Monday, November 9, 2009
Interview: Megan Crewe (Author of Give Up the Ghost!)
A Brief Biography
Like many fiction authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two cats (and does on occasion say "eh"), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she has yet to make friends with a ghost, though she welcomes the opportunity. Give Up the Ghost is her first novel.
What inspired you to write GIVE UP THE GHOST?
The image of a girl talking to her sister—who happened to be a ghost—popped into my head, and I wanted to figure out why she was so comfortable hanging out with the dead. As I determined more and more of her backstory, and thought of what might happen to her, I knew it was a book I had to write.
How did you choose the title of the book; what is the background story?
Well, the original title of the book was IN MEMORY OF (as in the common inscription on gravestones: “In loving memory of…”), but my agent and I decided that was too vague. So I went through a list of death euphemisms looking for inspiration, and GIVE UP THE GHOST seemed to fit perfectly.
Are you anything like your main character, Cass?
We have similar senses of humor—we’re both prone to sarcasm. And in some ways she’s like me only an extreme version. I’m shy, she’s totally cut herself off from other people. I’m cautious, she’s very distrustful. I’d imagine once she’s continued to open up more we’d be a lot alike.
Do you personally believe in ghosts or spirits? Did this factor into your portrayal of ghosts in GHOST?
I’m on the fence when it comes to ghosts. I think it’s possible they exist, but I haven’t seen any clear evidence myself, so I don’t feel I can say for certain one way or the other. But I definitely considered what I’d expect actual ghosts to be like, if they do exist, when I was creating the rules for the ghosts in the book.
Did you do any research while writing GHOST? If yes, please explain.
Yes! I found the book ODD GIRL OUT by Rachel Simmons particularly helpful in understanding the sorts of social bullying that go on and that formed a large part of Cass’ history. I wanted to make sure that her story rang true and wasn’t exaggerated or unrealistic.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing GHOST?
I’d say the most difficult aspect was staying true to Cass’ prickly personality while still letting readers see enough of her vulnerabilities underneath that they would sympathize with her. Since the story is told from her point of view, that required a delicate balancing act.
Did you always want to be a novelist?
I always loved writing stories. I’ve been doing it since I learned how to print. But it wasn’t until I was around 10 years old that I started thinking I might be able to do it as a career. It just hadn’t occurred to me before then! I knew from the start I’d want to be writing novels—I’ve always found fiction more fun to play with than nonfiction.
What jobs did you have on your way to being a writer? Did they help you in any way as a writer?
Most of my jobs have involved working with kids. I started out babysitting and working for a rec center, and for the last nine years I’ve been tutoring kids with special needs. I’ve learned a lot about psychology, which I think helps in developing my characters. I’ve also gotten to see first hand the sort of stories that will hold the attention of a hesitant reader, and the sort that won’t.
When and where do you usually write?
I prefer to write in the morning and early afternoon, which works out well because I usually go to my day job in the late afternoon and evening. One third of my bedroom is my “office” area, with my desk, bookshelves for research, kids/YA, and genre books, and my special writing chair. Pretty much all of my novel drafting happens in that chair, on my laptop, which has no internet access to limit distractions.
Is there something that is a must have for you to be able to write?
Silence or white noise. I can’t write if there’s a loud conversation or a jarring noise going on nearby. It makes it nearly impossible for me to focus. Thankfully that’s not usually a problem writing at home!
What author or book most influenced you as a writer or in general?
I would say as a writer I was probably most influenced by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. She writes a lot of books that have an element that feels magical, but often is just the magic of everyday life, not something supernatural. I’ve always tried to ground the fantastical elements of my stories in real life as much as possible because I think there’s something exciting about the sense that “magic” of a sort could be just around the corner, even if its subtle.
Can you tell us anything about your next YA novel?
Not very much, but I can say it will almost certainly involve ghosts, though not in the same way as GIVE UP THE GHOST.
The Hiding Spot is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Is there a place, activity, or person that is your hiding spot?
Hmmm. I guess the closest thing I have is traveling. I love visiting another country and having an adventure that’s separate from my regular life, away from the usual responsibilities and concerns.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m going to be doing an event in New York City with some of the 2009 Debs in early December—keep an eye on the blog (http://community.livejournal.com/debut2009 ) for details!
Thank you, Megan, for taking the time to answer some questions!
Check out my review of GIVE UP THE GHOST, here!