Do you believe in love at first sight? In Gayle Forman's new young adult novel, Just One Day,
Allyson Healy meets free spirit Willem on the final stop of her Teen Tours! excursion and it turns her world upside down. Allyson throws her usual caution to the wind and one day with Willem becomes the first day of life on her own terms. One of our Best Teen Books of January, Just One Day is romantic, funny, and meaningful. It is also only half of the story. Like she did with If I Stay and Where She Went, Forman's next book, Just One Year, will be Willem's point of view. I guess I'm back to waiting anxiously for the next Gayle Forman, but there are worse things... I haven't had the chance to meet the author in person but I sent her some questions about Just One Day and her second two-book story arc--you can see her answers below.
Amazon: What was the inspiration for Just One Day?
Gayle Forman: There are two answers to that. The inspiration came,
yes, in a dream. I dreamed a guy and a girl in an abandoned warehouse,
recognized they were abroad somewhere and had just shared an intense day (and
night) together. In a hazy, half-sleep state, I spun out the rest of the story.
But the larger inspiration of the book is all the traveling I've done, starting
when I was sixteen and was an exchange student and carrying on to the year I
traveled around the world with my husband. Travel can be exhilarating and
exhausting, romantic and harsh, but it's almost always transformative.
Q: Paris is the
perfect setting for both a whirlwind romance and self-discovery--does the city hold special meaning for
you and if so, why?
A: Paris does hold special meaning for me, but not for
any of the reasons you'd set a romance there. In fact, I was wary of setting
the love story part of the novel in Paris because it's become a bit of a
clichÃ©, and also hard to pull off because it's been done so well so many times
before (which is why it's become a clichÃ©). But Paris, which can have a
reputation for, ahem, rudeness toward foreigners, has actually always been very
kind to me. I've met open-hearted, generous people who are funny and
interesting and it was almost automatic that the guy and the girl in my dream
would be in Paris. But Paris can also be intimidating, and it needed to be for
the sake of the story, for what happens to Allyson after she wakes up without
Willem and what she faces when she goes back without him.
Q: What is your favorite Shakespeare play or character
A: As You Like It, which I became very familiar with
through the writing of Just One Day and its sequel Just One Year, is currently
my favorite play. It's so rich and resonant and romantic and funny and full of
great lines about identity and masks. I'm quite fond of Rosalind (even if Jaques
has all the best lines). I'm also a big fan of Kate from The Taming of The
Shrew and Paulina in The Winter's Tale.
Q: What is the
most outside-your-comfort-zone thing you've ever done?
A: In 2002, my husband and I traveled around the world
for a year; the first stop was the South Pacific island nation of Tonga, which
we'd chosen as a first stop because it seemed like we were baby-stepping our
way into the wilds"”it was a tropical island; English was spoken. But there were
so many intensely deep cultural divides, in ways I didn't even begin to
understand, that the place felt both familiar and so strange. Subsequent
stops"”from Cambodia to Uzbekistan to Malawi"”never felt quite so strange to me, so
fully outside my comfort zone so much as Tonga did. Then again, I'm a big
believer that every time you push out of your comfort zone, you expand it, so
perhaps Tonga felt so strange simply because it was the first stop.
Q: Your next book, Just One Year, is Willem's side of the story--did you write them at the same time or one after the
other? Did you know after writing If I Stay and Where She Went that
you wanted to write another set of novels in the same style?
A: For about the first week, I envisioned Just One Day as
a standalone, and then I was in the shower"”otherwise known as The Place Where
All Writerly Breakthroughs Happen"”and I realized that it was actually two
books. And by making it two books, the whole task became infinitely more complicated
and challenging because I had to plot them together, intertwine so much, so
subtly, within each book and also between the two. Plus, I had to fully
understand both characters before I began writing the first book, so I didn't
have that luxury of figuring out Willem as I wrote his story. I was excited
when I had that revelation in the shower, but there were many times when the
writing was so challenging, I sort of wished I'd just stayed dirty that day.
Q: What is it
about telling a story from both sides in separate books, versus a dual narrative in a single novel that
appeals to you? Do you have any interest in writing a series or
A: If I Stay was not planned as a series. I decided to
write Where She Went after the characters kept waking me up in the middle of
the night, almost screaming at me because of where I'd left them. So I started
thinking about their futures and it started to come into focus and it was
Adam's story, skipping ahead several years.
With Just One Day and Just One Year,
it's different; the books intertwine, the narrative of one really weaves into
the other. All that said, I think the appeal is the same. You have two novels,
with different narrators, different gendered narrators, and each novel having
its own arc, because each narrator has his or her own journey. But taken
together the two books tell a larger story. I like that If I Stay and Where She
Went can be read separately and I expect Just One Day and Just One Year will be
the same. But the hope is, that read together, readers will come away with a
richer, deeper experience. I suppose that if I needed a trilogy to do this kind
of storytelling, I would, but I can't see wanting to write a story in three
parts, from one character's point of view.
Q: What's the best
book you read in 2012?
A: What is it with all this favorites? It's impossible
for me. So I'll give two. Best YA read was Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity. Best adult fiction was Margaret Atwood's Oryx and
Crake. Speaking of an amazing series. I read In The Year of the Flood first
(also terrific) although it's the second book and loved it for its own story. Then
I read Oryx and Crake and had my mind fully blown and understood the world in a
far richer way. I can't wait for the third book in her Mad Adam trilogy.