Recap: Gayle Forman & Jamie Blackley Signing in Toronto!

8:03 PM

Last Friday, August 15, I was able to attend Gayle Forman's book signing in Toronto promoting the movie If I Stay, which is based on her heartbreaking novel of the same name. The event took place in the evening at Indigo Yonge & Eglinton and Gayle was also joined by actor Jamie Blackley, who plays Adam in the film!

The event kicked off shortly after 7pm to loud applause and cheers when Gayle Forman and Jamie Blackley made their appearance on stage. Chandra from Indigo Teen moderated the event and asked the pair questions about themselves and If I Stay. I recorded the event, so here's a transcript of the Q&A portion before the book signing began:

Indigo Teen: One of the things I found when I was reading about the movie was that you had played guitar before but hadn't been in a band and then you recorded the songs? 

Jamie: Yeah, I mean I've played the guitar since I was about 12, but kind of never seriously. I had some lessons back home in London and then we did a bunch of band rehearsals when we got to Vancouver [where If I Stay was filmed].

Indigo Teen: If you had a musical patron saint... I know Gayle talks about it in the back of book about hers, but do you have one?

Jamie: Probably Ian Curtis from Joy Division.

Indigo Teen: That's an excellent choice. And Gayle, do you want to share your musical patron saint?

Gayle: Jonathon Richman. The Modern Lovers. Go look it up. Listen to some old songs. 

Indigo Teen: What was it like filming the movie? What drew you to the character? Was it the story? What made you sort of go, "I really want to be in this movie!"

Jamie: I was out of work for a very long time back home and then I got sent

Indigo Teen: [jokes] So you were desperate...

Jamie: Well, no. You got to let me finish the story. [audience laughs] I got sent the script and ignored it, thinking there's no point and I'm not going to get it anyway. And then, eventually, I did do it and I met Chloe, and it just felt like it would be really fun to do with a really cool bunch of people.

Indigo Teen: Gayle, how involved have you been with everything?

Gayle: I'm somewhat involved. I was executive producer, which could mean absolutely nothing, but in this case, because R.J. Cutler, the director, is really open to collaboration—he had his own amazing vision— I would get drafts of the script and he would call me with questions, like "What should Mia's house look like?", and I would send him pictures or ideas. I was also on set for a couple of weeks, and yeah, it was an experience.

Indigo Teen: We always hear when books are adapted that authors won't be choosing casts, that they don't have any control over anything, so I think it's sometimes a little comforting to hear that the director called you [with questions]. I know when it's your favourite book, you want it to be done right, and authors and actors, of course, want the story to be the best it can be. Was there anything particularly challenging?

Jamie: Making the love story real and palpable, I guess, and making sure people leave the theater with the same feeling they had when they finished the book.

Indigo Teen: On that note, how many boxes of tissues should we be bringing to the theater?

Gayle: I mean, do you cry at TV commercials? That time of the month? [audience laughs] It depends on your threshold. It depends on a lot of things... But definitely no eye makeup. When I watched the movie for the first time next to the director, I had to stuff my whole fist into my mouth to muffle the sobs.

Indigo Teen: So we should take a friend to hold their hand and lean on their shoulder, that kind of thing. Is there anything you'd like to say to those who came and waited to meet you?

Jamie: Thanks for waiting. Yeah, it's really nice of you.

Gayle: And I want to say thanks for waiting today, but also thanks for waiting these six years, because I know a lot you have been fans for a really long time, and you guys, believe it or not, you made this movie happen. They look at how many readers there are reading that book, and so, you can be happy to know this movie has happened because of you.

Indigo Teen: Alright, best fans, you're going to ask questions now. 

Fan Question: Was there any difficult qualities to portray on the screeen about Adam?

Jamie: I don't know about a characteristic, but maybe, the stuff in the ICU is probably quite difficult. It's not nice being in hospitals anyways. Yeah, that was difficult.

Fan Question: Was it hard to do an American accent?

Gayle: Can you answer that question in an American accent for us?

Jamie: Absolutely not, I can't.

Gayle: C'mon... [audience laughs] I've been trying to get him to switch accents.

Jamie: It's not something I really have to think about anymore. I used to have to think about it all the time but, I mean, it's an accent I hear all the time back home. Now I just kind of practice it in my room...

Indigo Teen: Gayle, actually, has an excellent British accent...

Gayle: We'll have to switch accents. We'll do a Freaky Friday moment when you guys are coming up and we're signing... 

Fan Question: My question is for Gayle. What inspired you to write the story?

