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.
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Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
Watch Me is a dark psychological suspense novel about a professor caught up in a dangerous relationship with her charming but psychotic student. Writing this book felt important and cathartic. 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.
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
I’m with St. Martin’s Press, and my experience with them has been amazing. This is my eleventh published novel; two of those I published independently, but all the others have been with major houses. I have a lot of respect for indie publishing, but personally I found it exhausting trying to do it all. I prefer to work with a team of professionals who specialize in specific aspects of publishing.
How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing the story, or did it come later?
It came to me after I’d written a few drafts. I like that it can be interpreted in different ways. “Watch Me” is a dare, a command, and a plea. It expresses the central theme of the novel pretty succinctly.
I knew St. Martin’s would be handling the cover, but I couldn’t stop myself from playing around with design concepts anyway. Sometimes creating a visual image of the book helps me get clearer about the mood I’m going for. When my editor sent me a rough draft of the cover, I was blown away. It expresses so perfectly the atmosphere of the book—wintry, cold, spooky, sexy. My agent and I were both thrilled.
Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
As with most traditional publishing houses, the design was done in-house. Usually we writers don’t even know who exactly is responsible for the artwork. I was so stoked about this particular cover, though, I asked my editor for the designer’s name so I could thank him in my acknowledgements. Jimmy Iacobelli was the genius behind the design. I hope I meet him someday so I can thank him face-to-face.
How was your experience working with the designer?
It was great. My agent and I agreed that one aspect of the design could use some tweaking in the original concept; the scary stalker figure at the center was kind of Frankenstein-like at first. It just didn’t hit the right note. I sent an image of a silhouette that fit more with my vision, and the designer ended up using that exact image, so everyone was happy.
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
So far, so good. It’s essential that the cover attract readers who are looking for the kind of book you’ve actually written, you know? It’s maddening when the cover art is misleading. I’m confident that this cover sends the right message; in this case, if you’re looking for chilling psychological suspense, you’ve found it.
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
Have a conversation with images. Show them covers, photos or artwork that evokes the mood you’re going for. Try to be open when they put their own spin on it. You’ll know when you’ve got something that’s true to what you’ve written and will also reach the right audience.
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
You should totally read it! : )