Answers from Jerry!!

Back in June, Book Grub members had the opportunity to read an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli through Random House's Author 411 program. At our meeting, we discussed the book and wrote questions for Mr. Spinelli. Well, tomorrow, the Jerry Spinelli Author 411 page goes live, including our questions. So cool! Meanwhile, the publisher emailed me our group's answers today. So, from Jerry to Random House to me to you...

1. Stargirl ends with an epilogue 15 years in the future, yet Love, Stargirl starts right after she moves away. How did you try to reconcile the plot of Love, Stargirl with the ending you had already written? Did you have any difficulties? Do you have any plans to write a third book about Leo or Stargirl that would tie the two together?

Terrific question, as it zeros in on a writer’s issue. When I ended Stargirl I had no intention of ever doing a sequel. Five years later I had a problem. Having decided to portray Stargirl the following year, what do I do with Leo, who, as you say, apparently doesn’t see her for quite a few years after Stargirl ends? I would just say that I tried to turn this “problem” to my advantage and to tell the story in a way that’s not too predictable.

Though there probably won’t be another Stargirl book, for a hint to what lies in the future for them, I refer you to the last page of Stargirl. Obviously, if Leo receives a porcupine necktie in the mail, Stargirl knows where he lives. We can assume she’s got an eye on him and that they are about to meet again.

2. Stargirl is written as a narrative from Leo’s point of view, while Love, Stargirl is written as a diary from Stargirl’s point of view. The books are very different because of this. Which storytelling style do you like better for these characters? Or does the story work better when told from both points of view?

Since . . . I could not have Stargirl and Leo physically interact, I thought a letter/journal format would be the next best way to bring them “together.” I added imagined conversations between Stargirl and Leo to further promote a sense of real-time interaction. Of course, when you tell any story in first person, you’re limited to what your narrator knows and sees.

3. Stargirl is incredibly different than the average teen, and there isn’t anyone like her in other books for teens. How did you come up with the idea for a character like Stargirl? Do you know any real-life Stargirls?

[My wife] Eileen comes closest to being a model for the character. Some things that Stargirl does I lifted right from Eileen’s personal history.

Not only could Stargirl exist today—she does exist. She may not resemble Susan Caraway point by point, but across the country and the world, girls with her spirit and heart and humanity dance and laugh and love among us all. As for fitting in, maybe the question should be, Could a “normal” school fit in with Stargirl?

4. In Love, Stargirl, Stargirl collects a lot of unlikely and unusual friends. How did you manage to make these characters interesting without making them unrealistic?

Stargirl evolved over 30 years. Others may come overnight. It varies. I seldom try to transplant a whole, real person onto the page, but in one way or another, real people—often combinations of them—are always part of a character’s fabric. As for making them real, I simply report in detail the results of one of my favorite pastimes: people-watching.

Stargirl is not an age bigot. She’s attracted to all interesting people, not age levels. She appreciates humanity in any color, size, nationality, age, whatever. Remember Archie said: “She’s an earthling if there ever was one.”

5. At the beginning of Love, Stargirl, she says, “I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.” If you were in charge, what day would you like to celebrate more often?

Fourth of July. I’d like to have it twice a year. I love fireworks and marching bands.

6. If you could talk to Stargirl, what would you ask her?

Are you ever bored? Do you wear your seatbelt? What scares you most? Do you think you’re pretty? Do you care? Do you think you’ll ever see Leo again?

7. Do you celebrate the Solstice or other natural events?

I love astronomy, and the Solstice is an astronomical event. Beyond that, when Eileen first suggested I write a little holiday gift-type book about Stargirl, an early thought was to focus it on Christmas. From there it was a short step to swing that focus to something less specifically religious and more broadly natural. Stargirl and Solstice felt like the right match.

8. What is your experience with homeschooling?

Our daughter-in-law, Marina, homeschools five of our grandchildren.

9. If you could change your name, what would you want to be called?

Congratulations! That’s the hardest question I’ve ever gotten. It took me 30 years to settle on the name for the main character in the book that finally came to be called Stargirl. So you’ll have to give me at least that long to come up with a name for myself. In the meantime, I’ll tell you that in college I tried to get my fraternity brothers to call me Weasel, but it didn’t stick. As I note in Maniac Magee, you can’t give yourself a nickname; it’s what the world wants to call you. Of course, “Stargirl” is not a mere nickname.

10. Are there any plans to make a movie of Stargirl or Love, Stargirl? Would you like to see her on the big screen?

Stargirl is already under option for film. Last month the announcement was on page one of Hollywood Reporter. And yes, I would like to see it happen, especially if it turns out to be good.

11. Do you have plans to write sequels to any other of your stand-alone books? What new projects are you working on?

No, I’m not planning any more sequels . . . Love, Stargirl will be in the bookstores in August. And it won’t be alone—also on the shelves will be a companion Stargirl Journal. In September, I’ll cross the country on a book tour for those two. In the spring, Smiles to Go will come out. And right now, I’m working on a nonfiction book co-authored with my wife and fellow writer, Eileen.

12. Are any of your book characters based on real people?

Eileen comes closest to being a model for the character. Some things that Stargirl does I lifted right from Eileen’s personal history. I would say I’m not Leo as much as Eileen is Stargirl, but there certainly is some of me in Leo.

13. Which of your books are you most proud of? Do your children or grandchildren have any favorites?

My personal favorite is my first published book: Space Station Seventh Grade. But “proud of” is a little different. For that I might say Maniac Magee. If the grandkids have particular favorites, they haven’t told me.


Anonymous said...

Ahhh our questions were answered! I feel like we are FAMOUS haha thats so cool would he ever come for a author visit??

Gretchen said...

i wish!!! i tried to hint to the publisher that we are located close to him and stuff, but i don't think they passed on my plea!

Anonymous said...

Hi I love your book can you please please right one where they meet each other I kind of felt like I was left on a cliffhanger.I loved the book I loved stargirl my friends and I are like her every day you never know what to expect I wish leo and stargirl would meet again. I like how stargirl is her self.