Gayle: It was a lot of things. Part of it was sort of a true story. A personal tragedy, where friends of ours were killed in an accident a lot like that and one of them was a child. He lived longer, and so, I always was kind of tormented by him alone and this image of him alone on a helicopter being evacuated. I wondered if he knew what happened to his family and did he choose to go with them? And that was like seven years before I wrote the book, and one morning, I kind of woke up and there was this character in my head and she was a seventeen-year-old cello player, which was news to me because I had like nothing to do with the cello at that time. I'm not a musician and wasn't a fan of classical music, but she was a cellist. And I just knew when I woke up that she was going to answer that question as it pertained to her, so I sat down and started writing.

Indigo Teen: [Jamie], you were in The Fifth Estate and we know you're in If I Stay. Do you have any plans for the future you could let us know about?

Jamie: I've just finished Woody Allen's next film and then I don't know what's next after that.

Indigo Teen: Maybe a band?

Jamie: Never a band. Can't do it. Can't write music.

Fan Question: Jamie, I want to know how it felt to work with Chloe Grace Moretz?

Jamie: I was so nervous at first. I was really scared. I was so starstruck. But once I got over that, she's just a normal girl and it was really fun. She's so easy to work with and we had a really great time. It was really nice.

Indigo Teen: Do you have someone you dream to work with, like a dream director or dream cast?

Jamie: Everyone!

Indigo Teen: Gayle, is there someone you dream about collaborating with? It sounds like you had a really time with the director, but is there anyone else you'd like to work with?

Gayle: I'm not really in that world. You never know until you know. Had you given me the name R.J. Cutler before, I never would have guessed because, first of all, he comes from a documentary background and when I looked him up, I saw that his big documentaries were The War Room, which is a fantastic documentary about the Clinton campaign which I loved, a documentary called The September Issue about Vogue magazine, and one about Dick Cheney. And my first thought was, "Wow, anyone could face down Dick Cheney and Anna Wintour, who's like the very scary editor of American Vogue, the man's got, you know, balls." So, I was really intrigued and, of course, he also did Nashville, so I understood he knew music, but it was never a name that had been swirling in my head. He was the perfect person to make the film.   

Indigo Teen: Did it feel like everything right came together? 

Gayle: It totally did. I know that some fans know there have been some false starts, but it felt like it was all meant to be so that we could have this director and this cast. They're so perfect.

Fan Question: Jamie, do you have a favourite line from the movie?

Jamie: I say the same one every time... What is it again? Me and Chloe both say it. Does everyone know it? "Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you." And I think that's true. That's why I love it. You know, choices mold who you are as a person.

Fan Question: I was just wondering if the scenes where Chloe is there but not there, if that was really difficult not to react to her emotions and how dramatically she's acting?

Jamie: Yeah, it was so weird, because I was looking at her double line on the bit but I'd know she was there out of the corner of her mind and I kind of didn't know where to look. It was just confusing, because visually, I just didn't know where to look.

Fan Question: There are a lot of different messages that people can take away from the story and I wanted to know, as you were writing, what you were thinking of?

Gayle: I wasn't thinking of any message. If I had, it would have been like an after school special and would have been terrible. Did you guys have that? I'm dating myself... My favourite books and my favourite movies are the ones where you kind of feel like a slightly different person when you finish than you did when you started, where you have an emotional experience or an intellectual experience, and it just makes you see the world a little bit differently. And then your take away from that is completely individual, but just something happens, like a little earthquake. That's what I hope. I did have a lot of emotional experiences while writing the book.

Indigo Teen: A little earthquake, that's a great way to put it. What's the best book you guys have read recently? I know maybe you didn't have a lot of time to read while filming. Or maybe the best band you've seen, if you want to go that way?

Gayle: So for YA, have you guys read E. Lockhart's We Were Liars? Amazing. Jandy Nelson has a book coming out called I'll Give You the Sun. Also fantastic. You should read that. Those were two fantastic books. Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam Trilogy is one of my favourite three books, like, ever.

Jamie: Best bands to see live? The 1975. Game Over. 

Indigo Teen: One last question from the audience. It has to be the best question...

Fan Question: I just wanted to know from both of you if you're enjoying Toronto so far and if you'd like to come back  in the future? 

Jamie: Definitely. We haven't really seen a lot of Toronto, but yeah, I'd love to see more of it.

Gayle: I'll be coming back in November.

Indigo Teen: Thank you so much for coming. Everybody, big round of applause for them! 


After the Q&A was finished, each person waited for their group number to be announced to help make sure the line for getting books signed was moving efficiently. While I waited for my turn, internally, I was freaking out because my mind was completely drawing a blank thinking of what to possibly say to Gayle and Jamie. They were both really kind and friendly, and I'm pretty sure I mumbled something about hoping they would do some Canadian things while visiting Toronto...


Thanks so much to Gayle Forman and Jamie Blackley for visiting Toronto and meeting some of your Canadian fans! Also, thanks to Penguin Canada, Indigo Yonge & Eglinton, and Chapters/Indigo to organizing and hosting the event! If I Stay is out in theaters on August 22 (today!!) and I absolutely can't wait to watch it soon!

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