Interview with Gayvin

Gayvin is three women in one: Writer, teacher and part-time super hero. She has been known to talk in her character’s voices, confusing her family as to which character they’re speaking to at breakfast. She jumps out of a perfectly good planes, dances at all hours of the wee mornings and regularly visits the Fairy World. Located in an idealistic town where a train runs through it, she has been known to regularly get lost in her imagination, forget to eat while writing and talk with tiny fairies about the magical world where they dwell. Gayvin received a BA from University of Southern California in Gender Studies and a MFA from the American Film Institute in Screenwriting. She has been a part of a professional writer’s group since 2007, published two novels, writing two more novels now, consulted and counseled writers, had scripts optioned, won awards, mentored graduate candidate writers and written stories since she was 10.

With a combined total of 12 years in front of the camera and in theater, Gayvin began her journey in writing out of sheer frustration due to the few options available for strong female leads and characters in film and TV. It was out of that dissatisfaction in acting parts that Gayvin started writing well-developed characters and stories for her and her acting friends. She first segued into film by working in the Marketing and Promotion department at  Paramount and later was a Reader for the Sundance Institute.

It was after the death of her mother that Gayvin began going deeper into loss and how writing can turn grief into a gift. It was these gifts and experience that lead her to write 1916, a short film set in the trenches of World War I in which an allied soldier must face his humanity when confronted with a dying enemy. For her writing on 1916, Gayvin won the Ojai Film Society Award from Larry Hagman. It was the first time a writer won the award over a director and was unanimously voted the winner.

Since then, she has been actively writing scripts, novels, commercials, and poems, several of which have been published and optioned. It’s Gayvin’s goal to create stories that embody the human experience, bringing forth stories and characters that enlighten and entertain audiences.

From Q & A with Gayvin Powers, by Shut Up & Read, March 13, 2017:

Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
The main character is Iona Fay, a realistic 13-year-old from the United States, who is searching for her missing mother in Ireland. In order to save her mother, she must embrace a world of magic and learns that real magic begins with believing in herself. Iona is an impulsive teenager who goes after what she wants while on her epic journey. In some cases, her impulsiveness works well for her, and in other situations it appears to be her down fall. Iona is a flawed character, she loves deeply, and, over the course of the series (five books planned), she learns to embrace her positive and challenging qualities while righting what is wrong with magic and the fairy world.

Who designs the covers for your books and what is that process like for you as an author?
Su Jen Buchheim, an illustrator from Los Angeles, is the amazing talent behind the drawings in the first two books of Iona Fay. I give her excerpts from the book and asked her to use for tone, style, setting, and image. Sometimes I send her my own sketches or photos of what I’m envisioning to help clarify what I’m trying to convey. Su Jen is a dream to work with.

Describe your ideal writing spot.
My ideal writing spot is any place in nature where I’m comfortable, cozied up with a blanket and am writing on my laptop. Since nature can’t always be ordered up, I’ll take a blanket, warm spot, and turn on some music to inspire writing. I choose a theme song for each book or script I write – it usually helps me bypass writer’s block.

What is the best advice you have been given?
Write. Just write. When you don’t know what to do, write.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer or an actress. Now that I’m older, if I couldn’t be a writer, I’d want to be an astronaut — would be very cool.

Which do you prefer: hard/paperbacks or ebooks?
I prefer paperback books. I like the feel of the pages in my fingers and to fold back the book as I hunker down into a couch while I’m reading a good part of the story. For me, it’s paperbacks all the way.

If you could have any supernatural power, what would you choose and why?
I do have a super power. If I told you, I’d have to erase your mind with my…well, you know. Ssh!

What book are you reading now?
My mother used to be reading three books at a time; I seem to have gotten that trait from her. Currently, I’m reading Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, Heart of the Sea (from The Gallagher of Ardmore trilogy by Nora Roberts, and the outline for my third book (getting ready to start writing any day now). I’m very excited!

The end.

Gayvin gives her thoughts on topics that she covers in her books.

Fairies: “As a child, I would pass through the fairy gateway to my grandfather’s orchard and dance with the fairies in the morning light.”

Life as a Writer: “I would this life a thousand times over again to be a writer and bring joy to my life and others.”

Magic: “It begins within each of us.”

Animals: “They’re gifts that bring us closer to love, friendship and ourselves.”

Nature: “If you’re quiet, you can hear it speak to you.”

Motherhood: “Nothing prepared me for the joys and challenges. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Love: “All emotions boil down to love or fear. I choose love.”


What is your favorite quote that you live by? “Life is either a daring adventure of nothing,” by Helen Keller. My mom gave me that quote when I was in college. It fits my life and the way that I look at my life, the large and small moments. It’s what you make of it.

