Meet Our Freshman: An Interview with Kelly Loy Gilbert

Freshman Fifteen author Stacey H. Lee  chatted with fellow Freshman Kelly Loy Gilbert to find out more about her forthcoming debut, CONVICTION (Disney-Hyperion, Summer 2015).


When baseball phenom Braden’s celebrity father stands trial for murder, Braden’s testimony could save or end his father’s life.

“There’s a lot that’s magic about baseball, but this is the thing that’s most magic of all: that you can go watch a game with your dad and your brother and have a night together that’s maybe as close to perfect as anything in your life has ever come. That it can give you those memories to hold onto when you need them most, like when for reasons you’ve never understood your brother takes off and stops talking to your dad altogether, or like when the night after the accident your dad, the best man you know and the person who taught  you right from wrong, is arrested at gunpoint on the street outside your house and accused of the aggravated first degree murder of a cop.”

What inspired you to write this story?

I wanted to write a story about characters seeking redemption, characters who didn’t like themselves, characters who’d done things they couldn’t forgive themselves for and didn’t know where to go from there.  The first draft of the story was wildly different–it’s taken on such different forms, but some of the underlying questions I was exploring were still pulsing through the whole process.

You write realistic contemporary YA. What are your favorite genres to read, and why?

I love character-driven contemporary literary fiction (both adult and YA–and I like short stories, too), because it gives me insight into and intimacy with people I’d never know otherwise.  In college I fell in love with CROSSING TO SAFETY, by Wallace Stegner, about four friends through decades of their lives.  The narrator is an English professor, so in my real life he’s someone I’d know only on a very surface level (probably from class!), but in the novel I could enter into his inner life.  I love stories that help me see another person clearly.

What’s your favorite scene in CONVICTION?

I wrote about my favorite scenes at YA Reads.  It involves a guitar!

What’s your method for developing ideas into a story?

Terrible first drafts.  And nearly-as-terrible second drafts.  It gives you something to work with, at least, and then you can find the moments in the story that are worth building another, better draft around.

What keeps you sane during the writing/publishing process?

Talking with other writers and comparing notes has been a lifesaver; the YA community is incredible.  And I’m lucky to have great, supportive friends and family, and a nine-month-old daughter who brightens every day.  Chocolate solves a lot of problems, too.  I’d recommend that.  And when I’m nervous or stressed about something writing-related, it helps to keep an eye on the horizon and work on a next project–something about that sense of promise and possibility makes everything feel calmer.

How important is it to ‘get a real job’ if you want to be a writer?

Don’t do it–it’ll really cut into all that time you can spend procrastinating on Twitter.  (Just kidding.  Probably 95 percent of writers I know have day jobs of some sort; writing can be an unpredictable and unstable career.)

What’s been the most challenging part of the publishing process, and what is the most rewarding?

It’s been challenging learning to step out of my private writing world and think about things like marketing and deadlines–all the things that go into making a story a book–and my insecurity levels have skyrocketed now that the story is actually becoming a book people will actually read.  When you publish a book it takes on a life of its own outside of you, and that’s so hard to wrap my mind around!  The most rewarding has been, by far, the YA community–such incredible, generous, supportive, talented people who are eager to connect and swap stories.  Plus, I’ve gotten to read some ridiculously amazing books that will be out next year!

Is there any particular author who has shaped your writing?

Authors whose work I keep coming back to are Curtis Sittenfeld, Julie Otsuka, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, Paul Yoon, Wallace Stegner, Caroline Cooney.


 15s kellyKelly Loy Gilbert is the author of CONVICTION and an overly-active Twitter feed. She serves on the NaNoWriMo Associate Board, is a fan of diverse books, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


You can find Kelly online: Twitter | Goodreads



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