Jody Gehrman has authored eleven published novels and numerous plays for stage and screen. Her debut suspense novel, Watch Me, is published by St. Martin’s Press. Her Young Adult novel, Babe in Boyland, won the International Reading Association’s Teen Choice Award and was optioned by the Disney Channel. Jody’s plays have been produced or had staged readings in Ashland, New York, SanFrancisco, Chicago and L.A. Her newest full-length, TribalLife in America, won the Ebell Playwrights Prize and willreceive a staged reading at the historic Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for theirone-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She holds a Masters Degree in ProfessionalWriting from the University of Southern California and is a professor of Communications at Mendocino College in Northern California.

Book description: A dark romantic suspense novel about a professor caught up in a dangerous relationship with her charming but psychotic student.

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?

I’ve been writing all my life, but I didn’t get serious about it until I discovered playwriting in college, which I’ve been studying ever since. For me playwriting helps to balance the inherent isolation of writing with its natural antidote: collaboration. I’ve freelanced some for magazines over the years, but I’m happiest creating fictional worlds.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I always kind of assumed it’s what I’d do, even though the odds of making it are slim. It’s a compulsion for me; I can’t stop.

Do you have another job besides writing?

I’m a Professor of Communications at Mendocino College. I’ve taught English, Creative Writing, Playwriting, Public Speaking, film classes—a wide range of topics. It’s an excellent job for an author. When I’m not writing, I’m usually talking about writing with students from all walks of life. Their stories and their struggles inspire me.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Writing this book felt important and cathartic. “Watch Me” is a dare, a command, and a plea. I was trying to put into words an experience I think many women can relate to. We go from always being on display in our twenties and early thirties to suddenly feeling invisible. The minute we hit puberty we start to feel eyes on us; we get so used to that state, we unconsciously accept it as a law of nature. When all those eyes turn away from us, it’s as if we disappear. My protagonist is thirty-eight, divorced, emotionally bruised, and disappearing. That perfect storm makes her vulnerable to an obsessive sociopath. He may be dangerous, but at least he sees her.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I always work with an outline, even if it’s vague. This was one of those rare projects that sunk its claws into me and wouldn’t let go. I wrote the first draft in a few months, had some trusted beta-readers give me notes, sold it rather quickly, then revised for a year or two with the guidance of my fabulous agent and editor.

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

I hope the theme of middle-age invisibility will resonate with readers. We all yearn to be seen, to be savored and appreciated, no matter our age; it’s something we don’t talk about a lot, but our culture’s obsession with youth and beauty can really mess with one’s sense of self after a certain number of birthdays. Nothing would please me more than seeing Watch Me get passed from one reader to another as part of an ongoing conversation about that craving to feel visible again.

What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

Critique groups can be powerful, though I generally prefer working with a few trusted writers I can trade manuscripts with when needed. Many writers, myself included, want to please everyone. This can be dangerous. I caution my writing students to sift through the feedback they receive with an open mind, but only act on the notes that truly resonate. The longer you do this work, the clearer you get about which voices to listen to and which ones to ignore.

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