Does writing energize or exhaust you? Energizes. The act of writing inspires and makes me feel like I’m connected to life. The human experience. Humanity.

What are common traps for aspiring writers? Trying to writing from the first page without doing any research into structuring the layout or starting at the beginning — instead of the ending. Sage advice from Len Schrader, Academy award nominated screenwriter for Kiss of the Spiderwpman, said, “Always start your story at the end.” He was right.

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? I don’t believe in writer’s block. I do believe in the creative well being empty. I also believe that one can refill and reenergize that well by doing something else (exercise, go for a walk, swim, yoga, read, watch a movie, talk, hang out with friends). When you come back you’ll be refreshed and ready to go again. The trick is truly allowing yourself to let go and not obsess while you’re away from the writing.

Word has it that you won a spelling bee? That’s right. I won the second grade spelling bee contest. I’m pleased to say that my spelling peaked in the second grade and since then I’ve been very thankful for spell check — which has vastly improved my spelling ability.

Have you ever gotten reader’s block? When I’ve taught classes, I get serious reader’s block when I find out that the writer didn’t run spell check or do a grammar check. If you take yourself seriously as a writer and present yourself professionally, other people will too.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I have friends, who are writers, and we push each other to write stronger and more authentic. We are also honest in critiques — kind but honest. It’s paramount that you have someone whose feedback you trust and who has your back.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? I prefer series. I’d like each book to be able to stand alone as a good piece of work. However, I fall in love with my characters, their journeys and it’s simply too much fun to not have a book turn into a series!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Don’t be so critical of yourself. Have fun! Let loose. Trust that you already have the answers, and you’ll find them when you need to have them.

What is the first book that made you cry? Where the Red Fern Grows.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? I hummed and hawed over the first book so much that by the time I was ready to write the second book, it fell out of me. The stories just want to be told. I have to condition my fingers to type faster to get out all of the stories — getting the first book out was like the dam finally breaking and the water became an unstoppable forced that wanted to go where it was being led.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Any money that I spent on a computer, school, developing my craft of writing was well spent. I would do all of it over again!

What’s the best way to market your books? You have to be your own champion and believe in your books. Regardless of whether you’re published through a house or self-published, I recommend having knowledge of marketing (in print and online). It’s imperative that an author know how to promote and market one’s work. It was so important to me that I taught myself several design programs and took a mini-MBA class on how to market myself.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? Research is one of the reasons I love writing. I fall in love with the world, characters and time period by doing research. It’s what gives me a sense and tone of what I’m writing about. I fall a little more in love with each book that I write. Once I have a sense of the characters and structure, I’ll put away a lot of the research, but I always leave myself open in case something wonderful presents itself!

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice? For me, writing is like breathing.

How do you select the names of your characters? I have a blast choosing names for my characters. This is another one of my favorite things to do. I pull out the huge book of baby names and start thumbing through the definitions of names and writing down the ones that seem to fit my characters personalities. I love this part!

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? If I didn’t write, I would direct, act or do design work. I would also teach, I love learning, being in that environment and helping others.

Do you Google yourself? Who, under the age of 60, hasn’t Googled themselves?

What is your favorite book? My favorite book is The Alchemist! I love it. It’s simple yet very profound. Layers upon layers of meanings. There are so many good take aways from it. It’s wonderful.

What is your favorite childhood book? Growing up, my favorite books to read were The Hobbit, Sweet Valley High, and Shel Silverstein poems. In high school, I loved the Greek stories (The Odyssey and The Iliad), the classics (like To Kill a Mockingbird) and Siddhartha. In college, my favorite books were Mists of Avalon, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Slaughter House Five.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? The most difficult part of the process for me is that I’m so impatient. I can’t wait to get out the first draft. I’m so excited to see the messy first draft  so I can start playing in the second draft. For me, the first draft is like an artist plopping down a lump of clay and the sebsequent drafts are all about sculpting, shaping, forming, tweaking, enhancing, and altering the clay into a unique piece of art.

Does your family support your career as a writer? My son is very supportive. He likes to have me read the Iona Fay stories to him. That was one of the reasons I thought it was a good idea for parents and grandparents to join their children while reading The Adventure of Iona Fay series and listening to the bedtime stories videos. Jack and I have so much fun reading together, I thought that others would enjoy the quality time together too.

How long on average does it take you to write a book? The first book took years, and the second book took two weeks for the first draft (a little over a month and a half after the other drafts were complete). There is no average. Life has a funny way of getting in the way or leaving a wide birth when you least expect it. I take advantage of time when its there. The more fun I have writing, the faster the work comes to me. Joie to vie!