Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jennifer Cowan Interview

I know I haven't posted in a while, but can't you forgive me now that I'm showing you my first ever interview? Jennifer Cowan wrote earthgirl, which I've reviewed here.

Jennifer Cowan has been writing professionally for two decades. Her television credits include writer and executive story editor of the animated comedy Producing Parker, Show Me Yours, Traders and Big Sound, multiple scripts for the CBC FoxKids teen soap, Edgemont (2004 Leo Award for Best Screenwriting in a Youth or Children's Series/2004 Gemini Award nominee), The Saddle Club, The Zack Files, Quads, Liocracy and the Global/Disney tween dramedy, Ready or Not. She has also produced arts, pop culture and entertainment magazine programs and documentaries for the CBC, CTV, TVOntario and CityTV. earthgirl is her first book. Jennifer lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Haven't heard of earthgirl? Here the description.

This unusual novel written partly in blog format (complete with comments posted by the earthgirl’s followers and detractors) takes the cutting-edge form of an online confessional. The story follows the eco-evolution of 16-year-old Sabine Solomon. When she’s blindsided by a driver whose thrown-out McDonald’s leftovers leave her covered in plum sauce, Sabine throws the garbage back, causing a clash that’s captured on her friends’ videophones. Quickly the footage is shown on YouTube, and Sabine finds herself at the center of a heated eco-debate. Inspired to greater global consciousness, she goes to work for an organic food co-op and meets charismatic, idealistic eco-warrior Vray Forest. Mesmerized, she vows to change her life and influence others, much to the dismay of her meat-eating family and shopaholic friends. But when Vray’s activism takes a dark turn, Sabine must face some difficult decisions. Jennifer Cowan’s first book presents an endearing, funny, modern heroine — at once smart, curious, self-mocking, and self-righteous — whose story riffs on universal teen dilemmas of peer pressure, first love, and trying to do the right thing.

What inspired you write a YA book about environmentalism?

I was living in the mountains in British Columbia and there’s a lot more in your face environmental activism out there. There were a lot of problems on chicken farms so I was thinking about the food industry given I lived near a logging community, the forestry industry too. One day I was hiking in the woods and the character of Sabine started speaking to me, so I went home and wrote down what she said and a few months later there was a book.

Why did you find it necessary to infuse social media in earthgirl?

She was always a blogger in my mind. And the blog allowed me to create a real world link to her ideas and causes in case readers were intrigued by these issues too. When I was a YA reader, characters tended to write diaries, but that’s become a bit anachronistic in the technology era so a blog made sense.

How is writing for TV and writing books different?

TV is far more team oriented and collaborative, not unlike working in the kitchen of a restaurant and following the chef’s recipes. The creator of the TV show leads the team. With a novel, it’s all you and other than friends who might read it early on and your editor who will read it when it’s finished, you’re on your own. It’s liberating and scary at the same time.

I love interesting names, and Sabine's is especially intriguing! What made you pick the name Sabine?

Thanks! I have a cousin in Holland named Sabine and I think it’s a beautiful name. Also it has great nickname potential which made it fun to use when I was creating relationships with the other characters. I spend a lot of time choosing character names. Sometimes the personality doesn’t suit the name so I have to change it so it does.

What research was required for earthgirl?

For the most part, when I was writing the book the most important thing for me was discovering who Sabine was and what her relationships and journey was. Once I had a strong understanding of that, I was able to infuse the real information. Of course I did read books about the environment (The Monkeywrench Gang, The Air Conditioned Nightmare, and other books I mention in the story) also a lot of articles, watching any pertinent movies and I visited a ton of activist websites.

What was your favorite YA book of '09?

My favourite YA book from last year is mine, haha! I actually have been avoiding other YA books right now since I’m writing in the genre and don’t want to be subconsiously influenced. But since this is a place to recommend books, on my to read pile is Word Nerd, by Susin Neilsen, who is also an incredibly talented TV writer and lives in Vancouver. It was nominated for a TD Children’s Book Award.

What are the top five ways that anyone can affect the environment and change the world daily?

I think having an awareness of our place in the world and our impact is the first step to change. And to not take our privilege and luck for granted. Yes we have clean running water coming from our taps, but for example that’s no reason to leave it running when you brush your teeth. If everyone is aware and cares and goes that extra step, it will eventually make a difference. And to read! And get involved when things interest you. And when you have the right to vote, us it. I think that’s only four, but I think you know what I’m saying!

Got any new writing projects on the go?

I am currently writing earthgirl 2.0 which follows Sabine’s adventures as she gets ready to go to university. I am also developing a TV series with the smart, gorgeous and talented Amanda Stepto and Stacie Mistysyn, who both starred on the Degrassi series. We’re hoping that someone will have an interest and that in a year or two we’ll have a show! That’s secret dish for the emu and your readers.

Thank you so much for the interview, Jennifer!

Emma Out!