As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

November 2, 2010

Interview with CLAUDIA GABEL, Author and Senior Editor at Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)

Interviewed by Amy Finnegan

A few years ago I attended a writer's conference in New York City where I had the chance to listen to about a dozen editors from major publishing houses. All of the information I heard was very helpful, but one editor in particular stood out to me and I've never forgotten how entertaining she was: Claudia Gabel.

I recently learned that Claudia is now an author, and remembering how great she was at the conference, I was excited to see how her fun, friendly personality transferred onto the page. Her writing is light, humorous, and effortless to read. Her newest release ROMEO & JULIET & VAMPIRES was certainly an ambitious project, and it’s one of the best mash-up novels I’ve read.

I love Shakespeare, but his stories aren’t exactly beach reads. Claudia, however, took the greatest love story of all time and added—among other things—some fun, relatable flirting. No offense to the Bard, but to be honest, Romeo and Juliet never spent enough time together in his play for me to truly believe that they’d rather die than be separated. I’ve always wanted more of that story, more to convince me that this love of theirs was legendary. While reading Claudia’s take on Romeo and Juliet, I got the feeling that she felt the same way. The novel is simply to die for.

So we'd like to welcome Claudia Gabel to Bookshop Talk:

Amy Finnegan: You're an editor at Katherine Tegen Books, editing books for teens, and you also write your own novels for the same age group. What sparked such devoted interest to this particular audience?

Claudia Gabel: I think my deep appreciation for teen fiction stems from the fact that my passion for books really took hold of me when I was thirteen. I read anything I could get my hands on, and spent my summers writing my own novels in Meade 5-subject notebooks. I never wanted to lose that energy and enthusiasm, and thanks to my career choice, now I don’t have to! Also, there’s nothing as satisfying as turning a young person on to books and inspiring a new generation of readers. When I’m old and gray, I know I’m going to feel like I made a good contribution to society through my work.

AF: While you're working on your own novels, is it difficult to turn off the editor side of you and just write? And on the flip side, when it's time for revisions, do you look to other industry friends for feedback?

CG: Yes, it is really hard to keep myself from picking at my writing as I’m drafting a manuscript. I have to force myself to push forward instead of going back and editing previous pages, otherwise my progress would be totally compromised. On the positive side, though, I feel like the editor part of my brain notices red flags a lot earlier than the writer part, so I can get myself out of trouble quicker and easier. When it comes to getting feedback, I actually turn to friends who aren’t in publishing for their comments. The editor side of me knows how busy my industry pals are! Still, I share my work with people who read a lot in the genre and who can provide me with an honest critique.

AF: Your newest novel, Romeo & Juliet & Vampires, is an entirely unique retelling of the play by William Shakespeare. That couldn't have been an easy task. What were some of the biggest writing challenges you faced both interpreting and recreating the classic story?

CG: The hardest part was crafting the prose so that it was modern yet antiquated yet accessible enough for a young readership.  Sorry, I didn’t even bother trying iambic pentameter—Shakespeare is the master and I’d be a fool to go up against him! While I’m a fan of all-things vampire, this was my first time writing paranormal historical fiction, so the learning curve was pretty huge. I also had to invent some of my own vampire lore, which was fun, but kind of tricky, since the rules of the world all had to line up and make sense.

AF: And finally, what are some of your all-time favorite books?

CG: Such a tough question, especially because I want to name all the ones I’ve edited, but I can’t play favorites, so I won’t pick any of them. In the category of classics: A Wrinkle in Time, Ramona the Pest, The Giver, and the Little House on the Prairie books (I also own the entire TV show on DVD—I’m obsessed). In the category of contemporary children’s/teen fiction: Coraline; The Golden Compass; The Book Thief; Septimus Heap; Pretty Little Liars; The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks; and Wicked Lovely.

Thanks for joining us, Claudia!

And now, Readers, here is a bit more about Claudia's books:

Romeo & Juliet & Vampires"You are deluded, Romeo. Vampires do not have the capability to love. They are heartless." The Capulets and the Montagues have some deep and essential differences. Blood differences. Of course, the Capulets can escape their vampire fate, and the Montafeud is unstoppable. So it's really quite a problem when Juliet, a vampire-to-be, and Romeogues can try not to kill their undead enemies. But at the end of the day, their blood , the human who should be hunting her, fall desperately in love. What they don't realize is how deadly their love will turn out to be—or what it will mean for their afterlives. . . . This riotous twist on the ultimate tale of forbidden romance is simply to die for. (Amazon Product Description)

And this is Claudia's first novel in what is now a four book IN OR OUT series:

In or OutBubbly Marnie and shy Nola are best friends forever...but everything changes when ninth grade starts. Marnie has set her sights on the IN crowd, led by beautiful hipster girl Lizette, and she also falls hard for charismatic hottie Dane. Nola wants her friendship with Marnie to remain as it was, and, despite her crush on a geeky-cute boy, isn't ready to date yet. Marnie doesn't get why Nola seems content to remain OUT. Nola doesn't get why Marnie is so desperate to get IN. Before long, their friendship is over, and all-out war has been declared! Are you prepared to pick a side? (Amazon Product Description)

You can visit Claudia Gabel's author website here 

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