Gayle Forman speaks about her influences, new novel

Daisy Wang

Following the release of her New York Times best selling novel, “If I Stay,” Gayle Forman quickly paved her way in the world of young adult fiction. In 2014, the novel was subsequently made into a film of the same name starring Chloë Grace Moretz. The Daily Texan spoke with Foreman about her first novel starring adult characters, “Leave Me,” before her appearance at the Texas Book Festival this weekend. 

The Daily Texan: All your past novels have been young adult fiction. What draws you to that category?

Gayle Forman: I always tell people that I write about young people, but I don’t write young stories. I think there’s this idea that people who write YA are just trying to go back and relive their adolescence, and that’s true for some, but not for me. I’m writing about things that are on adult minds, but it’s always been about these young people between the age of 17 and 25 who help to tell the story. Young people have an immediacy and urgency to their feelings, and I believe that everybody actually feels very intensely, but as you grow older, the license to do so is kind of revoked. There comes an exhilarating urgency with writing the stories that are on my mind through this kind of unfiltered, emotional experience.  

DT: Speaking of your past novels, what brought on the desire to make “Leave Me,” your latest book, one for adults instead?

GF: Instead of calling “Leave Me” an adult book, I call it my first book starring adults because I know a lot of adults who read YA and a lot of teens who don’t. I wanted to write a story about marriage and motherhood. I have two kids, and I’ve been married for a long time, and suddenly this was a thing I needed to work through. There was really no way to do that while writing a young adult novel.

DT: Would you say “Leave Me” is a feminist novel?

GF: I think “Leave Me” has feminist screaming all over it. It is a hugely feminist novel. I don’t think you have to have a character with a capital F for feminist on her chest. Maribeth is kind of chasing against this outmoded idea of parenting, in which the person who births the child is by default the one who swaps out the winter clothes for summer clothes or knows when the kids have a pediatrician appointment. As a mother in a similar situation, it began to not make sense to me anymore where women comprise half of the workforce and are increasingly becoming the breadwinners of the family. And yet, there’s still this assumption that they will be the ones to nurture the children. Maribeth upends that and does the most taboo thing a mother can do, which is leave her children.

DT: Who are your biggest influences when it comes to your writing?

GF: I don’t have a particular author who I read and think, “Oh I want to be like that.” I think that you absorb everything you read — the good and the bad. So every book that I’ve ever read kind of becomes part of my DNA. When I really love a book for whatever reason, whether because it’s structurally daring or emotionally true or hilarious, it makes me want to take risks like that as well. 

DT: What is your favorite novel that you’ve written? 

GF: Even though “If I Stay” is such a deeply, deeply personal novel, and it’s so special to me, if I had to pick one, it’d be “Where She Went.”  I have a very soft spot for that one more than “If I Stay,” since it’s the one that came after. 

Gayle Forman will be speaking at 11 a.m. at the Texas Book Festival on Nov. 5 at the Capitol Extension Room.