Interview: Sarah Mlynowski
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Steady Pull by Jonatha Brooke
Sarah Mlynowski's newest novel, Gimme a Call, is all about a girl named Devi. It shows the beginning and end of her high school career - simultaneously. How? Because when senior-year Devi accidentally drops her cell phone in a fountain, it ends up calling herself - three and a half years earlier, at the beginning of her freshman year. When senior Devi realizes that what college she attends, who she is (or isn't) dating, and who is (or isn't) her friend can change if her younger self does (or doesn't) do certain things, she tries to convince freshman Devi to make some changes...and then everything changes, for both of them.
Told in a split narrative, alternating between senior Devi and freshman Devi, this book will be treasured by adults and teens alike. Grown-up readers will understand and appreciate the fact that what happens to you in high school can change your life. Teens will get how important things can feel right when they are happening, and how friends and feelings can fade or strengthen so, so quickly. Discovering that little things matter just as much as the big things, and learning to appreciate the freedom of choice, and loving every moment of life -- well, those lessons will benefit anyone of any age.
Want to win a free copy of Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski? Simply leave a comment at the end of this post, telling us in one to two short sentences what you would tell your freshman self if you had the chance. Two lucky winners will be chosen at random, then contacted by Random House, who will make mailing arrangements.
Here's my message:
Dear HS self: You know how you hope you'll be far away, busy acting on stage or screen when it's time for your reunion? You are.
And now, without further ado, our interview.
Hi Sarah! When and how did you come up with the plot for Gimme a Call?
Well, one day I dropped my cell phone in a fountain and...kidding. I've always been fascinated by the concept of time travel. And my favorite part of a time travel story is when a character bumps into herself at another age. Also, I'm a huge worrywart, so the possibility of peppering Future Me with questions is very appealing.
Did you always plan on writing in split narrative, alternating chapters?
Nope. Originally the book was mostly from Freshman Devi's perspective, but a few chapters in I realized I needed to show more of Senior Devi's story. Since every time Freshman Devi did something differently, Senior Devi's life could change dramatically...New prom date! New friends! New house! I had a great time expanding her world...her constantly changing world.
Did you write the story in order, straight through, or did you write bits and pieces as inspiration struck you?
I wrote the first draft straight through, from a fourteen-page outline. Then I revised. And revised. And revised. Writing about time travel is tricky. Just like how little changes in Freshman Devi's life affected Senior Devi's life, one tiny edit in the manuscript could sent ripples throughout the whole book. Hello, headache.
Did the ending of the story change as you wrote the first draft? The second? How many drafts did you go through, and how much (if anything) was changed by editors and other early readers?
The original ending didn't change. The last few chapters leading up to the ending changed a lot. I wrote four complete drafts of GIMME A CALL. My mom and agent read it as I was writing, Lauren Myracle read it as soon as I was done (and they all had fantastic suggestions). I revised. I sent it to my editor. She gave me excellent notes. Ten pages of excellent notes. I revised again, sent it back. Then I had a baby. While I was busy with, um, that, E. Lockhart, Ally Carter, Lynda Curnyn and my friend Jess Braun (who's been reading my stories since the third grade) read the book and gave me awesome notes. My editor gave me more great notes. Six pages of great notes. I revised. Sent it back. Finally, the book went to copyediting. Most of the notes were about picking up the pace, making Senior Devi less of a rhymes-with-witch and snags in the space-time continuum.
Did the book have any other working titles?
Nope. I told Lauren Myracle the idea, she suggested Call Me, I came back with Gimme a Call and we were done.
What were you like when you were a freshman in high school? How had you changed by senior year?
I became more independent. A lot more independent. In ninth grade I lived with my mother and sister in the house I grew up in, in Montreal. Then my mother remarried and moved to Connecticut, and I moved in with my dad and stepmom until he got a job in Toronto. By twelfth grade I was living with a friend. And dating my future husband.
If you could travel through time, would you go back to high school? Why or why not?
I loved high school. I was very active - I was yearbook editor, I was on student council, I had great friends. But my home life was more challenging. (See above - people kept moving away.) So I think I'll stay right where I am, with my new little family in NYC.
What would Senior Sarah tell Freshman Sarah?
Appreciate the full fridge and laundry service.
What would adult Sarah tell teenage Sarah?
Keep better diaries. One day you'll write teen fiction and need more material.
Have you ever made a wish in a lucky fountain, or on a shooting star or a dandelion, whatever your method of choice? Did it come true?
I have a daughter, I'm a novelist and I married the boy I fell in love with at seventeen. I'm telling you, those birthday-candle wishes work.
That's adorable. That's fantastic. Do you believe in wishes and wishful thinking? What's the difference between the two?
Yes to wishes, see above. Also yes to wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is like wishing, but more proactive. It's wanting something, believing you can achieve it, and making it so. It's The Secret but less hokey. Wishful thinking definitely led to my career as a novelist.
Do you have any good-luck superstitions?
I'm a big believer in karma. When I do something nice, it usually comes back to me. And when I do something not-so-nice it ALWAYS bites me in the butt.
I believe in karma as well. How reliant are you upon your cell phone? Are you a talker, texter, mobile emailer, all of the above?
I've become a big texter. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I had no texting plan when I became a big texter. Then I got my phone bill and...ouch. I now have unlimited texting.
Do you ever wish you could freeze a moment in time with your kids before they grow up?
Absolutely. I feel incredibly lucky, and try to appreciate every second. On one hand, I want my daughter her to stay little forever. The cuddles! The random dancing! The slobbery kisses! On the other (hand), I am looking forward to her learning to use a toilet.
What are you working on now? What's coming next?
TEN THINGS WE DID (and probably shouldn't have) comes out next summer. It's about a high school junior who moves in with her friend when both her parents leave town. Chaos ensues. For inspiration, see question about what I was like in high school.
Will you be writing any more Magic in Manhattan books?
There are not plans for any more books in the Magic in Manhattan series right now. But I do have secret dreams of a spinoff series. Maybe one day...
How has becoming a published author changed your life?
I was able to apply for a Greencard to live in the US. That was huge for me. I've also been lucky enough to travel around this cool country of yours and meet the most amazing readers, librarians and booksellers (I even met Ms. Little Willow!) Another life-changing perk is that when not traveling, I can work at home. My commute is eleven seconds. And I can write in my pajamas. Not that I do. But I could. (Okay, sometimes I do.)
Related Posts at Bildungsroman
Interview: Sarah Mlynowski (2009)
Interview: E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle (2008)
Book Review: How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, and Sarah Mlynowski
Book Reviews: The Magic in Manhattan books by Sarah Mlynowski
Visit Sarah's website.
Follow Sarah's blog tour: Yesterday, she was featured on MTV's Hollywood Crush; tomorrow, she'll be visiting Melissa Walker.
Check out Gimme a Call on Facebook.