Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Interview: Lauren Oliver (Author of BEFORE I FALL!)
Give a short description or statement about BEFORE I FALL that will lure in readers.
Samantha Kingston has everything a girl could want. She’s pretty, popular, and has one of the hottest boyfriends in school. But on February 12th, on her way home from a party with her best friends, Samantha dies.
The catch is that she still wakes up the next day—again, on February 12th. She relives her last day for a full week, each time trying to piece together the mystery surrounding her death and trying to alter its outcome.
Are you anything like your main character, Samantha?
Yeah, sure. I like to think I’m a lot nicer than Samantha (although I had my moments in high school), but I definitely can relate to some of her confusion around issues of identity and relationships and romance. Like Sam, in high school I thought I had everything figured out, but really I was pretty lost. I was unhappy and didn’t know it; I wasn’t really sure what made life meaningful, and I concealed a lot of insecurity behind an attitude of nonchalance and detachment.
BEFORE I FALL has a premise that many readers have seen before, but it has unique twists. What would you say makes it unique and worth a second look.
I think a lot of stories and themes get repeated time and time again. Forbidden romance has been done a million times, but Romeo and Juliet is a very different book from Twilight. There might be relatively few stories in the world, but they can be told an infinity of different ways, just like the same finite notes on a piano can create a nearly endless quantity of arrangements of music.
Did you know the ending before you began writing or did it take you time to decide how to conclude the novel? (I only ask because it totally broke my heart…)
I’m so sorry it broke your heart! But yes, I did know the ending beforehand. I wrote the prologue and the epilogue first, actually; the whole rest of the writing process was then the struggle to get from Point A to Point Z.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing BEFORE I FALL?
Oof. The hardest part of writing for me is always just actually sitting down to do it every single day. It’s always a struggle, no matter how often I do it. Today, for example—it’s 2 p.m. and I haven’t even started my writing! And I’ll be totally stressed out until I do.
Did you always want to be a novelist?
Well, I didn’t want to be a novelist in the sense that I intended it to be a career, necessarily; writing isn’t always the most practical job choice. But I always, always wrote. I’ve been writing pretty much every day since I was, like, five. In sixth grade, when my best friend Jackie liked a boy, I would write her romance stories in which she would end up with him in the end. She still has a box somewhere full of all of that writing. (Terrible stuff, by the way. I should probably ask her to burn it.)
What jobs did you have on your way to being a writer? Did they help you in any way as a writer?
I worked as an editorial assistant, and then assistant editor, at Penguin Young Readers—and yeah, I definitely think that helped me out, for sure. I read so many teen books during that time and learned so much about plot and pacing. I also worked in nightclubs and bars for five years. That was incredibly helpful to me as a writer; much of the job is just talking to people, so you really get to know people’s stories, and you get a vast sense both of different people’s voices, and of the struggles and anxieties and problems that are common to us all.
When and where do you usually write?
Oh, man. It’s totally random. I like to write on my Macbook air, and when I’m at home in Brooklyn I write at my kitchen table (for easy access to the coffee machine). But when I’m stuck I write by hand, and when I’m rushing around all day I sometimes write on my Blackberry when I’m in the subway and then email the material to myself. Right now I’m writing at my friend’s kitchen table in Venice Beach, California.
Is there something that is a must have for you to be able to write?
Coffee so that my brain can function. Otherwise, nope!
What author or book most influenced you as a writer or in general?
It’s really impossible to say. Different books and writers have been hugely influential to me at different points in time, from Roald Dahl to JK Rowling to F Scott Fitzgerald and Gabrial Garcia Marquez…
Can you tell us anything about your next YA novel(s)?
Sure. My second book will be released in the first part of 2011. It’s called DELIRIUM, and it’s kind of a dystopian Romeo and Juliet story (but told my own way—see Question #3!). I am not going to say any more for now, but I am so, so excited about it.
The Hiding Spot is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Is there a place, activity, or person that is your hiding spot?
What a beautiful question. Yes. Writing is my hiding spot.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
Thanks so much for having me! And please go out and get a copy of Before I Fall! You won’t regret it! (And if you do, you can yell at me over twitter at @OliverBooks.)
Read my rave review of BEFORE I FALL here!