Please welcome Stephanie Gangi
to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. The Next
is published on October 18th by St. Martin's Press and is an Indie Next Pick for November. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Stephanie a Happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Stephanie: Hi, TQ – thank you for having me. I’ve been writing all my life – in journals as a girl, in college, at every job I’ve had – somehow they were all writing or editing jobs. I got committed to my own writing – poetry and my novel, The Next, in my mid-fifties.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Stephanie: I am definitely a plotter-pantser hybrid. I plan and plot but once I’m on solid ground, feeling secure in my journey, I release to the fates and let the book take me where it needs to go.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Stephanie: The most challenging thing about writing is protecting the time to write. I have a full time job, friends and family, obligations and errands – you know, life. For me, writing requires that I sequester myself, go into a tunnel, leave the fun behind for a while. For a different kind of fun.
TQ: How does being a poet affect your prose writing?
Stephanie: I think being a poet makes me listen deeply to the rhythms of my sentences. I love lyrical writing, I love a good beat, I love repetition, I love to drive the story using all of it. I learned that from both reading and writing poetry. In fact, when I get stuck, I pick up a poetry book and read, to help me quiet down and listen for the rhythms.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Stephanie: It sounds kind of corny, but (aside from everything in my past and present) I am consistently influenced by my daughters – the love we have for each other, their open-hearted world views, their kindness, the sisterhood they share, and now that they are adults, our friendship. Motherhood has been a constant source of learning for me – I’ve gotten so much from it at all stages. I’ve been told that comes through in my book.
TQ: Describe The Next in 140 characters or less.
Stephanie: A contemporary, literary ghost story of betrayal, revenge and lust after life.
TQ: Tell us something about The Next that is not found in the book description.
Stephanie: I love this question. I think – I hope – it’s rock and roll and sexy and funny. Despite the fact that Joanna, the protagonist, is a ghost.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Next?
Stephanie: I got the idea for The Next walking down Broadway in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I was nursing a broken heart, and it was a warm early fall afternoon, and it seemed like every shop and every car that passed was blaring Adele's "Rolling in the Deep". The popularity -- and anger -- of the song made me feel a little bit better. We've all been there. I wanted to capture that raw jealousy and rage that I was secretly feeling too, but could never express ... except through fiction!
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Next?
Stephanie: Believe it or not, I did a fair amount of research about ghosts. I watched youtube videos, I read ghost stories, I read “scientific” articles and books about ghosts and hauntings and invisibility. I was pretty surprised by how much is out there about ghosts. I’m still not convinced.
TQ: In The Next who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Stephanie: The easiest character in the book to write was Laney. I felt very connected to her grief over the loss of her mother, and her confusion as to how to move forward with her own life without her mother’s day to day guidance and support and love. I tapped into my own grief over the death of my parents years ago.
The toughest characters were Jo and Ned. I wanted them to be complex, complicated, not necessarily always likeable, but human and relatable. I think I succeeded, judging from the reviews, but it wasn’t easy to reveal them as their worst selves on the page, but their best selves too.
TQ: Which question about The Next do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Stephanie: Why did you choose to make the protagonist a ghost? Seems like a risky decision, not exactly mass marketable!
I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe we are all haunted by the past, especially as we get older, especially by what might have been, how we could have done better … and the past comes in strong in the dark, in the middle of the night. I also like the ghost metaphor for a woman of a certain age, made less visible, less sexual, less present in the world by society, because she’s getting older, or is sick, or is single. I think I may have been raging against that.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Next.
Stephanie: I have one I truly love: “Bitches are made, not born.” I’ve been told the book is full of quotable lines – I’m not going to spoil it.
TQ: What's next?
Stephanie: I’m working on enjoying the ride for The Next. My publisher, St. Martin’s Press, has been enormously supportive of the book, and I’m spending the next couple of months talking to readers and other writers through the internet, at live readings, through Skype for book clubs, etc, so that’s really fun. In early 2017, I’ll be leading writing workshops for breast cancer patients, and digging in on my new novel. I’ve also got a few personal essays on deck. Oh, and my day job!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Stephanie: Thank you!
St. Martin's Press, October 18, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
"Love and loss, revenge and redemption, this debut novel will stick with you for a long time." —Emily Giffin
"I love The Next...elegantly written, thoughtfully sharp, surprisingly touching." —Cathleen Schine
Is there a right way to die? If so, Joanna DeAngelis has it all wrong. She’s consumed by betrayal, spending her numbered days obsessing over Ned McGowan, her much younger ex, and watching him thrive in the spotlight with someone new, while she wastes away. She’s every woman scorned, fantasizing about revenge … except she’s out of time.
Joanna falls from her life, from the love of her daughters and devoted dog, into an otherworldly landscape, a bleak infinity she can’t escape until she rises up and returns and sets it right—makes Ned pay—so she can truly move on.
From the other side into right this minute, Jo embarks on a sexy, spiritual odyssey. As she travels beyond memory, beyond desire, she is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to know how to die, happily ever after.
Stephanie Gangi lives, works and writes poetry, fiction and personal essay in New York City. The Next is her debut novel. Website