YALM: When did you decide to start writing?
JG: It was never decided for me; I just started. I was ten, and just finished a Nancy Drew. I wanted to be like Carolyn Keene; someone that told wonderful stories. I didn't know then that Carolyn Keene didn't exist (it was a group of ghostwriters through the Stratemeyer syndicate!) but all that matters was I knew it was something I had to do. It was in my blood.
YALM: Tell us a little bit about your latest work.
JG: My YA novel Ella Bella has the title character dealing with several scary events. Set after 9/11, Ella faces many challenges. Her father dies suddenly, her brother goes to war, and her mother loses her job due to outsourcing. It may sound bleak, but I feel that Ella is a story that at times can be funny, showing how in the darkest times, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
YALM: What are some of the qualities in your latest work that set it/you apart from what's currently out there on the market?
JG: That's a wonderful question! There are no vampires or zombies in it (although I'm not down on vampires or zombies!) plus since it is set in 2002, there's no texting, no iPhones, no iPods, no Youtube, no Facebook. Ella doesn't even have a cellphone! Revising it last year made me realize how much life has changed in ten years.
YALM: What attracts you to the Young Adult genre specifically?
JG: Growing up I loved books. I was very shy and I had a learning disability, but I loved to read. I read many YA books and continued to do so in my twenties. What I love is how even at their darkest, YA authors try and find a glimmer of hope, a reason to carry on. It might not be a happy-go-lucky ending where the hero gets the girl, but for the characters and the reader it's enough to quote that famous British saying, to keep calm and carry on.
YALM: Who would you count among your strongest influences for your latest work, and why?
JG: Judy Blume for sure; I reread Tiger Eyes after my first draft because her character Davey also loses her father. Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak also was also important because Melinda survives a horrible event yet manages to keep her sense of humor.
Other influences: Libba Bray, Sarah Dessen, Ellen Hopkins, Angela Johnson, and Cynthia Voigt. I would dream of being compared to Paula Danziger. The summer I started writing this novel, she died of a heart attack. I was heartbroken to hear about her death; I love her books and she was so funny. She had that ability to make you laugh on one page and cry the next. I hope I can be as skilled as she was in telling a good story.
YALM: Do you have pursuits outside of young adult fiction?
JG: Outside pursuits? What's that??? I love writing essays. I write a blog on redroom.com and it's a great way to try out new material. I also have a collection of my essays on smashwords called Take What You Got And Fly With It. I love movies, mostly classics. I try to walk everyday; it helps clear my head and I notice that story ideas come to me as I walk. I also love perusing new flavors of Ben and Jerry's, going to bookstores, listening to music. I'm on Twitter way too much. I probably should be in a Facebook 12 step program.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries