INTERVIEW WITH GAIL NALL, AUTHOR OF EXIT STAGE LEFT

1. Can you tell us a little about your books?
EXIT STAGE LEFT is about sixteen-year-old Casey, who is a dedicated actress. She’s plotted out her entire life to lead to ExitStageLeftEPBBroadway. When she loses a key audition to her best friend, she finds herself questioning whether she’s as good as she thought she was. Convinced she’ll never get into theater school, she and her best guy friend decide to find something
entirely new to throw themselves into before they find themselves stuck forever in their small town. Except nothing really goes the way Casey plans. Everything gets even more complicated when her sometimes-boyfriend starts showing interest in her best friend, and Casey finds  herself spending more time with the new guy in school. All Casey wants is to find a little normal again, fast, but it’s hard to leave the drama behind.
I’m also the author of BREAKING THE ICE and the co-author of YOU’RE INVITED, two middle grade novels that published with Aladdin/S&S earlier this year. The sequel to YOU’RE INVITED will be out in February of next year, and I have another standalone middle grade book out in Fall 2016, currently titled OUT OF TUNE.
2.Are you a plotter or do you write whatever pops into your head?
This is a great question, because I’m recently converted! I’ve always been a pantser. As in, I had an idea where the the story was headed, but I didn’t write an outline or do any plotting beyond jotting down some notes as I went. But, having worked with a co-author on two middle grade novels, we had to create a chapter-by-chapter outline because, well, neither one of us could read the other’s mind! After seeing how well that worked (and how much faster I was able to write as a result of knowing where I was going), I decided to try to plot my current YA work-in-progress. I started with a three act structure — a beginning, a mid-point, and an ending. I turned that into chapter-by-chapter notecards in Scrivener. And then it morphed into post-it notes on the wall, with the action scenes layered over the emotional subplots. It’s fascinating, actually, to see it all laid out like that! And I’m definitely writing faster and more purposefully as a result.
3. Do you require silence when writing or do you like to listen to music?
I’m an absolute silence kind of girl. I tend to get distracted by other words if I have music going. I do have inspirational songs that either remind me of the book or make me think of certain emotions the characters might be feeling. I like to listen to these in the car during the day or right before I start writing to help get my mind into the right place. For EXIT STAGE LEFT, Taylor Swift’s “Style” was one of these songs. That one described Casey and her on-again, off-again boyfriend’s dysfunctional relationship so perfectly. There’s also one scene in the book where Casey goes to see a show with a bunch of local bands, so I put on some songs from local bands that I loved when I was sixteen to help inject some energy into that scene. And then, since this is a book about musical theater, I listened to a lot Broadway. Of course.
4. Who is the inspiration behind your main characters?
I love Casey. She’s bold, she’s usually pretty sure of herself, but then her entire sense of self hinges on her talent. And when that fails her, she’s completely lost. I don’t base my characters on real people, but when I started this book, I definitely had a sense of who Casey was. I wanted to see what would happen to a character who is so confident almost the point of self-centeredness, but who then has everything pulled out from underneath her.
Harrison, Casey’s best guy friend, is another favorite. He’s adorably funny and knows a lot more than he lets on. He’s also questioning himself, and so he willingly goes along on Casey’s quest to find some sort of meaning for her life. He’s so not into her drama with her sort-of-boyfriend, but he definitely has some opinions that he shares once in a while. I’d love to have a Harrison in my life.
Amanda, Casey’s best friend, was one of the hardest characters to write. It took me a while to get a handle on her. She’s also a confident, talented person, but she’s more reserved than Casey. Casey tends to run the show, while Amanda takes the backseat without complaining. And then when Amanda gets the lead, the entire structure of their friendship turns upside down. I loved figuring out how Amanda’s character changed throughout the story.
5. If you could meet any author who would it be and why?
Hmm, okay, I’d choose Meg Cabot. Mostly so that I could thank her in person for writing the kinds of books that finally made me realize I should write in my natural voice — strong, funny, and sort of in-your-face. Although if Laura Ingalls Wilder came back to life, I might have to meet her instead (sorry, Meg!). Hands down, the Little House books were my absolute favorite books growing up.
6. What book(s) made you want to be a writer?
Those would be the books I read and loved when I was younger — contemporary series like The Babysitters’ Club and Sweet Valley Twins, and then the teen horror books I devoured, especially ones by Caroline B. Cooney, Christopher Pike, and R.L. Stine. Those were the first books that inspired me to write my own stories (which were mostly about me and my friends forming clubs and having adventures, and, of course, scary ghost stories).
Bio:
Gail Nall
Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped
in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the middle grade novel, BREAKING THE ICE (Aladdin/S&S, 2015) and the co-author of YOU’RE INVITED (Aladdin/S&S, 2015). Her young adult debut, EXIT STAGE LEFT, will be published by Epic Reads Impulse/HarperCollins on September 8, 2015. You can find her online at gailnall.com and on Twitter as @gailecn.
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