Friday, May 8, 2020

Florence Gonsalves

Florence Gonsalves is the author of two books of young adult fiction, Love and Other Carnivorous Plants and Dear Universe.

In 2015 she graduated from Dartmouth College where she majored in Philosophy, while taking as many poetry classes as she could.

Her work experience ranges from publishing in NYC, to farming in Maine, to one really bad holiday shift at UPS. She currently lives in Portland, Maine.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Initially I was calling Dear Universe The Opposite of Seventeen because Cham is experiencing hardships that feel antithetical to the fun, carefree existence associated with her age. Though both my agent and editor liked The Opposite of Seventeen, with each draft that title felt a little more convoluted and detached from the heart of the story. I wanted the title to be a big clear statement that demands the reader’s attention the way Cham demands the attention of the universe in all her pleas to it throughout the novel.

What's in a name?

When I’m starting a book, I find myself latching onto a quirky name with a funny backstory for the protagonist so I can get a sense of who she is. Though the backstory didn’t make it into the final draft of Dear Universe, this is why Cham uses a nickname: “Don’t call me Chamomile or I’ll have to tell you about how my mom named me after her favorite goat and I’ve spent the last seventeen years living up to the legend of the three legged, one eyed Chamomile Sr. who survived cancer and coyotes and lived to the ripe old age of nineteen by figuring out how to nurse on her own teet.”

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage self would be shocked to see me writing a story that revolves around a father with Parkinson’s disease. I never acknowledged my dad’s illness as a teen, and truly hoped to never have to talk about it ever. That being said, teenage me would forgive 27 year-old-me thanks to the romantic plot line in Dear Universe. I always wanted to read stories where someone fell in love, believing then as I do now, that romantic love is the only reason it’s better to be a human than a house cat.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I struggle more with endings than beginnings, though truthfully I make a lot of edits to both in the many drafts it takes me to get to the real story. I believe, though, what Joan Didion says in “Goodbye to All That”: “It’s easy to see the beginnings of things and harder to see the ends.”

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There’s a big old hunk of myself in Cham. My dad does have Parkinson’s disease and a lot of Cham’s hardship stems from real things that happened to me and my family. I can’t seem to write a character that isn’t some version of me in a parallel or perpendicular universe, and Cham – with her anger, sass, and imperfections – is no exception.
Visit Florence Gonsalves's website.

--Marshal Zeringue