Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jody Casella: An Author Interview by Carrie Mesrobian

Thin Space, the Kirkus-starred debut by Jody Casella....

So Jody Casella and I are apparently twins. We're both curly-haired former teachers who love The Walking Dead TV show, write YA novels, and have extremely boring extracurricular habits featuring dogs and not much else.

Except for that she's all about Rick Grimes and I'm all about Daryl Dixon. But that actually works out pretty well, because who wants to share Fake Boyfriends? Not this greedy lady, amirite Jody?

I'm getting ahead of myself.

Also, I wear/make hats. And she runs around with her beautiful hair exposed?  Just waiting to catch a cold, apparently?
*makes note to send Jody a hat*

I had the pleasure of asking Jody a few questions recently. I categorized them into "on writing" and "on everything" else because I want to further the notion that authors can separate the two. HA.


ON WRITING

How do your books get made? Explain the process or give us a recipe.

I haven't found a recipe that works every time, but for the most part, it's many hours of staring at my computer screen, bursts of furious typing, followed by lots of moving stuff around and deleting. Mix in two cups of hysteria and self-loathing. Bake for a year. Or fifteen.

Did it take 15 years to bake Thin Space? And was it baked or fried or roasted?
e?
 Thin Space is the sixth book I wrote and the first book to be published. For fifteen years I burnt stuff and/or chucked a lot of half-baked crap into the garbage. (I know what you're thinking: How long can she keep the extended metaphor of writing as cooking going?)

Well, let's see... I wrote the first draft of Thin Space in 30 days during a NaNoWriMo. An unplanned side character wandered into the story and hijacked it, and I rewrote the whole book again from his POV. That took maybe 3 or 4 more months. Then I got an agent and two more years went by. While I waited, I whipped up four more books, all now in various stages of doneness.  

What activities do like to do while you are thinking about some problem in your writing or trying to avoid your writing? Do they help? How?

I walk my dog a lot. Three or four times a day. The neighbors think I'm nuts. But it's amazing what a twenty minute whirl around the block can do when I'm stuck. Or even when I think things are moving along nicely. The dog will attack me and I will take her for a damn walk, and something I hadn't realized was an issue in a scene will pop into my head, and by the end of the walk, I've got it all figured out. It's magic.

OH MY MAUDE. What is it with dogs? Mine is the same way. Do you reward your dog for this benefit? Or is he/she largely clueless?

My husband says I spoil the dog rotten (it's a her--Zooey). The two of us, me and the dog, spend ten hour days together so we are very in tune with each other. When I go out of town, my poor sweet Zooey is lost. I don't think I answered your question. I love my dog. That's the answer.

Zooey, who goes on many walks, which, of course she does. LOOKIT HOW DAMN CUTE SHE IS!

What word would you remove from the English language if given the choice?

My copy editor flagged the word "clench" 33 times in Thin Space. I had no idea I used that word so much. That, and So. I love starting sentences with So. 

What kinds of scenes or stories do you love writing most? Least?

I like writing scenes where there's a big difference between what the character thinks is going on and what's actually going on. I also like to write characters lying. To other people. To themselves. I hate transition bits. How do I get these kids out the freaking door? How can I make time pass without say something lame like, "two weeks later..."?

What's the book you wish you *could* write but don't feel you can just yet?

I'm sitting on a very personal, dark thing. I've got a first draft and I'm afraid to look at it. Afraid it will never be published. More afraid that it will.

Okay, I won't push. But talk about some of the issues you have with responses to your books or writing. Do you have any such issues (or are you blessed by angels in that matter?) Is there a reader that won't like a Jody Casella book? What kind of reader will love your books?

I was pursuing publication for a LONG time and therefore had a long time to imagine how I would react to things like reviews. What's surprised me is that nice reviews throw me off and mess with my head more than negative ones. It took me a while to realize that there is this thing--the book--and I put it out there and then other people have responded to it, both nicely and not so nicely, but it is the same book and it doesn't really seem to be a part of me anymore. I'm more wrapped up in other, newer projects.

If you could dedicate any one song to your most negative reviewers, what would that song be?


That's how I feel about reviews/reviewers. I get that we all have different tastes in books and some books just don't click for people. It's not personal.

God, you sound Zen. Are you a spiritual practitioner of some sort? Do you juice cleanse? Pay for lots of therapy? 

Zen-ish when it comes to reviews. A lunatic when it comes to pretty much everything else. Also, Rah Rah therapy!

Hello. My name is Jody Casella. I've become a goddamn Zen master about reviews! ASK ME HOW! 

What part of publishing would you not like to be responsible for?

The part where I have to keep proving myself. How do I get to the point where readers are like, "Yeah, her books are cool," and I don't have to kill myself to get the next one out?

Which (if any) of your characters would you go to Prom with?

