Q&A with Camryn Garrett
What inspired you to write OFF THE RECORD?
With my first book, I could tell you the exact moment when I decided to pull all of those threads together. With Off the Record, I had really been wanting to write something about a teen journalist because I had that experience. With #MeToo all over the news, I had been thinking about those stories and the way they were reported. There was a lot of emphasis put on the survivors who came out with stories first, but even when other celebrities, like Gwenyth Paltrow, shared their stories, they all seemed to be white. There were women like Salma Hayek and Lupita Nyong’o who also had Weinstein stories, but to me, they were reported almost as an afterthought. I wanted that to be addressed in the story; is it because there are less WOC who have been abused? Because they’re uncomfortable speaking with the (usually white) reporters? What dynamics are there?
What was the most difficult part about writing this story? What part was the easiest?
I think the hardest part was trying to figure out how realistic to make the story. It’s a blend of realism and wish-fulfillment, and I wasn’t always sure which moments should fall into each category. The easiest parts were the moments that reflected my own experiences, especially when it came to fat acceptance. I’ve read a lot of books with fat main characters and they’re so important to me, but it felt like a lot of the times they were either super confident or hated their bodies. I feel like I’m more in between. With Josie, I wanted to show readers that you can love your body and still have difficulty being positive about it all the time.
Writing plays a major role in the story. What advice do you have for aspiring young writers?
I’d say to start writing! I think a lot of people think they have to reach a certain age or attend college to write, and you really don’t need to. I would start writing so that you can learn more about yourself as a writer—and a person. It’s such a cool experience.
Josie is a teen journalist navigating the complexities of uncovering the truth and exposing injustice through her journalism. Could you talk more about these themes?
I wanted to be a journalist for a while in high school; I was part of my school newspaper for all four years and followed the news religiously. I’m still inspired by journalists who can break really sensitive stories about topics like sexual assault. They have to be able to comb through records, interview the accused perpetrators, and then switch gears to interview survivors. I really wanted to highlight how many things journalists have to juggle, especially when covering stories like these.
As a young author yourself, what do you hope teens take away from this story? How might you talk to them about it if we were able to do author visits?
I hope teens read this story and realize that they can use their voice to make a difference, even if they’re shy or anxious or scared.
We are sharing this with the greatest book advocates – teachers and librarians! Do you have a memory involving a teacher or librarian that you would like to share with us?
I have so many! In high school, I ate lunch in our school library every day, and one of the library workers at the front desk always talked to me about the new YA books they had in (she also saved some of them for me!). I still talk to one of my English teachers from high school because I love her very much.
We love to hear from authors about their inspirations and favorite things! What books, shows, hobbies, etc. have been getting you through this difficult time?
The show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was great for me! One of my friends and I have tried to have a standing movie night where we usually watch teen movies from the early aughts, like A Cinderella Story and Freaky Friday. It’s one of the main things that is helping me get through the pandemic!
Any hints as to what’s next for you?
I’m going to take a little vacation! But after that, I’m working on a really cool queer rom-com I’m excited about.