Recently I was lucky enough to participate in a Q & A with the author of Saving the Planet and Stuff, Gail Gauthier. This comedy novel is about 16 year old Michael Racine who is spending his summer in Vermont working as an intern for a magazine called, The Earth’s Wife. Walt and Nora, 2 of his grandparents’ old friends, have run the publication since the 1960's. Michael must learn how to work and live with people who are much different than anybody he's used to in that they don’t eat meat, don’t use air conditioning and ride bikes to work.
In the following Q & A, you will get a sense of how Gail's love of the environment influenced this novel, as well as some insight into her personal story.
When someone finishes this book, what would you like them to leave thinking?
Saving the Planet & Stuff is a comedy about life choices. I hope that readers will come away with an understanding of the thought, effort, and decision-making that go into even just trying to live an environmental lifestyle. The scene in which Nora only wants free range eggs if they are packaged in something she can recycle--otherwise, she'll make do with regular eggs so long as they're packaged in cardboard and not Styrofoam--is something a lot of us can recognize. Walt and Nora are over-the-top in holding on to items others would consider garbage because they believe they can use them again and keep them out of a transfer station a while longer. But it's only a matter of degree. Other environmental types do it. In our home we have a policy of not replacing items until they are broken, which cuts down on the number of material things we go through and discard. Just this morning I got into a discussion with another family member about items that lose their functionality long before they are truly "broken." If I'm not going to wait until something breaks, how poorly does it need to function before I replace it? And then what do I do with that item that's merely functioning poorly and isn't truly broken?
What about Connecticut has been an inspiration to your writing?
I've published a number of books about children in suburban towns, attending contemporary schools. That comes from the suburban Connecticut world I've lived in as an adult. My life and my experience are a big part of my writing.
Why do you think it's important for young adults to have an understanding of the natural environment?
I lean toward stewardship. There are a great many things we need/want from the environment in order to live comfortably. If young adults hope to live lives in which they have what they need in terms of raw materials and healthy and beautiful surroundings, they need to understand that they have a part in maintaining the environment so that can happen.