On Monday, we reviewed Mindy Raf’s terrific first novel, The Symptoms of My Insanity. It’s great – if you haven’t read it yet, you should. But better yet, we learned that Mindy is actually friends with one of our colleagues, and she put us in contact (thanks Karen!). Mindy agreed, very generously, to do an interview with us. If it’s possible, we love her book even more now. Our questions (and her incredibly thoughtful responses) are after the break:
So the name of our blog comes from a scene in Anne of Green Gables (the scene where Anne breaks a slate over Gilbert’s head). I definitely see Izzy as a Slatebreaker, as someone who, in the tradition of Anne Shirley, takes her life into her own hands, even if sometimes it’s hard to figure out what you want. What books and authors, YA or otherwise, influenced your writing?
Yes, I agree! I think Izzy is definitely a Slatebreaker. (In a literal sense: a certain art room water bucket scene from SYMPTOMS comes to mind : ) )
While writing drafts of Symptoms I was reading, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Sarah Dessen, Wendelin Van Draanen, just to name a few. Growing up I was, and still am, a huge fan of Judy Blume. My comedy and theatre background is definitely a huge influence on my writing. Nora Ephron, Wendy Wasserstein, David Ives, Christopher Durang. . .
Like you (and Izzy), I grew up in Michigan! I also deeply related to Izzy’s large breast drama. How did your own high school experience figure into the writing of the book? Any good stories to share
Izzy’s boob stories are fiction, but I definitely had my share of large breast drama. (Though more so in middle school) This one boy in fifth grade would ask me if my “boobs were in training” since I was one of the first girls to wear a training bra.
In 7th grade we had to come up with a name for our Social Studies group and one boy suggested “Mindy’s Mountains.”
I remember realizing at some point in high school (I think at a party) that I was no longer the only girl in the room with big boobs. It may sound dramatic, but the relief of that realization changed the way I walked, and carried myself, and even how I dressed.
Our blog is about feminism in YA. Your book definitely has a major focus on girls and the female experience of growing up. Do you identify as a feminist? If so, how does that play into what and how you write? If not, how does an awareness of your female audiences affect your writing?
One of my goals when I started writing SYMPTOMS was to make Izzy as real as possible. I wanted her to make bad decisions, to be weak and impressionable, but also strong. I wanted to inject the story with some girl power moments as well.
I don’t view feminism as just a women’s issue. Even when I’m writing from a female perceptive or know that a large percent of my readers will be female, I want to connect with readers through a male perspective as well. I don’t want the guys in my stories to be black and white “bad guys,” even when they do bad things. It’s important to me that male characters are also grey and conflicted and their stories are left open so that they can learn and grow and change as well.
I love that your blog focuses on feminist issues in YA. I hate that there’s a stigma to saying “I’m a feminist” or “I write for female audiences.” I’m really proud to say I support women, and love women, and that this book in particular is about women and their relationships with one another. I feel this way about my comedy as well. You can talk about tampons, or makeup, or boobs, or any other female experience that’s tiresomely become cliché and make it real and funny.
Wait, what was your question. Oh. Of course I’m a feminist. Isn’t everyone? How could you not be?
Mindy, thanks for being part of our blog! Please feel free to stop by anytime!