Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day 7 - Gabrielle Prendergast

Day 7. Yet another BC author. Deal with it. ;)

Gabrielle Prendergast currently lives in British Columbia with her husband and daughter. Her Twitter bio names her a "writer and cultural critic," and I would have to agree. She is the writer of the feature film Hildegarde, an Australian film about a family's mission to save their pet duck (a novelization was also published), as well as for some kids shows and a crime drama. She's written for magazines, blogs, and moderates at VerseNovels.com. Her middle grade novel, Wicket Season, was published in March 2012 by Lorimer Publishers. Her first YA verse novel, Audacious, is set to come out this fall with Orca Books, with the sequel following in 2014. You can find her at her website or on Twitter (@GabrielleSaraP). :)

Q: Since it's an event featuring Canadian authors, I figured I'd ask all the authors who chose the Q&A to say how they would count as a Canadian author, be it they were born here, lived here, or moved here. So, how Canadian are you?

A: I have the distinction of having immigrated to Canada not once, but twice. I was born in the UK and came here with my family when I was two. We became citizens when I was thirteen. When I was 21 I moved to Australia to hang out on the beach and eventually to go to university. I ended up staying for twelve years and marrying an Australian. Together we immigrated to the USA in 2002 but after my daughter was born in 2004 we immigrated back to Canada. My husband became Canadian in 2009. I’ve been to three citizenship ceremonies. My Canadian one, my Australian one and my husband’s Canadian one. I often say that naturalized citizens are more than natural born ones because we take oaths. I think all Canadians should take an oath. It should be part of high school or grade school graduation ceremonies.

Q: Do you have a set writing process or schedule?

A: I don’t have a full time job, so I write every day. However I am very easily distractible and sometimes get nothing done. Other days I spend the whole day fooling around on Twitter only to write 3000 words after midnight.

The process depends very much on what I’m writing. Some things I outline more than others. WICKET SEASON was carefully outlined. AUDACIOUS was not at all outlined. Other things fall somewhere in the middle.

Q: Could you give a brief description or summary of your upcoming book Audacious? Did anything in particular inspire it? A person or a place or a feeling?

A: AUDACIOUS is a young adult novel in verse about 16-year-old Ella, who moves with her family to a new town and blows her plans of fitting in by falling for a Muslim guy, creating controversial artwork, and getting expelled from school.

I started out wanting to write something semi-autobiographical about a boy and a girl being friends but it turned into something quite different. But Ella is very much a personal and cathartic character for me. I was definitely that girl who managed to rub everyone the wrong way while still not being rebellious in a “cool” way.

Rah Rah

This was me:
The one who said the wrong thing
Who crossed the wrong person

Who had the wrong hair
The wrong body
The totally wrong clothes
The wrong attitude





The WRONG friends.

I was born in the wrong decade
In the wrong country
To the wrong family

I couldn’t do anything right
Except draw
(The wrong pictures)
Which I do
With the wrong hand.

Ella will be different.

It was also a reaction against books in which the heroines have a circle of supportive girlfriends, because that was never me. I always did better with boys as friends, and I wanted to write something about how lonely that can be as you get older boy/girl friendships get complicated by sex and jealousy and romance.

Q: Besides your own blog, you write at versenovels.com, a site dedicated to verse novels and their authors. Where did the idea for the blog first come from?

A: I think I was looking for a central clearing house of information on verse novels, somewhere from which to launch AUDACIOUS and I realized there was none. So I checked the URL VerseNovels.com and when I realized no one had it, I snapped it up. Once I had it, I had to do something, so VerseNovels.com was born.

Q: Do you think writing in verse would work with any genre, like science fiction or fantasy, or not?

A: I’d love to see some more genre in verse. There is a little bit, historical mainly, and a few supernatural things, but I’ve never heard of any sci-fi in verse. I think it works wherever a more lyrical style of writing works. Lauren DeStephano writes very lyrically for example, so I could imagine something like WITHER in verse, and that story line suits it. Something like ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis maybe not so much, because a novel like that depends so much on pace and plot and less on lyricism.

I may rewrite a sci-fi I have half-baked as a hybrid novel, with one point of view in prose and one in verse. One of my favorite verse novels, NOTHING by Robin Friedman is a hybrid like this, but not sci-fi!

Q: Apart from Audacious, you have a middle grade book titled Wicket Season and you've written for film and TV in Australia. Is there much of a difference, in your own opinion, between writing a script and writing a novel?

A: There’s a huge difference. The main difference is that the point of view in screenwriting is strictly objective, unless there’s a voiceover. That’s an exceeding difficult way to write, but once you get used to it (I’ve written eleven screenplays, one produced, three optioned, as well as a few TV things) it’s hard to break out of that habit. That’s something I struggle with as a novelist.

Another difference is how concise screenwriting is. In this way it’s a good primer for writing verse novels, which also tend to be very concise.

