Interview with Jesus Freak Blog – Eliza Gordon!
I spent three months as a 911 dispatcher in a small county in Oregon years ago. It was the scariest three months of my working life—I had a call come in where the victim had been found unconscious on the bathroom floor, blood coming out of his ears and nose, and my dispatch trainer told me that the man was definitely a goner. Blood coming from the ears is no good. I felt so sad that I quit soon after. My personality at that time in my life was too fresh and underdeveloped to handle high-stress calamity. Although Hollie Porter is calmer than I was at her age, the stress of the job is definitely getting to her too.
I’ve been working on a rewrite for a darker YA project for the past few years, and I needed something fun and silly and lighthearted that wouldn’t be subject to a grueling editorial process. Plus I really wanted a project that Mr. Gordon and I could work on together. He usually writes screenplays, so he’s solid with structure, which is not one of my stronger suits. Our skill sets are very complementary—two great tastes that taste great together. Plus, who doesn’t like romance and fun?
Oh yes! I used to go to Winterhawks games when I lived in Portland, and Mr. Gordon, Canada born and bred, played hockey as a kid and into his teens (a bad collarbone break ended that). We live in the suburbs outside Vancouver, British Columbia, so we cheer obnoxiously for the Vancouver Canucks, although Mr. Gordon’s lifelong favorite team is the Philadelphia Flyers. (Mr. Gordon is quite the hockey historian. Don’t tell that I bragged about him. He’s shy.)
Hockey really is a huge part of Canadian culture—with the Sochi Olympics underway, our local elementary school pulled the kids into the gymnasium on February 20 so they could watch the third period of the women’s gold medal game, Canada vs. the US. I root for both countries as I’m American but I’ve lived in Canada for twelve years. It was great fun for the kids to see the home team win on Russian ice. Earlier today Canada’s men’s hockey won versus the US, but like I said, it’s an either/or situation for me. Because Ryan Kesler (an American) is my favorite hockey stud, I did feel bad that he had a sad face as he exited the ice, but we just need these guys to stay healthy (no more injuries!) so they can get back to North America and the NHL can get back to business. We miss our Canucks!
I definitely use real people as visual inspiration—for Ryan, the aforementioned Vancouver Canucks player Ryan Kesler was a huge inspiration (a coincidence about the name, though), as was Canadian actor Peter Mooney (Rookie Blue, Camelot), and most recently, British heartthrob Henry Cavill, à la the rough-and-rugged, bearded, oil-rig-saving Clark Kent in Man of Steel. Mmmmm, Mr. Cavill, known as vitamin Henry around these parts, could totally rock a playoff beard. I’d give up a body part to see him play Ryan Fielding.
As for Hollie, I don’t have an individual in mind who embodies her physical characteristics—Hollie is Every Woman, and I prefer to paint my female leads with lighter brushstrokes as I think that helps with relatability between character and reader—but in terms of inspiration for her snark, I pulled from Kristen Wiig’s awesome performance in Bridesmaids. That movie is really quite layered—it’s about a lot more than a group of bridesmaids who eat bad chicken and then crap in the bridal salon’s bathroom sink. (If you haven’t seen it, get thee to a Red Box.)
Laughing. We cracked ourselves up brainstorming the most outrageous things we could throw at poor Hollie. Also, we really wanted to showcase how fantastic British Columbia is—though some of the locales are fabricated (Revelation Cove, Brigand Bay), these are all based on actual places along the BC coastline. I can’t believe I get to live in such a gorgeous place.
An appreciation for otters—and really for all of our endangered sea-dwelling neighbors. I adore otters, and during childhood, I had my heart set on being a marine biologist (until I learned I’d have to go in deep water, and I’m terrified of deep water). There’s a scene in the book where Hollie talks about how, as a kid at the zoo and aquarium, she’d stand before the animals’ enclosures and try to convince them that she loved them more than any of the other people visiting that day. That was me—when Keiko the killer whale was staying at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, I would press my hands and face against the glass and try to communicate that I loved him best of all. I have no idea if he responded because I don’t speak orca.
But seriously, I would love it if readers walked away with an appreciation for the really scary prospect that sea otters, if not protected, could face extinction. California’s southern sea otter population only numbers around 3000 beauties. The northern sea otter, found along Washington, Canada, and Alaska, is a healthier population with numbers between 65,000 and 78,000*, although both populations are considered threatened. While now covered by the Endangered Species Act & Marine Mammal Protection Act, these little sweeties are also at risk from oil spills and poaching. And awareness is always the first step toward action!
(*Info from Friends of the Sea Otter. Find them online and on social media!)
I LOVE hearing from readers. LOVE IT. It is such an incredible feeling to have someone email or leave a message on Facebook or Twitter with positive feedback. And when people say that they’re laughing or that they related to Hollie? I can’t even describe what a total rush that is. I live to make people giggle.
Good question, for which I have no good answer. To be ridiculously honest, it just popped into my head as Hollie started to take shape. At first my agent didn’t like the title, but once they read the story, it was clear that Must Love Otters was an apt fit for what happens within the pages. It is a little unusual, I know, and I’ve seen comments online where people were at first unsure of reading a book with “otters” in the title—what the hell is this book even about? Seems we’re doing okay, though. If people are giggling and seeing the connection between Hollie and her otters, then we win.
Mr. Gordon and I are talking about this—it would be interesting to see what happens to them after they become a committed couple. Will they stay at Revelation Cove? What kind of work will she do? Will the time spent in Monterey with the otters change her outlook on what she wants to do for the rest of her life? Will Hollie and Ryan tie the knot? Will there be babies? Will Ryan take that future offer to coach a hockey team? So many questions to consider! Whatever happens with them, though, you know that Hollie will bounce and tumble her way through it.
The answer to this question always makes people frown at me: I’m superstitious, and so I can’t tell you! I will tell you this—it’s another romantic comedy, this time set exclusively in Portland, Oregon, and our leading lady has an affinity for rubber ducks and Star Wars. Is that enough? Look for its release late spring/early summer.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to visit and chat with you and your readers! We do hope you enjoy your journey through Hollie’s life in Must Love Otters. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr!
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