She recently recently stopped by our lockers to chat about her books, her appreciation for Mysterious Loner Dudes, and the fact that she’d bring “macarons of many flavors” to an FYA slumber party, which I am SO here for.
THE ACTUAL BOOK-RELATED QUESTIONS
The Girl on a Wire series has two books in it so far—Girl on a Wire and Girl in the Shadows—but they’re companion novels, not direct sequels. Why write this kind of series?
It’s funny to say this now, but I felt like Girl on a Wire had told Jules’ story. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be beyond easy to find a new story for her when I started thinking about the miniseries/graphic novel that takes place between Girl on a Wire and Girl in the Shadows—Girl Over Paris. So I hope people who wanted more Jules can take comfort in that (and in her part in GitS!).
As a reader, I’ve always loved open-ended series. I love a series that takes place in a world and where you get glimpses or different perspectives on characters you met earlier, but also discover new facets of it. And many of my favorite romance series (some of my favorite reading!) are structured this way, and I often read them out of order. I wanted to write a series like that, where it didn’t matter so much, and each installment justified its own existence.
Girl on a Wire grew out of my long fascination with the circus and wire-walking, and so when I began to think about whose story I would tell next, it seemed only logical to turn to another long-time obsession: stage magic and escapes. I jokingly call this my ambitious girls series.
That makes total—and accurate—sense to me!
In part, both books investigate aspects of theatre and circus life. What interested you about these sort of unusual “careers”?
I am an enormous circus nerd, and always have been. There was a tiny, vaguely shady one-ring circus that used to come through our small town and set up on the grounds of my elementary school (where my dad was principal) when I was a kid, and so I think that started my fascination with it. Seeing the people milling around and hanging out while waiting for my dad to get off work. I also remember seeing a Philippe Petit interview with David Letterman when I was young and up too late, and falling in love with his description of wire walking.
Later, I’d visit Circus World in Baraboo. I had amassed a small library of nonfiction about the circus, and read every circus novel I encountered. There’s such a richness to the circus; it’s always been a cultural melting pot, with families coming from all over the world. And it’s filled with stories and multigenerational family legends and also, was a place women could find some measure of freedom. But it’s also had its problematic aspects (where animals are concerned, but also with exploitation in freak shows) and plenty of them, obviously. As you can probably tell, I just find it fascinating!
If you were invited to join the Cirque American, what would be your dream job? On the other (more realistic) hand, which job do you think you’re most suited to fill?
Ooh! Sadly, I possess little talent that the Cirque could use. Though I have taken up aerial silks classes in the past year and it’s been life changing to flail around ineptly and occasionally hit a pose. Plus, it’s such a supportive studio community. In reality, I guess I’d have to write the circus newspaper—or maybe I could do old-school biographical sketches like they did in the circus glory days. They used to make up these promotional puff pieces, much like they did in old Hollywood for stars, that fictionalized the backstories of celebrity performers intensely. My dream job would be ringmaster, because then I could be Thurston and make everyone’s dreams come true.
Actual possibilities aside, would you ever consider a crossover between the Girl on a Wire series and the Lois Lane series? Why or why not?
I think Lois and Jules and Moira would get along fabulously. My favorite of the classic Fleischer Superman animated shorts is “Terror on the Midway,” in which Lois rocks. A story could easily bring Lois to the circus! My dream! (Here's the short if you’re interested; it’s so good.)
No spoilers, but … are there more books in the Girl on a Wire series to come?
I’d like to write Dita’s story, and have a great idea for it coming off this book—but I haven’t discussed it with my editor yet because of other deadlines. I’d also love to do another Cirque American comic miniseries with Jules and Moira and Dita.
THE YA QUESTIONS
If your real life adolescence was a YA book ...
I felt intense recognition when I read John Green’s Looking for Alaska; this was me and my friends—smart, slightly pretentious southern teenagers.
What would you, the main character, be like?
I was the cheerleader who got in trouble for reading Salman Rushdie on the sidelines (no, really). A total misfit who was obsessed with books, floated between groups, was obsessed with music and sticking up for other misfit kids, who always worried that my friends secretly hated me. Your basic teenager who wrote political poetry about George Bush, Sr. and bought a bass electric guitar but was too lazy to learn to play it. So that’s what I’d be like. A wanna-be riot grrl.
Who is your secret crush?
A boy who has total Jordan Catalano syndrome—he’s pretty, and I’ve projected an entire interior life onto him that doesn’t exist.
What is your number #1 source of angst?
BOYS. Not having a boyfriend. My best friend and I send each other flowers from pretend secret admirers on Valentine’s Day.
At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?
When I read a political poem at Governor’s School for the Arts day when the First Lady of Kentucky is visiting that ends: “And blow the whole goddamn thing up.”
And who would play you in the film adaptation?
I never know actresses! Besides old Hollywood ones. So, um, an unknown.
The actual Gwenda
THE SLUMBER PARTY QUESTIONS
What is your secret power?
Giving pep talks.
Where can I get in line for one of these? I’m always in need of some pep, and I can imagine your particular brand is fantastic.
What is your #1 favorite food?
Pizza. Or sushi.
Tell me about your area of expertise.
I was a press secretary for years and years, so prying answers out of politicians/appointees for reporters. Many random areas of knowledge like stage magic, circuses, etc. Walking dogs. Aerial yoga. Cracking wise.
If you could assemble your own Ocean's 11 of fictional characters, who would you pick and why?
Ohhhh, this is a great question. Okay … not picking my own, for obvious reasons. So: Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Lois Lane (obviously), Katsa from Graceling, Sierra from Shadowshaper, Kamala Khan, Inej from Six of Crows, Aud Torvingen from Nicola Griffith’s series, Phryne Fisher, Agent Carter, Caroline from The Vampire Diaries, and Lady Olenna from Game of Thrones.
What is your best karaoke song?
Best being a relative term, usually something by Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton.
Tell me something scandalous!
Donald Trump is an actual presidential nominee!
That’s more “How is this real life?!” than scandalous, but I’ll allow it.
What is your favorite adult beverage?
I get my kicks from champagne.
What book have you read the most number of times?
I’ll admit, I’m not much of a rereader. But probably Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Who is your “freebie”?
Young Don Ameche, if there was a time machine (seriously in the early years a stone fox!). Idris Elba.
YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?
I have a total friend crush on Margaret Stohl. She’s one of the most generous, hardest working, loveliest people I’ve met.
Out of all of the characters you’ve written, which one do you most wish you could be?
I’m pretty happy being myself! Lois and I are probably the most alike, so her.
If you were invited to the FYA slumber party (and obvs, you ARE), what pajamas would you wear, and what is the most crucial snack food and/or movie you’d bring?
My favorite super-comfy pink pajamas with poodles and eiffel towers on them. Macarons of many flavors. And Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, because I just rewatched it and the cheese level is perfection.
AND NOW, MASH
Gwenda made three picks for each category, and I added a fourth. The magic number (chosen by a random number generator) was 8.
M A S H
*Gwenda’s actual husband
# OF KIDS
2 (Can they be pets?)
NASA mission controller
Lady of leisure
Lion tamer in the Cirque American
Paid in magical powers
Paid in GOLD COINS
Paid in wheelbarrows of gold
Paid in zilliontys
Bond, Kentucky (Real place!)
A cat who’s too smart for his own good
*Gwenda and Christopher’s actual pets.
A well-trained (and well-taken care of) elephant
Thanks for stopping by, Gwenda! Girl on a Wire, Girl in the Shadows, Lois Lane: Fallout and Lois Lane: Double Down are all available now. You can connect with Gwenda on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.