Q&A with Shevi Arnold
about her funny, YA, sci-fi novel
Why My Love Life Sucks
What would you have done differently if you were the main character of your book?
Everything. Gilbert is a teenage boy and a super genius who can fix just about anything. I’m not.
What was your inspiration behind this book?
I'm a geek, and I love geeks. Geeks love things beyond what some people consider socially acceptable. That’s how I feel about stories, particularly funny fiction, fantasy and science fiction, like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Lord of the Rings. I see geeks as real-life heroes, and it’s long bothered me that there are no books that show this.
Why My Love Life Sucks started with Gilbert Garfinkle and my determination to create a series about an ultimate geek who turns out to be the ultimate hero. Of course, if I wanted to show this, I needed to give him the ultimate conflict. Gilbert has a desperate need to take apart and make sense of things, so I had to give him something he couldn't take apart and make sense of. Enter Amber, the gorgeous vampire girl who has inexplicably chosen to spend eternity with him. She wants to be his platonic BFF--literally forever! It’s the ultimate geek’s ultimate nightmare, and that’s what makes it so very funny.
Why did you become a writer?
I don’t know if I became a writer so much as I was born one. My family has been working in newspapers and magazines for five generations, and when I was little, I was constantly writing stories in my head. I didn’t become a writer; I just am one. John Green in an interview with Craig Ferguson pointed out that writers are wired differently. We think differently. We see the potential stories in everything. I know I do. I’ve only ever been good at two things--writing and illustrating, and I’ve been working at both since 1987.
As a reader and writer, I think it is important to get to know your fans and make a connection with them. Authors should take the extra step to hear what their fans think and want in their continued writing. It’s the key to an author’s continued success and to selling more books. Do you agree with that?
I love connecting with readers. Geeks are my world! And I do suspect some readers will want certain things as the story continues. I can't promise I'm going to give you them, though, because that would ruin the surprise--and comedy is all about surprise.
Have you ever laughed at a joke the first time, but not the second time? That’s because the element of surprise was gone. I'm not going to ruin the joke for you. I plan to surprise you, and surprise you, and surprise you again.
But rest assured, I have the entire story planned in my head, and it is all leading to a fantastic conclusion, probably better than anything any reader can imagine. To quote The Best Exoctic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be all right in the end. If it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”
Do you have a favorite author or authors?
Oh, you want a list?
Peter S. Beagle, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Sue Townsend, Louise Rennison, Patricia C. Wrede, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rick Riordan, Georgia Byng, Christopher Moore, Dave Barry...I could go on and on, but I'll stop there.
Do you like to write your books in a continuing series?
That depends on the book. Why My Love Life Sucks is meant to be the first in a six-book series entitled The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer.
If you could date any character from any book, who would it be and why?
Gilbert. Because he’s my idea of the perfect guy. Of course, he would probably be terrified of me. He's terrified of Amber, because she killed him--and I made her do it!
What kinds of books do you like to read in your spare time?
Anything that makes me laugh or takes me away to amazing new worlds, preferably both.
Do you cry when writing sad scenes?
Of course, I do. I cried buckets when I was writing the most heart-wrenching scenes in Ride of Your Life and a certain scene near the end of Toren the Teller’s Tale. It has to make me cry first if I want it to have that effect on the reader. I’m also the first to laugh at my own jokes. Many scenes from Gilbert’s story make me laugh out loud when I just think about them. It can be a little embarrassing when that happens in public.
Did you have a Cover Designer?
Yes. Me. I worked for years as a magazine and newspaper illustrator and designer, so of course that was something I wanted to do myself. In fact, you’ll find several articles on my blog about cover design.
Who is your fictional boyfriend or girlfriend crush?
Gilbert. I love him to death. Literally.
If you were able to dine and have a one on one with your favorite writer/author who would it be?
Mark Twain. I know the conversation would be fascinating.
Do just re-read your favorite books?
Do I reread my favorite books? Sometimes. Rarely. It has to be a geeking awesome book.
Do you ever get in a reading slump like your readers do?
No. I can always “read” the stories in my head. I have many more than I could possibly write down in a lifetime.
What is the funniest book you ever read?
The first books in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They are funny on every page. That’s something I aspire to with The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer.