Kristin Gore is the author of Sammy's Hill, a New York Times bestselling novel, and the sequel, Sammy's House (July 3, Hyperion). Charles Gershman spoke with Ms. Gore about her writing career and her
Interviewer Charles Gershman: Where did you come up with the idea for Sammy?
Kristin Gore: I wrote a play when I was writing for TV. I was sort of greedy for my own character, my own storyline. The character was Sammy. I liked her so much that I wanted to flesh her out more. Iíd always wanted to write books. TV writing was an unexpected fun detour. I took a break from TV to dive into the first novel, where I expanded Sammy.
Sammy has all these unusual quirks. Sheís a hypochondriac, she has a penchant for killing poor Japanese fighting fish, and she likes to schmooze with telemarketers. Where did these quirks come from? Do you share any of them?
I do have the blood of more Japanese fighting fish on my hands than I care to dwell on. I actually had a fish named Shackletonóthat is lifted from my own life. Iím not a hypochondriacóI donít get neck rashesóbut I have equally quirky neuroses.
Have you ever befriended a telemarketer?
No. I tend not to answer my phone at all. But I do feel for them, because people just direct so much hatred towards them in a way that canít be fun.
Sammy's House picked up where Sammy's Hill ended. Did you have a sequel in mind when writing your first novel?
I found myself continuing to write Sammy in my head. When that kept up for long enough I made the decision to continue her adventures in another novel.
How did growing up in a political family influence your writing?
I realized that comedy was the only way to keep sane in a really bizarre environment. To be able to laugh at things and at yourself is healthy.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a certain amount of time you devote to writing every day?
I have a goal of a number of pages to get through per day. I usually start early in the morning, but I donít end until Iíve reached my quota. With novels Iíll write six pages a day, and itís always six pages a day. Some days it takes two hours, some days ten and itís miserable.
Was the process any easier the second time around?
In some ways, yes, because I knew how to be disciplined. I knew my routine. In other ways it was harder because I was trying to incorporate lessons from the first novel and write a better book. They were both fun to write, but they both involved a lot of fear.
Fear that what I was trying to communicate wouldnít resonate with readers. Writing for TV, I was with other people all the time, so Iíd know instantly whether something was funny because theyíd laugh, or not laugh. Writing a novel, I didnít know if what I thought was good and funny, other people would find good or funny.
How does writing novels compare with writing for television?
I love the energy and collaboration of TV. You write everything as a group, which is great, but it can be exhausting when youíre on someone elseís schedule. It might be three in the morning and youíre trying to come up with a joke, and you canít go home until you do.
How do your parents react to your writing?
They are really into it. I couldnít ask for a better response from them. Both parents have always been really encouraging of any creative endeavor. Theyíre two of the first readersóthey read first drafts.
Your father aside, do you put faith in Americaís politicians?
I put a measure of faith in them. Right now itís very easy to get turned off by them as a group and by the system as a whole. But as I tried to show in both books, there are both good and shameless people on both sides of the aisle. Iím more interested in why people are there. Why do they go to Washington? To serve themselves, or to serve others?
Whatís next for you?
Iím finishing a film adaptation of Sammy's Hill. Itís exciting to tell a story cinematically. Iím also working on a third novel with a character who has nothing to do with Washington or politics.
Kristin Gore was born in 1977 and graduated from Harvard, where she was an editor of the
Harvard Lampoon. She has written for several television shows, including
Futurama and Saturday Night Live, for which she received an Emmy nomination and a Writer's Guild Award. Her first novel, Sammy's Hill, was a
New York Times bestseller and is currently being adapted for the screen by Columbia Pictures. Kristin lives with her husband in Los Angeles.
Contributing reviewer Charles Gershman is a freelance writer in New Haven.