Jody Gehrman has authored eleven published novels and numerous plays for stage and screen. Her debut suspense novel, Watch Me, is published by St. Martin's Press. Her Young Adult novel, Babe in Boyland, won the International Reading Association’s Teen Choice Award and was optioned by the Disney Channel. Jody’s plays have been produced or had staged readings in Ashland, New York, SanFrancisco, Chicago and L.A. Her newest full-length, Tribal Life in America, won the Ebell Playwrights Prize of Los Angeles. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She holds a Masters Degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is a professor of Communications at Mendocino College in Northern California.
Thanks for letting us interrogate you! Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
It’s a compulsion for me. I don’t know how to stop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about writing. It’s the only grown-up career that lets you live inside your imagination 90% of the time.
Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
It can be a roller coaster. My main life lesson eleven books into my career is to focus primarily on the writing itself and not get too caught up in external validation. Positive reviews, awards and strong sales are all fabulous—don’t get me wrong—but they’re not the heart of being a writer. When I get too focused on chasing that stuff I’m not happy.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
Mostly I’ve gone with traditional publishing. I have all kinds of respect for indie authors, but I found it too exhausting trying to do everything. I’d rather join forces with a team of professionals who are killer at what they do so I can focus on the writing itself.
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
I have two amazing stepchildren, but they’re adults living their own lives in other cities, so they don’t put a lot of demands on my daily life. My husband’s also an artist, so he gets it.
Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?
Oh my God. I have three cats and they’re all insane. The oldest, Max, claws at my door and meows incessantly when I’m late feeding her. She’ll probably eat my face some day in a fit of rage. It will be a gruesome death, but at least she’ll finally get fed on time.
Are your plants actually still alive?
Green things do not last long in my world. It’s sad but true.
In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?
A friend of mine always says the writer’s greatest tool is the closed door. It’s so important to remember. You have to cultivate a certain brand of selfishness to make it as a writer.
What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
My third book was ready to come out with a major publishing house when I slammed on the breaks, axed like 95% of the manuscript, and started over. I just wasn’t happy with it, so I threw it out. My editors were very understanding, but they probably thought I was insane. The old cliché about killing your darlings is a cliché for a reason. I can’t stand the thought of sending something out there with my name on it if I’m not proud of it.
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
Facebook is useful for spreading the word about something quickly. Same goes for Twitter. I do think the importance of social networking for writers is slightly overblown, though. It can be a huge time-suck and a major distraction.
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
It’s always a gamble; I try to give each book the best chance of taking off, but I don’t want to chase sales in a desperate way. I’ve hired a publicist for Watch Me in addition to working with the publicity team at St. Martin’s Press. The more talented people I have on my team, the better.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
It makes me crazy when someone comes up to me in the supermarket and says, “I read your book. It was cute.” Not to sound ungrateful, but this is hands down the most irritating thing you can say to me. A writer spends years crafting a novel; we sweat over every line. Tell me you hated it, tell me it made you want to rip the pages out, but do not tell me it’s “cute.” It’s so condescending. I’ve come to realize some people aren’t comfortable talking about books in depth, but still, give me something I can work with. Cute is for puppies and little girls in dresses, not for novels.
Okay, too much sugar for you today! Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in. Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
Absolutely! When I get frustrated with the search for external validation, I go back to the work. That’s where the real satisfaction lies. When I’m typing like mad trying to perfect a scene that I know will someday land in a stranger’s brain and make sparks fly, that’s magic. I have to keep reminding myself of that simple truth.