Rosemary Graham’s STALKER GIRL is one of my favorite 2010 Contemporary YAs, so I was very excited to ask her a few questions about the novel. In addition to the interview, be sure to check out my review of the novel, here.
Rosemary Graham is the author of Stalker Girl, as well as Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and My Not-So-Terrible Time at the Hippie Hotel. Her books have been among the International Reading Association “Young Adults’ Choices,” the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best,” and the New York Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age.” Her essays and commentaries have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Santa Monica Review, and on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” She teaches English and Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of California and lives in Berkeley with her husband, the writer Kevin Griffin, and their daughter.
Give a short statement describing STALKER GIRL.
Broken-hearted girl learns that her ex—her first and only love–has found someone new just a few short weeks after they’ve broken up. Who wouldn’t be curious?
Carly’s still hoping that Brian will come back to her when she hears—directly from him—that there’s a new girl in his life. The first thing Carly does after hearing this news is look up the new girl—Taylor—on line. But Carly’s curiosity is only made worse by the information she picks up from Facebook and other Internet sources. She decides she needs to see the new girl live and in-person. Then—she tells herself—she’ll put it all behind her. Each step Carly takes to satisfy her curiosity only makes things worse. Soon, she’s behaving in ways that lead a popular blogger to dub her “Little Miss Psycho.”
Was there a particular story or idea that influenced the writing of STALKER GIRL?
I “saw” Carly before I knew what her story would be. I imagined her sitting in a café, watching another girl her age wondering what it would be like to be that other girl, wishing she could be that other girl. I wanted to explore the way human beings are always comparing ourselves to others, thinking we come up short. One of my favorite reviews of STALKER GIRL (from Caught in the Carousel) says it’s a “story about how we always seem to be chasing the parts of ourselves that we think are missing.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
I was surprised at how easily I could identify with Carly; was it a challenge to see the situation from Carly’s point-of-view?
No, it wasn’t hard at all. A line printed on the back cover of STALKER GIRL goes, “There’s a little stalker in all of us.” A high school student said this to me when I visited her school to talk about the book. That statement led to a debate—girls versus boys—about who was more likely to behave stalkerishly (not a word, people, don’t use it in your book reports!). The boys said girls, the girls said the boys. But I think we’re all capable of stepping over that line between interest and obsession.
Notice how I keep speaking in generalities about all of humanity? Thereby avoiding the opportunity to incriminate or humiliate myself?
Carly is not a crazy person. I felt like her obsession and subsequent behavior would have been kept in check if she would have had someone to confide in and a few other details had been changed. Do you think there are aspects of an individual’s life and personality that can amplify a similar situation that might otherwise be prevented?
Absolutely. I start the second part of the novel with the words “She wasn’t always like this” in order to get readers thinking about how Carly’s circumstances have contributed to her actions. This is why she’s so obsessed with Brian’s new girlfriend, Taylor. From the outside at least, Taylor appears to have everything Carly doesn’t: the boy, the cool mom, the great house, money and just enough fame. Carly is a fairly happy person, but she’s experienced a lot of loss and so when she loses the best thing that’s happened to her in a long time—Brian—she goes a little nuts. But she is not a crazy person. She is doing crazy things, but she’s not mentally ill.
As you wrote, did you have a specific message in mind, regardless of the message readers ultimately end up taking from the novel?
I love the title of Peter Cameron’s novel, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You. I had a message something like this in mind. Carly wasn’t always like this and she won’t always be like this. While it would have been great if Carly had confided in someone about what was really going on in her life, if she had, I wouldn’t have a novel here. But more than that, I do think that there will come a point in Carly’s life when she will look back on her actions and be able to understand them far better than she can currently. And she won’t be ashamed of her actions. She’ll have empathy for the girl she was.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Ah. Well. I love reading, too. But I kind of do it for a living. (My day job is English Professor) so I don’t think it counts.
I guess my hiding spot is UNDER WATER. Three, four or five days a week, I start my day with a one-mile swim. (After coffee!) Things don’t seem to bother me as much when I’m propelling myself through water. Luckily, I can swim outdoors all year round here in Northern California. I love to swim in the rain.