Gryffindor Books: Thank you for agreeing to do this with me!
Jilly: My pleasure! Thank you for being excited about #FAMOUS!
Gryffindor Books: What got you into reading? Was there a certain author or a certain book series?
Jilly: I think I came out of the womb bookish. Probably the first author that made a distinct impression on me, though, was Roald Dahl. James and the Giant Peach was the first chapter book I read all by myself, and I adored it. I still think he’s one of the best writers-for-kids that has ever lived; his blend of dark humor and real hope is one that I like to think has rubbed off on me.
Gryffindor Books: When or how did you know that you wanted to be an author??
Jilly: I always knew I wanted to have a creative career, but it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I realized all I really wanted to do was write books. I remember I had a writing professor a couple years later ask the class how many of us wanted to write for a living. He looked around at the group of us with our hands up and said “if there is anything else you can do that would make you happy, you should do that instead.” He meant it as a warning about how hard it is to write—the rejection you face, especially at the beginning, can be just soul-crushing—but I took it as a kind of perverse affirmation. Like “alright, I really know this is what I have to do, so bring on the rejections.” Which, of course, the world did. HA!
Gryffindor Books: Please tell us how your book #famous came about?
Jilly: You can probably guess it’s inspired by the #AlexFromTarget phenomenon—Alex was this regular kid working at a Target in Texas, and a girl snapped a photo of him that went massively viral overnight. Alex got very famous very quickly, but one of the things I thought was really interesting was that the picture taker just…didn’t. And in interviews, Alex’s girlfriend—who was dating a normal kid in her high school, remember; he wasn’t someone aiming for fame, it just happened totally randomly—said she was getting death threats. The huge disparity between those experiences fascinated me, as did the idea of how strange it must be to become famous literally overnight.
Gryffindor Books: How long did it take to write?
Jilly: Maybe five or six months? But the editing process takes a lot longer
Gryffindor Books: How much of #famous is real and how much is made up?
Jilly: It’s inspired by real events, obviously, but everything beyond that inspiration moment is fiction. I actually deliberately didn’t dig too deep into the #AlexFromTarget story once I started writing the book, because this was Kyle and Rachel’s story, not his.
Gryffindor Books: Are you currently writing another book? If so what can you tell us about it and when can we look forward to reading it?
Jilly: I am! Not sure how much I need to keep under wraps at the moment, so I’ll give you a very surface-level teaser: imagine Harriet the Spy grew up a little…then add lots of blackmail.
Gryffindor Books: When you are not writing books what else do you like to do with your free time??
Jilly: I love making things—I knit, cross-stitch, sew (terribly), and bake…and then give away lots of cookies and hats and scarves because there’s only so many crafts and baked goods you need when you live on your own. I’m also a big reader—obviously—and an unabashed fan of terrible reality television. The Real Housewives of New York is my jam.
Gryffindor Books: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell our readers?? Are you having any events or signings coming up cause I know that I want to get a signed copy of your book!?
Jilly: The most important thing I can tell readers is thank you, because I am grateful for each and every person who picks up my book and reads it.
As far as events, I’ll be at C2E2, Chicago’s comic-con, April 21 and 22, and at Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago for a panel with Brittany Cavallaro and Stephanie Kate Strohm on April 23. Over the summer I’ll be living in Boston, so keep an eye out for New England and New York City-based events. I’ll post them all on my website at jillygagnon.com!
And if you’re looking for signed copies but can’t get to an event, try calling the bookstore that is hosting your favorite author the week before the event (don’t email, a lot of bookstore employees are WAY too busy and might miss it). They’d probably be thrilled to set aside a copy for the author to personally sign to you and send it your way after. It’s a great way to support your favorite bookstores and authors, even if you can’t be there in person.
Jilly Gagnon’s Links: