Marilyn Kaye, author of several popular series for teens, is here for an interview today. Her most recent series is Gifted. The first two titles, Out of Sight, Out of Mind and Better Late Than Never are out now, from Kingfisher. The third, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is scheduled to be released in October. The Gifted books take place at Meadowbrook Middle School, which is a pretty typical place, with entirely ordinary kids. Nine of the Meadowbrook students are far from ordinary, however. They go to the Gifted class, which is unlike any gifted class you’ve ever seen. That’s because these kids aren’t your usual brainiacs. Each one of them possesses a remarkable “gift,” and in gifted class they learn how to understand and control their powers, powers like hearing dead people, turning invisible and seeing the future. In the first book, mean girl Amanda Beeson learns what it’s like to be supremely uncool when she wakes up trapped in the body of Tracey Devon, a total Meadowbrook nobody. This talent lands her in Gifted class where she discovers a lot more about her new ability and about the extraordinary kids she’s never even noticed before. It isn’t long before Amanda begins to recognize how her powers have changed her life forever. Out of Sight, Out of Mind was a lot of fun – for readers who enjoy books about kids with unusual talents, trying to cope in sticky situations. For all those times when you wondered what it might be like to have some sort of super power, these books might make you think again. There is a great website devoted to the series, with audio excerpts, character info and more. Here’s the book trailer:
Now let’s get on with the interview!
What’s your writing routine? Do you have any pre-writing rituals?
I try to write for at least 4 hours every day, but I don’t really have a routine – sometimes I write in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, and every now and then I’ll get a surge of inspiration and work in the evenings. And I don’t really have any rituals – I love to travel and I want to be able to write wherever I am, so I don’t want to develop too many habits.
When you’re working on a series, how much of the plotting have you planned from the beginning?
I always have a good sense of where the series is moving, and a general idea of what should be the outcome of each book, but as for the details, I tend to plot one book at a time.
Given how many books you’ve written, it doesn’t seem like you have this problem often, but what’s your cure for writer’s block?
I DO get writer’s block! Long walks help (I just let my mind go blank and frequently something pops in that makes me want to get back to work.)
I can imagine you had some fun choosing the gifts that the characters possess. How did you make those choices?
I wanted the kids to have gifts that evolved from their own individual needs/problems, so I concentrated on their personalities and situations first, and then tried to imagine a power that might emerge.
What gift would you want the most? What gift would you never want?
I used to think it would be fun to be able to disappear at will, although I’d probably be tempted to spy on people. I wouldn’t want to be able to read people’s minds – I’d be afraid of what I could learn.
In spite of the fact that the nine teens in your book all have tremendous powers, I think that teen readers will identify with many of the situations and challenges that emerge in the narrative. In what ways do you think your characters are relatable for teens?
I think that, despite their gifts, these characters are pretty ordinary people, and that’s why I try to keep them in fairly ordinary settings – home, school, etc. I’d like to think readers will be able to relate to them because they’re NOT superheroes – they have no idea how to use their gifts.
I sense that the characters GIFTED will face greater threats in the upcoming books. Could you give us some “unspoilerish” hints about what’s ahead?
You sense correctly! I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say this: sometimes enemies wear very friendly faces.
What are some of the best books you’ve read recently?
I try not to read other YA and MG books; I’m afraid of being influenced, or that I’ll start comparing my work to the other work. I know there are a lot of terrific books out there that I’m not allowing myself to enjoy! Before I started writing, some of the YA authors I loved were Robert Cormier, M.E. Kerr, and Dyan Sheldon. As for the best adult book I’ve read recently – I absolutely loved Daphne by Justine Picardie.
Finally, I have to ask you a Paris question, because I am Paris-obsessed, ever since I made my first trip there two summers ago. What are the most inspiring places for you in your perfect city?
Wow, that’s a tough question! I can be inspired just looking out my window and seeing classic Parisian rooftops. Walking across any of the bridges connecting the Left and Right Banks gives me a thrill. I can sit in a café and watch the world go by for hours. Paris is truly magical and I feel very lucky to live here.
Thank you so much Marilyn, for the interview!