There’s a scene in AUDACIOUS where Ella, who grew up on the coast, experiences her first real snowstorm. It’s expressed in the form of one haiku.


Falling so softly,
Like thieves in the frozen night.
They steal the city.

In a screenplay the same sentiment might be expressed with one short scene like this:


Fat snowflakes drift down on to landscape of cars and yards already covered in a thick blanket of snow.

So in both verse novels and screenplays the idea is expressed in an image. Whereas in a novel you might find the description of the snow covered street, her feelings about the novelty etc. taking up two or three pages.

Screenplays are also notoriously stringently plotted with very strict structure. That’s so deeply ingrained in me that I think I do it in novels without even thinking.

Q: After the fall, will you have any more books coming out in the future? I know there will be a sequel to Audacious next year, but what about after that?

A: CAPRICIOUS will come out in spring 2014 (I hope, I’m still writing it!) and THE FRAIL DAYS, which is part of a new series from Orca Books will come out in the fall of 2014 or the spring of 2015.

I have a middle grade novel out on sub. I hope to hear some news about that soon. Then after that I will be focusing on four, yes FOUR books I have in various states of half-writteness: two sci-fi, one contemporary and one verse novel.

I’ve also been joking about a third book in the AUDACIOUS series but all I have so far is a title: LOQUACIOUS.  

Q: Any recent book recommendations? Is there anything you've read that you'd want to see more of? Or even less of?

A: I tend to love boy POV YA contemporary, especially when it’s written by male authors. I really enjoyed DR BIRD’S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS by Evan Roskos which just came out. I can’t seem to get enough of broken boys in YA books. I’m not sure that I necessarily want to see more of them, but I’d like to find something that captivates me in the same way.

I’d love to see more chubby kids, more kids with disabilities, more contemporary non USA settings and characters and generally YA and MG kids who are not “mainstream”. But I don’t want the books to be ABOUT these issues.

I’d love to see a bit more crossover between genre and contemporary issues. Like a shifter who is also an addict in foster care. A faerie with bulimia or an unplanned pregnancy. How great would that be?

As far as less, I’m sort of disgusted by “frock books”, especially those in which girls are pitted against each other over the love of some undeserving boy. (I’m looking at you, THE SELECTION.) I rarely read a book with a girl in a frock on the cover. It’s a real turn off for me. And I can’t stand the pages and pages of costume description in books like THE HUNGER GAMES. So distracting.

That said, the plot of AUDACIOUS hinges on a pink dress, so there is a good chance it will be on the cover.
The Pink Chiffon Dress

Mom thought it was from the 60s,
Maybe the 70s
I found it at the thrift store
By the soup kitchen
I liked how soft the fabric was
Like waves of pink cobwebs

And I liked that it had long sleeves
And a high neck
Because I hated to show too much
I loved the bright color
And the way it moved
When I twirled in the fitting room

I liked how bold it seemed
At the black and white ball
The girls in their little black sheaths
All collarbones and pushed up boobs.
And me a fluffy little pink flower
Glowing in the slag pile.

Though I don’t remember dancing in it
And there are no pictures of me at the dance
Just an elusive memory of some excitement
Some kind of scene that Mom and Dad
Were not happy about (what’s new?)
And nausea because I got so drunk.

It’s a little loose now
I’ve lost some shape
From stress, maybe
But it still makes me feel powerful
Feminine, strong, safe and
Like myself again.

I like love stories and swoony times as much as the next person, but I think they need to be messier. Less “Happily Ever After” and more “Holy Crap What Have I Gotten Myself Into?” or “Am I Now a Strong Enough Person to Handle the Upheaval of Real Love?”

I think if we’re going to write books for teens about love then we should try to frame it in real terms. Love might be ephemeral for teens, but no less passionate and painful. Some people marry their high school sweethearts, but most don’t. So what DO they get out of high school love? What is the point of those kinds of stories?

As a writer I’m interested in trying what has never been tried before. I’d love to write something where readers go “did I really just read that?” There’s a few things in AUDACIOUS like that and CAPRICIOUS will have a few more. I’d love to write a book that people throw across the room halfway through, only to snatch it up again five minutes later.

It’s not that I want to be controversial or confronting; I’m just trying to matter. I don’t want to say something that’s been said a million times before in exactly the same way. With how many books being written these days, that’s increasingly hard. That’s why I like verse novels. They feel new. But oddly I also think for some reason they have a kind of implicit permission to attack material that might be too heavy in a prose novel. So verse novels can end up being pretty ground breaking in terms of their content. Ellen Hopkins’s books certainly broke some ground.

Maybe AUDACIOUS will too.

Thanks to Gabrielle for stopping by. Go check out Wicket Season now and Audacious this fall! :)

BONUS! Gabrielle has wonderfully offered to give away some swag, so if anyone's interested in some buttons comment below with your name and e-mail and we'll pick some winners at random. :)

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