Interview with Gail Gauthier, author of Saving the Planet & Stuff

Publish Date: February 2012 (E-book)

Order Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Gail Gauthier’s comic account of the culture clash that occurs when a twenty-first century adolescent slacker is thrown together with two aging and highly committed environmentalists is now available in an eBook edition.

Michael Racine is spending a miserable summer alone at home when he stumbles upon a temporary job and housing with his grandparents’ friends, Walt Marcello and Nora Blake. Walt and Nora made names for themselves in the environmental movement with their magazine, "The Earth’s Wife," and Michael believes he’s headed for an internship with them that could rival the summer activities of his far more industrious and accomplished friends. Lack of air conditioning and biking to work get old very fast for him, though, and he has trouble taking seriously Nora’s concerns about the environmental impact of golf courses and Walt’s interest in composting toilets. He gets to leave his hosts’ solar home each weekday only to be faced with turmoil and revolt among "The Earth’s Wife"’s staff. How can Michael—or Walt and Nora—decide on the right course of action?

"Saving the Planet & Stuff" was originally published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. This new edition includes an unpublished short story that uses early versions of the Walt and Nora characters, as well as a new cover illustration by Eric Bloom.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about your current release.

Saving the Planet & Stuff is the story of sixteen-year-old Michael Racine, who has reason to view himself as inept, and rather ineptly agrees to spend part of his summer working for a magazine run by Walt and Nora, two aging and highly committed environmentalists. All three of them end up struggling with questions about how they should live their lives. Humor is an important aspect of most of my writing, and I find the surprise and sometimes even shock that occurs when unlike elements are thrown together funny. That’s an important part of Saving the Planet, but so is the outsider commenting on and seeing what’s funny in a situation. However, who is the outsider in this book? Walt and Nora, because they live what most of us would consider an alternative lifestyle? Or Michael, because he is the stranger in their world?

Q. How did writing this book affect you?

 Interesting question. I grew up in Vermont and went to college there at a time when it was experiencing an influx of new people interested in alternative lifestyles.  During my college years, I thought I was going to turn out much more like Nora Blake in Saving the Planet then I did. That was a little disturbing for me. Since the book went through many drafts (my books always do), I had to live with that disturbance for quite a while. Of course, Nora is still older than I am, so I suppose I still have time.

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?

I am like many writers in that I was a big reader as a child. I grew up in a rural area, and we didn’t live near other children. Reading was just a huge, huge part of my life. The move from reading to wanting to write something to read may be a natural progression. I was interested in writing from fifth grade. I had poor math skills. I managed to avoid science courses after tenth grade. Sports barely existed in our universe. The only thing I got rewarded for was being able to read well and my attempts at writing. I didn’t even try to explore other options when I was in college. As an adult, I kept returning to writing. I never tried to pursue anything else. When you live like that, there comes a point when you’ve burned your bridges behind you. You don’t have anything else you can do, so you better hope something comes of the writing.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

 Plotting. Without a doubt. I am always trying to improve on that.

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?

I just have a classical station streaming through the computer and listen to whatever they’re playing. I like to have music playing all the time, but find anything contemporary (I do listen to it in other situations) too distracting. Classical music—not distracting.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

The significant word in that question is “interesting.” The best I can offer is that I start my work days pretty late, not until 10:30 or 11:00 o’clock, because I’ve been an exercise hobbyist for many years and have to do close to an hour and a half of some disorganized mix of aerobic exercise, yoga, and resistance training or taekwondo practice most  mornings. It’s frustrating as far as work is concerned, but I am dead certain that something really bad will happen if I give it up. By which I mean that something bad will happen to me.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

I’m getting ready to start another children’s book, this one involving a teenage mummy hunting for her long-lost love. At least, that’s what it’s about now, before I’ve written anything.  I also started revising a completed manuscript last year, switching it from a children’s book to one for adults. I hope to do some more on that later this year.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

 I’m going to be leading a workshop at the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ regional conference in May and serving on a panel for the same group at an event this fall.  And my first short story for adults was published in January at Alimentum

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

My impression is that most people don’t find this much fun when they hear about it, but I am a third dan black belt in taekwondo. I’ve been training for eleven years, and I tend to think in my own taekwondo metaphors. I am always “training” as a writer. I “get up off the mat” after a setback.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I describe myself as writing real world fiction about characters who go their own way, because even when I’m writing science fiction, which I did with a couple of my early books for children, the science fiction elements come into the “real” world we all can recognize. Most of my protagonists are people who don’t conform to anyone’s expectations within that world and often just don’t care to.  Humor is a world view in my literary universe. I don’t write jokes, I simply find humor in the situations I write about.


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