G.G. Silverman is yet another writer I know of via Facebook, but have had the pleasure of meeting in person, since she frequently reads at the Noir at the Bar Seattle series I organize and host.
She doesn’t write “noir” per se, but her work has a darkly satirical edge that fits right into the festivities. Her literary expertise criss-crosses several genres, in fact, including the challenging field of poetry. You can’t box her talent in. It’s just too big.
Plus she’s a fantastic live reader, matching the polished prose on her prolific pages. The reason she is such a dynamic performer is due in part to her professional training at the Unexpected Productions Improv School here in Seattle.
Additionally, dig these crazy formal education credentials: she is a graduate of Massachusetts College; an alumna of Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing; and has participated in the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writer’s Workshop, the Big Sur Writer’s Workshop, and the Writing for Children program at the University of Washington.
In short, she knows what she’s talking about, she heads up, class:
You are a very popular YA novelist. Is this a genre you gravitated to as a fan, or because it’s a lucrative marketing niche, or both?
While I’m incredibly savvy at marketing (thanks, day-job!), I always write from the heart. My writing never comes from a place that is about hot markets or what’s popular. It’s about scratching an itch, telling a story that feels like it might burst out of me if I don’t get it down.
When I first attempted writing novels years ago, I had intended to write for an even younger market, kids 8-12, but was flailing. I was trying too hard to emulate the biggest writers in that category, people like J.K. Rowling and Lemony Snicket, and it failed. It wasn't authentic, I realized then that instead of trying to do what’s popular, I needed to find myself and my own unique voice. I started experimenting, and discovered that a YA-friendly voice is something that came naturally to me (maybe I’m still a teen, deep down). The first writing experiment I did in that voice got so much great response from folks in my writing group and subsequent writing workshops (like SCBWI’s New York Conference Roundtable Critique and the Big Sur Writing Workshop) that it become the hilarious opening monologue of my first book, VEGAN TEENAGE ZOMBIE HUNTRESS.
Obviously you love zombies. What do you think accounts for the continued fascination with this genre across several mediums?
I think it’s several factors. I think we live in a more anxious age than ever—we have a more widespread, connected, 24-hour media that constantly feeds our heads with bad news or the potential for bad news, and some of it is very real. And because our society is more global than ever, the potential for a deadly global pandemic to spread rapidly is also fairly real. We also have more possibilities for chemical and biological warfare. And our rampant consumerism has also become a global disease, something that America has exported to nations where it never previously existed, mindless consumerism being its own form of zombieism and cannibalism. All this stuff has to express itself somewhere, so it's no surprise that it shows up in our entertainment. We’re all just trying to blow off steam and express our fear of something that really scares us, even if it’s just a metaphor.
In addition to fiction, both long and short form, you’re a poet, which must be a labor of love. What are the rewards of poetry for both writer and reader these days?
What I love about poetry, as a reader, is its ability to take a fleeting moment, thought, or feeling, and to make it incredibly profound. Even the smallest object, poetically revealed, can be of enormous significance. I love the connections poetry makes, how it can make me think about something in a way I never dreamed of, and to do it so emotionally. Few other art forms do that, I think.
As a writer, poetry doesn’t come naturally to me, because contemporary poetry is highly evolved, and learning to think that way takes practice. I’ve had some great teachers, most notably Francine J. Harris and Christopher Citro, and they've done a great job at shedding light on how one might even begin to approach writing a contemporary poem. The biggest benefit to me as a writer is that learning to write poetry has changed my brain for the better. I take more conceptual risks in my writing in general, and overall my writing is more poetic than it used to be, and that can only be a good thing.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
I’m an equal opportunity lover of anything that moves me, whether it’s funny, happy, sad, or dark. It doesn't matter, so long as it’s a story well told, or makes me feel something deeply. When I was writing my first book, VEGAN TEENAGE ZOMBIE HUNTRESS, which was a horror comedy, I was definitely riffing on comedic pop culture, movies like Mean Girls, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and TV shows like Daria and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Plus, I grew up loving comedy, and funny people really inspire me. Dana Carvey and Mike Myers (Wayne’s World!) were big inspirations when I was in my 20s, then Kids in the Hall, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey; all those people make me who I am today.
In my short fiction, which tends to be more serious, or darker and weirder, I’d love to someday be compared to Han Kang, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Cormac MacCarthy, Karen Russell, Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aimee Bender, or Amy Tan. Some of my friends inspire me as writers as well, and I’d mention them here, but they'd be super embarrassed. And I'd be remiss if I didn’t talk about film influences here too: the spooky-excellent Japanese horror film anthology Kwaidan, directed by Masaki Kobayashi, Guillermo DelToro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, and the atmospheric mood of Frank Darabont’s interpretation of Stephen King’s The Mist has been under my skin for a long time.
What’s next for you?
I’m finishing my third book, THE INNERMOST THOUGHTS of COKIE MORIMOTO, which will be the prequel to VEGAN TEENAGE ZOMBIE HUNTRESS. It’ll be quieter than VTZH, and will still have zombies, but in more of an alternate universe setting, and the book will also foreshadow events in VTZH. It’ll be more poetic in tone, but teens should still be able to identify with themes of feeling like an outsider, and being bullied.
Beyond that, I’m always working on tons of short fiction. I plan to have a collection or two out some day. My short fiction tends to be more adult, and more experimental these days, some stories just outright weird, others more in the vein of a literary/spec-fic hybrid, with elements of darker fairy tales and magical realism.
After that, there are tons more book ideas rattling around in my head, books of all kinds. I’ll be finished when I’m dead. :)
Well, that means we have a lot to look forward to, cheers!
PHOTO: G.G. SILVERMAN