|Adele Griffin||An interview with Adele Griffin, November 2002
WHERE I WANT TO BE
Once, Jane was the big sister, teaching Lily to play make believe and protecting her from thunderstorms. But then Lily grew up. She started making friends and dating boys, while Jane wanted to go on playing make believe forever. For Jane, the line between fantasy and reality had always blurred, whereas Lily lived for a future bright with expectation and change. Inevitably, the sisters found a gulf widening between them-Lily reveling in her newfound love, while Jane could only watch, frustrated, from the sidelines. How had her little sister managed to eclipse her?
Then tragedy struck. But the story was not over. . . .
A spellbinding book, told in the alternating voices of two very different sisters dwelling on opposite sides of life and death, who are bravely trying to overcome the void and bring light to each other.
Irene’s got big dreams—someday she’ll own a sun-kissed salon in L.A. where her specialty will be recreating the hairstyles of famous literary heroines. And it’s a good thing she has dreams, since reality is harsh. She’s just been fired from her mom’s beauty salon for her tear-jerking shampooing technique, and is forced to take the only other job she can find—babysitting. Now she’s stuck at the beach entertaining kids while everyone else is having a glamorous summer.Will she ever get a life?
Then she meets Starla, a mind-bogglingly beautiful lifeguard whose diva attitude, dangerous obsessions, male admirers and cringe-worthy blog supply Irene with enough real-life drama and romance to fill a book. Amidst the complicated friendships, inconvenient crushes and occupational mishaps that seem to define this summer, Irene suddenly and unexpectedly finds that the countdown to real life is over and her fate is in her hands. (YA) ORDER@AMAZON
ETC: In your most recent book Hannah Divided , her math skills were impressive. Are you a math wizard?
Not at all. My favorite subject was English. I was really worried that my crummy math grades would ruin my future. But I don’t know why I was so nervous, because as it turns out, there are plenty of jobs for people who have only one favorite subject.
I knew that writing a book about Hannah’s extraordinary mathematical skills was a risk, because I myself have such a difficult time with numbers, but I wanted to invent someone who was very different from me. Hannah’s mind is precise and logical, almost computer-like. This is an advantage when she divides and multiplies, but less helpful when she is trying to make new friendships and social connections. She also had a hard time reading, and only learns to read by following crime stories in the newspaper. I thought it would be intriguing to create a character who was academically smart, but not socially gifted.
ETC: Talk a little about the research that went into Hannah Divided and your familiarity with Chadds Ford and Philadelphia in the 1930’s?
My grandparents have always lived out near Chadds Ford, across from the Wawa Dairy Farm. Some of my favorite memories are skating on the creek, or going for bumpy country drives with my cousins. When it came time to do research for Hannah, my grandparents could recall lots of helpful details, such as when the trains ran into Philadelphia, or that telephone numbers used to have only two digits-- and that the operator was usually listening in.
ETC: What were some of the obstacles you faced in writing this book? Was there anything that surprised you during your research?
One surprising thing about writing this book was listening to all of the old radio shows from my grandparents’ day. They are all available to download online. The soap operas, the comedies, the bands—it’s amazing to hear. My favorites were the commercials. Those jingles still have the power to stick annoyingly in your head. And they used only male announcers, because women’s voices were not presumed to have authority.
Obstacle number one in writing a book about math is—math! Math is just as hard for me now as it was back in 6th grade. Working on Hannah usually meant sitting at the table, frowning, with my calculator in my hand and my (patient!) book editor on the phone, plugging in numbers and wondering why the answer worked out differently each time.
ETC: Which of your books was your favorite to write?
Rainy Season, my first book. I used a stone-age computer that broke down for good while I was writing Chapter Five. I lost everything. So I sneak-wrote it at my computer at work, even though the whole time, I was just terrified that my boss would come in and see and fire me.
ETC: What made you want to write the ghost story, The Other Shepards?
In Greenwich Village, NYC, where I once lived, an abandoned townhouse stood right around the corner from my apartment. The townhouse’s windows were blacked out with paper, and it looked as if nobody had lived there in years. Every Saturday morning, though, a walking tour would pass under my window, and a man with a bullhorn would yell me out of sleep, explaining how New York City’s mayor, Jimmy Walker, used to visit his girlfriend who once lived there. Rumor had it that some nights people could see the ghost of the mayor as he disappeared up the steps to her door. My ghost story isn’t about a mayor, though, because that didn’t seem very exciting ….
ETC: What kind of kid were you in school?
I was shy, and I liked to exaggerate the truth. Once I told kids that Elton John was coming to sing at our May Fair Pageant. Another time, I said that our school was built on top of an earthquake fault line, and another time that my mom was a movie star. Other than these chronically embroidered stories, I was not much of a troublemaker, although I always tried to get out of sports so that I could read in the library.
ETC: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
When I was in school, I couldn’t help that I would read a book and then the next story I’d write sounded a lot like the book I just enjoyed. Even though I knew it was just shameless copying, I think the practice of imitating other authors’ styles helped to teach me about writing. Maybe it is sort of like playing well-known songs when learning guitar. Writing is not something that just came naturally to me. There was lots of practicing—still is. So my advice would be not to feel embarrassed about playing other people’s songs before you find your own style.
On the more personal side...
ETC: Where do you live?
I just moved from lower to upper Manhattan. So far, it’s been very dramatic here. Yesterday, our dry cleaners burnt down, and today there was a fender-bender and a big fight outside my front door. There are also lots of little dogs up here.
ETC: Do you have any pets or kids?
No, but I have a very cute husband.
ETC: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I absolutely more than anything love to go to the movies. Sometimes I like to cook, but not with recipes, so meals often don’t turn out as tasty as I’d hoped. My favorite thing to make (and eat) is a batch of walnut chocolate-chip cookies.
“Meet Claire and Luna”
Claire and Luna are identical ten-year-old twins, and witches! When they are not casting spells and training for their first witch star, the tricky twosome are hatching plans to keep their dad from getting remarried to his loud girlfriend, Fluffy. Will they cast a spell to end this wedding? Or will Head Witch Grandy find out about their plans? The first book in the Witch Twins series
WITCH TWINS AT CAMP BLISS
“A Rebel Witch on the Loose”
It’s summertime, and that means camp for Luna and Claire, who are as different on the inside as peaches and peanut butter. While Luna hates sports and the outdoors, Claire is giving her all to become Camp Bliss Girl. When their magical marigold powder goes missing, and strange things start to happen around Camp Bliss, the twins must put their smarts together to find out if a rebel witch is causing all the trouble. The second book in the Witch Twins series.
WITCH TWINS AND MELODY MALADY
“Movie Magic in Philly”
A real movie crew is shooting a film on Pine Street, right near Claire and Luna’s apartment. When the twins get a chance to go on set and meet its star, Melody Malady, they end up dealing with more movie magic than they bargained for. (April 2003)