KC: I Call Myself Earth Girl has a rather unusual plot in that it combines science fiction with environmentalism and issues relating to war, religion and humanity generally. How did you come up with the plot?
JKG: I wrote the first Earth Girl segment about 2 years before the rest of the book. After I wrote it, I wasn't sure how to build a whole novel from it. But then one day it occurred to me that the first Earth Girl segment could be a dream that revealed something important to another character. It was a very vague idea, but as soon as I decided that Gloria was pregnant, the rest of it just started coming to me. I didn't really know where I was going with it, but I knew I had a few ideas that I wanted to incorporate and that is where the environment and war come it.
KC: You deal with some rather brutal issues in the book like violence against women in particular. Was it difficult to write passages about violence and the human capacity for inhumanity in a way that would still be accessible to readers?
JKG: Yes, that was a challenge because I wanted to show the violence in a way that affected the reader emotionally without making them so upset that they would not want to keep reading. Plus, I really did not want it to be gratuitous violence. I wanted the violent scenes to make a point about how desperate circumstances, including war, can make good people treat others in a way they would not ever imagine. In the sequel, I examine this premise more fully, showing how a person who is good to his/her own family and community can be truly cruel to those perceived as enemy, or perceived as a threat to survival.
KC: The lead character, Gloria, goes through some very difficult challenges throughout the book, including giving birth to a strange "alien" daughter later in life while her older daughter is facing a pregnancy of her own. While she often despairs and wonders how to deal with a situation, she always pulls through with grace and dignity. Was she a difficult character to write? What were some of the main challenges for you as a writer in dealing with her character's journey?
JKG: To be honest, Gloria was the easiest character for me to write. The old cliche about the character taking over and determining what happens was true for Gloria. Whenever I was writing about Gloria it flowed very easily. I was extremely comfortable with her and, although, I may not have made the same choices she makes, I understood her reasons for making them.
KC: Your vision of the future in this story is somewhat bleak, yet tinged with hope that we can do better as a human race. Does this mirror your own feelings about the future? If so, in what ways?
JKG: It absolutely mirrors my feelings. I think the future will be very bleak if we don't transition to a different way of living. I really believe that we need to move away from war as a way to solve conflict between and among countries. Not only does war destroy families, communities, and whole societies, it also harms the earth and the earth has almost reached its breaking point for a variety of complicated reasons, most of which trace back to human activities. BUT, I also believe that humans can reverse these trends. I believe that those of us who are on earth now were chosen by God, or the universe, or random chance to transition humanity to a new way of living in harmony with nature and with each other. More importantly, I think we are starting to do this. I see very hopeful signs with the global peace movements and the global environmental movements. People from all over the world are collaborating with each other. I think that this is the promise of the future and I am very inspired by it.
KC: Who are some of your favorite writers? What have been the biggest influences on your own writing so far?
JKG: It is easier for me to name favorite books than favorite writers, but I don't think I have ever read anything by John Steinbeck or Mark Twain that I did not like. My favorite book is still To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The structure of the story is perfect. More recently - The Secret Life of Bees, The Lovely Bones, I Know This Much is True, Turtle Moon, and in the last few years, Flight Behavior, Ten Thousand Saints. Right now I am reading and enjoying Alice Hoffman's new novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things.
I think I am more inspired by observing what is going on in the world - the big picture, than I am by any particular writer, but I think that Alice Hoffman has probably influenced me more than any other writer.
Thanks for being with us today and sharing your thoughts on writing, Jan!