Unfortunately due to some glitches, my interview with Inconvenient author, Margie Gelbwasser was delayed for a few days. Thankfully, all the kinks have been worked out and I'm very excited to have Margie on my blog. Margie was born in Minsk, Belarus. She was just three years old when she emigrated to America. She lived in a dilapidated apartment in Brooklyn, New York and eventually moved to the suburbs of New Jersey. She attended Trenton State College and studied English and Secondary Education. Margie also has a master's degree in English, with a writing concentration, from William Paterson University. Inconvenient is her debut novel, which has received critically acclaimed reviews from several book journals.
Welcome and thank you so much for stopping by, Margie! You have mentioned on your website that Inconvenient was initially an adult multi-generational novel about a Russian-Jewish family, but the idea was scrapped when the voices of teens came to life for you. Have the teen characters stayed the same from your original or have they gone in a completely different direction?
Completely different direction! In that very first version, the teen MC was dealing most with her identity and trying to figure out—in the midst of that—which of two boys was for her. The MC's name was Rita, and she was less spunky than Alyssa, and the boys did not resemble any from INC either. But there WAS something interesting about that story and maybe one day I'll revisit it—the teen part anyway, not the rest of it.
Wow, Rita sounds so different from Alyssa, though they do try to come to terms about their identity. Speaking of which, I’m always drawn to characters that come from a mixed cultural background, mainly due to my own background of being born in the U.S. but having parents from Pakistan. You also come from a mixed cultural family too, as a teen growing up did you have any trouble finding your own place between these two cultures? Did that influence how you wrote Inconvenient at all?
Your background is so interesting. I bet you have a lot of stories to tell too. Growing up, I was conflicted about being Russian, and Jewish, and American. I was more like Lana, my MC Alyssa's BFF, than Alyssa that way. I didn't like talking in Russian in public. Like Alyssa and Lana, I felt people singled me out because of the Russian thing. The same kids I went to Hebrew school with, would make fun of me for being Russian, like I wasn't American and Jewish like them. In retrospect, I don't think it was personal. Just kids being ignorant and needing something to make fun of people about. But because I was insecure with who I was, I took it all to heart. So I drew on that when I wrote Inconvenient.
I totally get the "I'm not this and I'm not that either" scenario. I had moments were explaining the why I wasn't doing this or that got old but it also helped me remember my traditions. What character surprised you the most when writing Inconvenient?
Lana. In the first draft, she was very one dimensional. She stole Alyssa's boyfriend and was plain mean. And then I thought about what that said about Alyssa. Why would she be friends with someone like that? Plus, no one is just one dimensional. So I wrote more scenes with her, thought about her motives, and I grew to like aspects of her. I didn't always agree with what she did, but I understood her, and I don't think she was all bad. Not all good either. Flawed and human.
That's exactly how I would describe Lana. I admired her daring attitude and understood her desire not to be singled out anymore but feel included, but I didn't agree with her decisions. As a reader, I can’t enjoy a book if I don’t like the main character. Do you have any characters that you hate or love to hate?
That's a really great question. I'm like you. There have been books I picked up that I had to put down after a few chapters because the main character annoyed me. But in my next book, PIECES OF US (Flux, March 8, 2012) one of the main characters is a misogynistic teen male. He has these off perceptions of women and is mostly a real jerk, but he was one of my favorite characters to write ever. And if people react strongly to him, I will feel I have done my job as a writer.
Pieces of Us sounds interesting. I wonder how he came to that conclusion and whether or not he changes. I'll definitely have to keep my eye out for it! One last question for you, Maggie, if Alyssa could be friends with any other character from a book, who would it be and why?
I think D.J. Schwenk, the MC from Catherine Gilbert Murdok's Dairy Queen trilogy, would be a great pal for Alyssa. D.J. And Alyssa are both witty, stars in their sports, strong, and helpful toward their families. D.J. also seems like she'd be a really loyal friend and she and Alyssa could make each other laugh and sort out the other's boy dilemmas. And if their guys are being wishy-washy or jerky, they can ditch them for some quality, drama-free, hang time.