Teen Read Week is officially October 16th through 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you author interviews and profiles and reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us.
Gary Ghislain’s new book How I stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend is a wonderful mix of realistic fiction and sci-fi. And it’s hilarious. It’s also nominated for YALSA’s 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults! I asked him a few questions about his book and we even made a playlist together.
Part of what really worked for me is the fact that the science fiction aspects didn’t take over the book. It’s accessible scifi! And maybe even pokes fun at it a little?
I’m not a die hard sci-fi fan. I’m definitely more into humor and comedy. I’m not trying to imagine a possible future or to create an alternate reality. I just want to write a few good jokes and get people to laugh. I was definitely poking fun at the 60s B movies genre. Barbarella and Flash Gordon were always in my mind when I was writing How I Stole Johnny Depp… I thinks lots of the humor comes from clashing those types of over the top quirky references (girls with huge laser guns and not much clothes), and the everyday life of regular teenagers.
You’re not an American! Was English your first language? You write it in very well.
I’m French. I was born in Paris. English is not my first language. I speak with an awful French accent, very much in the distinctive style of Inspector Clouseau. Luckily, you can not hear that when you read my novel. I was born in a very international family and started to travel the world very early on in my life. English quickly became my everyday language. Nowadays, I wouldn’t even know how to write in French. Whenever I sit at my computer and try to write a few good jokes about spacegirls, Johnny Depp or alien invasion, they automatically pop out in English.
Were there any particular books or authors that really made you want to become a writer?
Four guys made me want to become a writer. Two French. Two Americans. In the French team there’s Marcel Proust and Louis Ferdinand CÃ©line. In the American team there’s Raymond Chandler and Kurt Vonnegut.
I really loved how it was unclear in the beginning whether or not Zelda was really an alien from outer space. Did you know for sure whether she would actually be one when you set out to write the book?
Yes, I knew she was from outer space, and I knew she really meant business when she wanted to zoom back Johnny Depp to her home planet. That was really the base for most of the humor in the book. The hardest thing was to reveal it slowly and carefully, so the readers would accept it and laugh about it.
I definitely know some guys like David and Olivier. Do you have real life inspiration for your awesome girl characters like Malou or Zelda? Love them both, btw.
Zelda is a cocktail of various fictional characters from classic sci-fi B-movies with a zest of my favorite comics’ heroines. Part Barbarella, part Nikita with undertones of Elektra. Malou is an entirely different brand of biscuits. She’s a character that follows me in every story I’m writing. She’s an agent of chaos. The evil sister I never had. My invisible friend. I don’t believe I ever met someone like her, you know, someone truly evil and destructive in a warm sort of way. I love her type of characters in a story, because they bring a lot of energy and provide a lot of solutions just by the sheer amount of chaos they can raise. Actually, I want my next story to be narrated and based on such a female main character. A free spirited young girl with a special ability at punching ex-boyfriends and breaking things.
I’m not sure which of the two foreign worlds to ask you about: the planet of butt-kicking female aliens, or France!?
They’re both pretty exotic. In one, you eat snails, provided you have garlic around. In the other, you lock all males in a prison and you space splash across the universe on any given Sundays.
I think HISJDAG needs a playlist. I’ll start:
- Rocketman, Elton John
- Planet Claire, B-52’s
- Helter Skelter, Beatles
- Institutionalized, Suicidal Tendencies
- Cosmic Girl, Jamiroquai
- 3rd Planet, Modest Mouse
- Space Oddity, David Bowie
Okay my turn:
- Comic Strip, Serge Gainsbourg
- Firestarter, Prodigy
- Love F1-11, Sigue Sigue Sputnik
- Derezzed, Daft Punk
- Argh! You got â€œCosmic Girl, Jamiroquaiâ€ so right â€“ it was like my motivational theme song while writing How I Stole Johnny Deppâ€¦
- Highway to Hell, AC/DC
- Born this way, Lady Gaga
- And of course: Alien, composed by Jerry Goldsmith
— Amy Pelman, currently reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor