one I think and in it there is this sexy scene between the husband and wife where I was just like…*gasps* my gosh.
TS: I think that the part of Flowers in the Attic that I was most scandalized by was where he peed in her hair to get the tar out. Not the whole incest part but oh my gosh he peed in her hair. I was telling this to someone recently and they were like Tiffany that is not in the book but she swears that it is. Her friend was like, that is what you remember? But she was scandalized. I also read a ton of Christopher Pike while in high school and those were all read it in one night sort of books because she couldn’t sleep. But she feels like YA has gotten a lot better since then. There is John Green and Stef Perkins, Libba Bray, David Levithan, Maggie Stievfater, and Kristine Cashore. And there is just so much out there and a book for every person.
AC: There is a book for every moment.
TS: If you want it then you will find it.
Q: Do you take writing lessons? Or how do you go about writing a book?
AC: Yes and no. She did a master’s degree in creative writing so she had pretty much the most formal education that you can get in writing. But for her, the best education she had was spending about 10 years just writing awful awful things and just allowing herself to writing things that were horribly melodramatic. Not really showing her writing to anyone for a long time and just letting it incubate. By reading and seeing how words sound. Narrating life in her head like in Stranger Then Fiction with Will Farrell. Asking herself, if this scene were in a book how might it play out?
TS: Or like JD from Scrubs. I am so JD. We are simpatico he and I. She had an undergrad degree in English but that was more like writing papers and analyzing books and not an education on how to write. But the best things to do is to read and to write and find where your voice naturally hits. AC does this great job with this historical voice but she knows that she can never do that that’s not her wheelhouse. Writing is about finding your wheelhouse and where your voice falls. Not that you can’t stretch and break out but trying things to find where you are comfortable.
AC: And where you are not comfortable. Which may tell you more about your writing often times. Things that you are horribly uncomfortable with are ones that you probably should be doing. Except in, like, moral situations.
TS: Like peeing on someone’s hair. You are on your own if you get tar in your hair.
AC: Except when there is a jellyfish sting involved. Then, pee away.
TS: That’s true. Like in that episode of Friends…which I was also horrified by.
AC then told a story how one of her brothers once got stung with a jellyfish and they stood over him discussing seriously on who, if any of them, should pee on him. So, note to all readers…don’t get stung by a jelly fish near these authors. If you do, then you should probably pee on yourself to get rid of the sting.
Q: What do you think the effect of technology, like that dragon software, might have on some people’s writing?
AC: For me, I find it counter intuitive. The way she speaks is really different than how she writes. Nor does she want to as her characters are not her. As much as they might have some of my emotions imbued into them they are not me.
TS: I know that some authors have wrist problems and that is the way that they write with the software. Kristine Cashore hand writes all of her books in notebooks and then she dictates it all into the computer. She thinks it will all be about finding your process. Sometimes she’ll leave voice notes for herself when she’s out driving or something but she doesn’t want to listen to them back as that process doesn’t work for her. But with the technology as it is now there are so many ways to write. Can write on your phone or do the text to speak or to collaboratively write with google hangouts. I think that we’ll see a lot more dynamic publishing soon. Like this new trend of writing a novella in between books as people won’t want to wait a year for a story and they’ll want extra content.
AC: We’re going back to Charles Dickens.
AC: For her, nothing ever feels as natural as moving her hand across paper and she copes with a computer because its faster. The way she sees writing is that its this little ball of something that resides inside you. You then have to translate that to your brain and then to your hands and then out into the world. So writing is this multi-step process and its all about finding a way that feels the most natural and the way that remains the most true to that little ball of something inside you. There is no wrong way to tell a story.
TS: There is a song by Matt & Kim called “Let’s Go” and there’s this line ‘say what you want to say. Make it mean everything.’ And she was like that’s a writer. Its all about figuring out what you want to say and how to get it onto paper and make it mean something to your readers.
Q: What’s been your favorite part of the whole writing process?
TS: My favorite part of writing is revision. When I get to the revision stage my favorite candy in the world are these crazy core skittles which I call revision skittles. She’ll pour herself a little dish and she can have one skittle for every page that she revises. But she found out on the day that Send Me a Sign was released that they are being discontinued. And she was thinking that she might have to retire. Her favorite part of the whole process happened the morning of the signing when she visited her old high school and that was a dream come true.
AC: Her favorite part of the whole publication process was the thought that this whole solitary process for so long that it was bizarre and a little uncomfortable to have to share her writing and have other people come in and have thoughts on her work. But it was also the coolest part to see other people care about her work and want to make it better and make it the best story that we can because its what the world needs. It was just so cool to work on her book with her agent and her editor. As for the rest, she hasn’t really figured out what her favorite part is. As its all so amazing. She’s still a bit in awe that the dream she had as a child came true.
|The Book Cake. It was yummy.
|Choosing a section to read from.