An Interview with YA Author Jeff Giles
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I first “met” Jeff Giles on Facebook. Then on Twitter. And again—but in real life, this time—at his New York City book signing at McNally Jackson for his debut YA novel, The Edge of Everything. (See photo below.) He’s hilarious and talented and I really enjoyed the book AND cannot wait to read the sequel.
Here’s a description for The Edge of Everything from Amazon:
When their worlds collide, X and Zoe are pushed to the edge of everything in this tour de force from Entertainment Weekly veteran Jeff Giles.
For the perfect love, what would you be willing to lose?
It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shocking death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying subzero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in the woods–only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.
X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for them both.
Gripping and full of heart, this epic start to a new series will bring readers right to the edge of everything.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Giles via email. Here are highlights from our exchange:
EZ: What initially sparked the idea for The Edge of Everything?
JG: It was one of those cases where an image just came to me—a girl watching somebody trying drown somebody else through a hole in a frozen lake. Then I backed up, and figured out who everybody was. It turned out that the girl was Zoe, a 17-year-old Montana girl, and the killer was a bounty hunter from the underworld, who has come to take an evil soul. My father-in-law has a ranch in Montana and my family and I came here every summer, and it seemed like a great place to set a supernatural novel because it has so few people, such dramatic weather and landscapes that can be both gorgeous and terrifying.
EZ: Did you intend for the book to have a sequel, or did that idea evolve while writing it?
JG: Yes, my agent pitched it to publishers as a duology, although I didn’t even know that was a word back then. I had written maybe 75 pages of the first novel, plus a detailed outline of the rest of the book. I really only gave them a couple of sentences about the sequel because I’d hadn’t plotted it yet, but I thought I’d be more likely to get a publisher’s attention with a series because there were so many beloved series (series-es?) out there. As I finished Book 1, ideas for Book 2 took shape in the back of my head but I didn’t fully outline the sequel until the first book was done. I know that many authors who plot things in detail and draw maps and family trees and stuff, but I just don’t work that way. Even what I DO plan changes as I write.
EZ: Have you always been funny? (The humor is one of the things I like most in the book.)
JG: Thank you! I was definitely sarcastic from a young age as a defense mechanism because I was so geeky and bookish and not remotely cool. It took until I was in my 30s probably to be able to make/take jokes at my own expense (I was a super-touchy little nerd). The humor I liked most as a kid (Steve Martin, Monty Python) was mostly very silly and anarchic, and that eventually affected my personality. When I was writing “The Edge of Everything,” I had to write funny stuff to offset the scary/upsetting elements. I found that if you’re writing something intense, you need some comic relief right around the same time the reader will. The funnier characters (like Zoe’s studly but slightly goofy ex-boyfriend Dallas) were really fun and easy to write. I love writing dialogue, which is where I put most of the humor, I think. I’m so glad you think it worked!
EZ: So much YA is written in first person. Did you ever attempt or consider that for this book (though I think third-person works beautifully here)?
JG: I actually wrote the first 75 pages with rotating first-person narrators (Zoe and X), but they were SO drastically different that it was off-putting. Plus, I just didn’t feel like I was nailing them. The novel is third-person but alternates between Zoe and X’s perspectives. Zoe notices things and thinks things that a 17-year-old girl might. X has grown up in hell, essentially, with no knowledge of the world. So, he’s not going to recognize, say, an iPhone, or even know what it’s for. He speaks, and thinks, in a more Victorian way.
EZ: When can readers expect the sequel?
JG: Winter of 2018 for sure. I’m writing the last 10,000 words as we speak.
EZ: Three TV shows you’re enjoying now (hoping “This is Us” is one of them…):
JG: I’ve actually avoided “This is Us” because I know it’s going to give me epic feelings, and I can’t handle them right now! In terms of newer stuff, someone turned me on to the Norwegian show about high school, “SKAM,” which my daughter and I devoured pretty fast. And I’m rewatching a lot of stuff to clear my head, mainly “30 Rock” and “Luther.” My guilty pleasure is “Suits.” I have NO IDEA why I watch it, but I watch every single episode.
EZ: Last favorite movie you’ve seen (“Get Out” is SO good. I need to see it again.):
JG: My son likes horror movies, so I’m waiting to see “Get Out” with him. I really liked “Arrival” a lot. And I caught up with “Sing Street” on Netflix (Irish coming of age movie, set in the ‘80s, about a boy who starts a band to impress a girl) and just loved it.
EZ: Three books sitting on your nightstand:
JG: I’m reading an advance galley of Melissa Albert’s debut YA, “The Hazel Wood,” and it’s terrific. (She founded and runs Barnes & Noble’s teen books blog, which is excellent so I suspected her novel would be great, too.) I always keep Alice Munro’s Collected Stories on my nightstand—I just love her writing so much that I need it near me at all times. And I have been rereading a little book called “Joan of Arc in Her Own Words,” which was compiled from court transcripts. It’s pretty riveting, and I am always looking for ways to make the ancient characters in my novel sound realistic for their time period.
EZ: Three foods you cannot live without:
JG: I would have said sushi, but I moved to Montana where the sushi is ABSURD, and I have survived (though just barely). I eat a lot of Amy’s frozen dinners while I’m writing (specifically the Indian one with spinach, cheese and rice—it’s their version of Saag Paneer) and, lately, the little Swiss Miss chocolate pudding cups with THREE different chocolates.
EZ: Three differences between Montana and Brooklyn…go:
JG: No one honks their horn in Montana, people don’t talk about their jobs even 1/100th as much, and every windshield is cracked because of all the dirt roads. Honestly, there are 100,000 differences. I love them both, but you’d never even know New York and Montana were in the same country. Sometimes I wonder if they are!
Here are some reviews of The Edge of Everything:
Full disclosure: I was sent a copy of the book from the publisher with no promise or expectation of a review/post.
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