I would go to Prom with the guy I'm writing now. He's so lovely and tormented and earnest and wild. I don't think he would like to go with me though.

Why not? Is he a cat person? Are you a terrible dancer? EXPLAIN.

I was going to say because I am three times his age. But let's pretend it's my fifteen year old self we're talking about. I was an introverted wreck of a girl and Sean (that's his name-- and I am reading your book Perfectly Good White Boy right now and three cheers for boys named Sean!) let's just say, Sean is... not human. And leave it at that.

Well, dammit! We're left hanging! Though we now know that her Prom-Date-Not-To-Be Sean is something...else. And this is nothing that her younger self wants to dress up in mauve taffeta for. But really. Mauve taffeta is quite a sacrifice to make in the name of romance. Onto the next round of questions, though...

ON EVERYTHING ELSE

What's a pet peeve of yours?

I hate when people don't take their proper turn at a four way stop. I let a car go, and then it's MY turn, but another car tries to sneak themselves in. It ticks me off.

What other jobs have you had besides "writer"?

Teacher, Bookseller, Waitress. The summer I was nineteen, I flipped steaks at a Ponderosa restaurant. It was a bloodier job than you'd expect, but I liked it.

What are some favorite books you've read lately?

I've been on a good reading roll: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez, The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

RICK: I get the curly-haired one.
DARYL: They're both curly-haired.
RICK: Okay, the one who writes them books.
DARYL: Jesus, Rick. They both do that!
RICK:Dammit. All right, the one who's always walking her dog.
DARYL: Come on, man. This doesn't have to be that difficult...

What is a book you were assigned to read and hated?

Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. I was an English major in college and I taught high school English, so I feel immense pressure to finish reading every book I start, even now, when it doesn't matter. But I quit on Clarissa and I only feel a twinge of guilt about it, because OMG that book sucked. It's an epistolary novel, which means it's told in letters. Long letters. Where nothing happens. Allegedly there's this really shocking horrifying thing that occurs in the middle of the book. I read right past the Thing and didn't even realize it.

Now, I'm twinging with guilt. Maybe I should give this book another try... 

NO! Come to the dark side, where we abandon books that confound us! Are there any classics you like and come back to re-read?
  
I rarely reread books; there are too many new ones I want to read. Although, I did read The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby like, 25 times a piece--when I was teaching high school English. Read a book that many times and strangely, you will still find things in it you never noticed. I once spent an entire class period talking to my students about Meyer Wolfsheim's teeth cufflinks.

Who are the people in your life that amuse you and why?

My kids. They're older now, but as much as I think I know them inside and out, they keep surprising me. My son's the captain of his rock climbing team in college. What the hell? Where did that interest or ability come from? And my daughter will come out with these zingers about politics and philosophy. She's gorgeous but she's not afraid to look silly. Her twitter picture for a while was her dressed up as a giant hotdog.

What kinds of things do you do for fun?

I am going to sound like the biggest fogey here, but, um, not much. We've already established that I walk my dog a lot. I also have a really big vegetable garden. Drink wine. Is that a thing?

Who needs hobbies when you have a Zooey?


Why do you love Daryl Dixon so much?

Okay, Carrie. Big confession: I do love Daryl, and you know that, but lately, I'm leaning more toward Team Rick. I like the grizzly face he's got going in season 3 and 4. Also, I enjoy his deep gravelly voice and how he says stuff in his twangy accent like, "thangs" and "Caaaaarl." When the world is falling apart, Rick works like hell to put it back together. And I appreciate that in a man.

Fine. I can accept this.* However, bonus question: if you and Rick went on a date, what would you like to do?

I just had this absurd vision of the two us out for dinner, sipping wine and sharing a cheese plate, and later we'll go to a movie. Maybe a romantic comedy. Nothing scary. Also, he will have to change out of his bloody, gut-splattered clothing.  

You see there's no mention about whether she'd ask him to keep his hat on, should things get...intense. Because Jody Casella is a Real Lady, you guys...

"Let's go drink some wine, Jody. Then watch a movie. Then maybe we can go sit on your sofa and do some STUFF. Also, THANGS..."


Thank you, Jody, for chatting with me! 

Keep up with Jody on Twitter, Facebook and her main author website, where she also blogs:

http://www.jodycasella.com


*of course I can accept this! DARYL IS MINE

4 comments:

  1. You two are hilarious. I believe in the walks to fix the plot holes too, but I don't have a dog to get me out there. THIN SPACE looks awesome.

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  2. Another fun interview with you both! Love the photo captions.

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  3. This is so cool. I love Zooey so much.

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  4. First, you both are so awesome. Though I have to admit that I'm very distressed to hear you are leaning toward the Rick side of the faniverse, Jody. How will I drink wine with you? And drive you to all the signings? *tsk tsk*

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