We sat down with Jeff Giles to get the deets on writing in a female point of view, his controversial thoughts about book to movie adaptations and his very first piece of fan art!
PAGEHABIT: Hi Jeff! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
JEFF GILES: I grew up in Massachusetts in a pretty loud, unhappy family, so I spent a lot of time holed up in my room with my baseball cards and my guitar and my fantasy novels. I wasn’t much of a baseball player, and I was really bad at guitar (I still play and I’m STILL bad, actually). So I guess what I’m saying is: writing was the only thing I loved that I didn’t suck at. I tried writing all kinds of things when I was young: plays, song lyrics, short stories, poems. By the time I went to college, I’d decided to try being a journalist. My dream was that I’d write articles for a living until I wrote a novel good enough to be published. That took MANY more years than I thought it would!
PAGEHABIT: What is your favorite novel of all time?
JEFF GILES: Please don’t make me answer this! It’s too hard to choose! Let me try this: My favorite YA novel right this second is “Still Life with Tornado” (A.S. King). My favorite novel to recommend to “grown-ups” is “Bel Canto” (Ann Patchett). My favorite funny novel is “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (Maria Semple). My favorite weird novel is “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” (Haruki Murakami). My favorite sci fi novel is “Never Let Me Go” (Kazuo Ishiguro).
PAGEHABIT: Ha, those are all seriously great recommendations. In your opinion, has there ever been a movie that is better than the book?
JEFF GILES: I know this will be controversial, but I actually think there are a lot. It usually happens with action and suspense, because those genres are just MADE for the big screen. One really old example is “Jaws.” I’m sure the novel was a fun summer read, but Steven Spielberg’s movie was the first blockbuster and changed Hollywood forever. I won’t say that Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movies are BETTER than the Tolkien novels—mostly because I don’t want all your subscribers to hate me—but I do think they’re every bit as good, and maybe even more exciting.
PAGEHABIT: In lieu of starting World War III, we can’t say we agree or disagree, but we will comment on JAWS and that was indeed meant for the big screen! Moving on to something a little less controversial — which three authors would you invite to a dinner party?
JEFF GILES: J.K. Rowling, because obviously! Charles Dickens, because J.K. Rowling would love to meet him, I bet. And E.M. Forester, because I love his novels—and I think Dickens would feel bad if he were the only dead guy there.
PAGEHABIT: Your debut novel, The Edge of Everything, has a leading female protagonist, how did you get into character and develop her voice throughout the novel?
JEFF GILES: I began writing the novel while I was living in Brooklyn, and I finished it after we’d moved to Montana, so Zoe is sort of a combination of what I love most about both places: the funny-smart/take-no-crap NYC thing mixed with the outdoorsy, self-reliant western thing. More importantly, my daughter is a big reader, and I knew she’d read the novel some day. There is NO WAY she would approve of a female character who wasn’t tough and brave and badass. Zoe sort of has my sense of humor, but she’s cooler than me in every other way.
PAGEHABIT: Give yourself some credit! I’m sure a lot of readers and writers think you are pretty darn cool, us included! Do you have any advice for young writers?
JEFF GILES: Tons! Try to write on a regular schedule. Turn off the WiFi or you won’t get anything done. Read everything you write out loud—both to yourself and others. There’s no better way to tell if something flows and makes sense and if you’re proud of it. Remember that absolutely everyone writes a lot of bad stuff on the way to writing good stuff. Make sure there are enough snacks in the house.
PAGEHABIT: 110% yes on snacks. What was the thought process behind curating your Literary YA Box?
JEFF GILES: I had so much fun! I wanted to share books about girls with real purpose—and who were in the midst of figuring out who they were. Then I picked some cool odds and ends to make the whole reading experience a little brighter, warmer and more special.
PAGEHABIT: Now, something we ask each of our curators — what is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?
JEFF GILES: I sent an advance copy of “The Edge of Everything” on a little “tour” of other YA authors, and they all wrote and doodled all over it and told me what they liked best. One friend, the middle grade author Melanie Conklin, even drew a great picture of my leading man X’s tattooed arm. It was the first piece of fan art I ever got, and it really made me glow.