Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Author Interview: Gae Polisner, Author of The Pull of Gravity

So, how flipping excited am I to read The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner?  It sounds like a book that hits home and has a lot of the elements that I look for in a good story.  So when I saw a blog tour announced for it from the Teen Book Scene, I pounced! I am so thrilled to have Gae on here today and love what she has to say about her upcoming book, her writing and her life when she's not an author.  Welcome, Gae!

While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him.

Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.
(from GoodReads).  Releases on 05.10.2011.

When I first read the synopsis for The Pull of Gravity, I instantly thought it will be a novel that I am going to have a lot in common with (Yoda, Steinbeck, family dysfunction and a roadtrip - love it).  What made you want to write this?

I have always loved YA, read voraciously as a kid, and read MG and YA aloud to my two boys from the time they were little until just a few years ago (okay, my younger one STILL lets me read aloud with him if it’s a great YA I want to read too!) Anyway, I was already writing women’s fiction and decided I wanted to write a book for them. A character-driven piece with a male main character, like the great character-driven fiction I loved as a kid.  

From the synopsis, it sounds like Nick has it rough right now.  Can you give us an idea of what Nick is like and what he is going through at the beginning of the story for our readers?

Nick’s life is a bit of a mess. He’s about to start high school and breaks his leg (it involves a water tower, a fever, and a machete-wielding cherry cola). His older brother is a jerk to him which drives him crazy. His parents are fighting and his father, who used to be a happy, gregarious journalist in NYC, is now an obese, depressed “Jabba the Hutt” on the couch. Oh yeah, and his sort of best friend is dying of a freak, rare disease.

Who is your favorite character from The Pull of Gravity and why? 

Oh man, I love Nick, Jaycee and the Scoot for different reasons, but Jaycee is truly it. She’s funny and a bit of a wise-ass, and totally who I wish I could have been as a teen. Plus, she can read minds.

What do you want readers to take away from The Pull of Gravity?

More than anything, I hope the characters stick with them. And the small moments that feel real and poignant in the book. 

Can you share with us a favorite, short excerpt from The Pull of Gravity? 

Yes, sure. I wonder if out of context it will resonate? But it’s when Nick and Jaycee first get on the bus to Rochester to sneak away and try to find  the Scoot’s dad:

 On the bus to Rochester, Jaycee announces she’s reading Of Mice and Men to me.
“Seriously, Nick,” she says, slipping the book from its purple pouch and resting it in her lap, “it’s the saddest, most beautiful story. Poor Lennie, wait till you see.” I nod. “You’ll have to read it in English Lit next year anyway,” she adds, “so, I’m just saving you the trouble.” 

I don’t argue, even though having a $15,000 book out in the open on a crowded bus makes me nervous. Plus, I’m not really in the mood for sad. She wants to do it, so I don’t say that either.   

We’ve been on the bus for a half hour. Neither of us has said too much since the Trailways station, so I’m cool with her reading. She turns to the first page and says, “Okay, here we go,” and starts from the beginning. While she reads, I watch scenery go by out my window. 

“‘A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside banks and runs deep and green.’” She pauses, says, “Soledad – that’s in California. It’s like the 1930’s during the time of the Great Depression.” She swats at my back. “You’re not even listening to me, Nick.” 

“Yes, I am,” I answer. “The banks are deep and green.” 

“Ok, well, then you are, sort of. So let me give you a little background. Lennie and George, the main characters, are these poor, migrant farm workers. They’re looking for work on a ranch. They’re on the road, like us.” She perks up and adds, “And Lennie’s retarded, like you are.”  She laughs at her own joke.

I smile despite myself. I love Jaycee. I’m glad to be with her. I mean this in mostly a friendly way. What I really mean is, I’m not so happy at the moment, but I’m happier to be here with Jaycee.

I love the fact that you say you love character-driven fiction in your bio.  What makes a character-driven story appeal to you more than a plot-driven story?

Stories don’t make people interesting, people make stories interesting. At least to me.  For me, it’s never been enough to keep me hooked just by telling some crazy big story about spaceships or the future, or murders and mayhem; my eyes glaze over if I don’t care about the people IN the story. For me, it’s the other way around. Give me a few quirky, funny, interesting people and let them all describe eating an apple to me, and I’ll hang on the edge of my seat. Okay, maybe not an apple story, but you get my point?

To this day, I remember Pony Boy and Johnny and Soda Pop (The Outsiders), Meg and Charles Wallace (A Wrinkle In Time), Teddy and his brother (Don’t Take Teddy) though not exactly what happened to any of them. I remember the characters, and I miss them, and they’ve stayed with me as if they were real. In fact, just listing their names makes me want to go back and read about them all over again. I hope one day someone will say that about the characters in my book.

Tell us a little about your writing journey.  When did the writing itch hit, and how did you sojourn into the YA realm?

I wrote a ton when I was little straight through college. In fact, have recently found my totally awesome creative writing professor from Boston University on facebook! And look, this is what my fourth grade teacher wrote in my report card (come on, I was 9): 

“This maturity carries over into Gae’s descriptive writing as well. She’s able to develop ideas and concepts in such a manner that you feel as though you’re reading adult material.”

(And, no, she did not mean porn…)

Then I went to law school and it sucked the creativity right out of me. It took me years and years to get back to my creative writing and basically a decade from starting my first manuscript (women’s fiction) to getting that ever-elusive book deal.

I noticed you are a practicing family law attorney/mediator.  That's one tough job.  Did your experiences there have any hand in your writing?  If so, how?

Yes, in fact I’ve noticed lately that the issues of marriage, divorce and infidelity seem to pop up in all my manuscripts, even YA, so I guess, yes, maybe they have. 

The hardest cases I see in my practice, btw, are not the ones where the couples hate one another, but the ones where they have just sort of grown apart. There is heartache in their decision to split, but an overriding desire to seek happiness in the one life they have, and I think the concept that we can make mistakes, be flawed, but still be good and worthy of being loved (a concept which shows up in all my novels) stems in great part from my work in this regard.

What do you do when you are not working or writing?

I love watching my boys, 15, and 13, do their things, whatever those things might be (at the moment, tennis/kendo and baseball/basketball, respectively. I love listening to my husband sing (which he does semi-professionally with a local performance group) or my older son play guitar. And I am an avid open-water swimmer. The open water – well, any water – is pure bliss.

What are some books which you feel everyone should read in their life, but particularly as a young adult? 

Well, certainly the ones I named above. Also, my hands-down favorite of the year and one of the most beautiful of all time IMHO: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Tween-wise, Liberation of Gabriel King was one of my all-time favorites as well as The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (seriously, you’re NEVER too old to read this one). I’m now reading some amazing YA’s from the others in the Class of 2K11. You should check them out. Some SERIOUS talent in this group.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Gae!  It was a pleasure having you!  Best of luck with the release - I look forward to reading it!


  1. Great interview!
    It sounds like Gae has written a sensitive and insightful book. I look forward to reading it.

  2. Great interview! This sounds like a great book!

  3. "Stories don’t make people interesting, people make stories interesting."

    That is exactly how I feel! Character driven stories are always my favorites, I love to love them and hate them and get entirely caught up in their lives. Fabulous interview Linds and Gae!

  4. I LOVE the last line of that excerpt...talk about saying a lot with a few words. What a nice feeling I get from the writing! And I'm with Jenny...character-driven stories are always my favorite too.

  5. Character driven stories are becoming hugely fascinating to me.

    I love that the author got inspired by her boys. And Jaycee sounds like my kind of gal. Can't wait to meet these characters.

    Thanks for the interview.

  6. Thank you Lindsay for the interview (I really love your site) and everyone for the nice comments! Hope you love the book when it comes out.

    I've written two other manuscripts since TPoG but I miss Nick and Jaycee a bit -- I'm not much of a "sequel" person, but now I get why people write them... a chance to revist with characters you feel like you know...


  7. I've been waiting for this one to come out! I'm so glad to read this interview and find out more about Gae Polisner. For some reason the name alone just pulls me in (no pun intended) and I feel like I have to read this story. I have to know if they succeed in finding the father. Thanks for highlighting this author Lindsay.


  8. oh, heather, let me know when you're done reading whether you are satisfied or not...

    I like to hear these things. :)


  9. Great interview. I love that Gae gave us a passage from the novel.

    And I am huge fan of character driven novels. Can't wait for this :)

  10. Wonderful interview, and I loved the excerpt! Gae is great (sort of know her) and I can't wait to read her book.

  11. thanks guys! glad the excerpt intrigued you. that little part is one of my favorites, though better in context too i hope! :)

  12. Great interview!
    I loved the excerpt, really wanna read this now.