Interview with Gwendolen Gross about Orphan Girl

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa
Question 1:
I was so interested in how you handled backstory for your main character, Clementine. It's so easy to lose the readers with backstory, but you didn't. How did you choose the way you finally wrote it: present chapter, backstory chapter, etc.

I struggled, in the first draft, with a strong desire to minimize backstory for Clementine. I felt as though I wanted a lot to happen in the present without so much slowdown from the past--so at first, I wrote out the simple past (present--the what's happening immediately) story, but I kept finding I needed to write a parallel story--past perfect--to inform the forestory. Ultimately, I decided to alternate, but not without several juggling acts (no dropped eggs, thankfully) between.One thing I've decided, as writer, reader, and teacher, is that people do want immediacy as readers--and one way to achieve that is not to go too long without something happening. And dialogue is the ultimate in something happening, because we hear it in our head as the direct words of the characters, without all the distance of extra words in a sentence.

Question 2:
Every gripping novel, from Jane Eyre to your Orphan Girl is built on a family secret. Did you know the secret in Orphan Girl before you began to write it?

Gwendolen's answer:
First of all, bless you, Jane Eye and Orphan Sister in the same sentence?! You are so kind!Yes. I knew. And I didn't know. I did experiment with some worse possibilities, but ultimately wanted a forgivable secret, a forgivable mistake. I tend toward the hopeful, and don't like bad behavior ONLY for the sake of titillation, in books or in life.

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