BEFORE I FALL is an unusual novel, mainly because the main character lives the same day over and over again. What was the most difficult aspect of writing this novel?
I think the two most difficult aspects were avoiding repetitiveness despite the inherent repetitiveness of the structure, and also redeeming Sam, the main character, who starts off very unlikable. I had to make sure people would keep reading!
Did you know from the beginning how BEFORE I FALL was going to end? Do you think that ending was the only suitable one for the story or did you consider other options?
Yes, I did know. And no, I never considered any other options. The end was implied by the beginning.
What if love were a disease? How did you have the idea for DELIRIUM?
I remember reading an essay by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that said all great books are about love or death. Since I had written about death already, I began to consider writing a love story. The next day, I was at the gym and all the TV's were broadcasting about the swine flu epidemic. The two thoughts about love and how anything can be declared a pandemic outbreak blended and created Delirium!
In LIESL AND PO everything fits properly at the end, even the little details that at the beginning seem irrelevant. How much do you plan your books before you start to write them?
I try to plan my books at the start, but often kind of just have to feel my way through the middle, adjusting puzzle pieces and trying to make everything slot together. I definitely try to generate a general plot at the beginning, though—otherwise, I’d be content to write happily with no plot for ages!
Both BEFORE I FALL and DELIRIUM have been optioned for film. What can you tell us about these projects? Will you be involved in them?
Both projects are at a great studio and have excellent scripts. Beyond that, I can’t say much! Hollywood is very uncertain; I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.
Some people think that the screen adaptations more often than not ruin the spirit of the books; others see them as an opportunity to make their books reach a larger public. What is your opinion in this matter?
Oh, I think film adaptations are great, as long as you accept that they are meant to riff on, and not exactly emulate, the book itself. Plus, it’s not like movies replace the books! The books are still alive and breathing their story; if you want the original spirit of the thing, read the book.
Next March PANDEMONIUM will be published. How have your readers reacted to the ending of DELIRIUM? Was it what you expected? What can you tell us about PANDEMONIUM?
I’m not sure I anticipated any reaction but I can tell you that readers were not pleased about Alex’s death! I’ve gotten many hysterical emails about it. In Pandemonium, we can expect that the focus of the book expands as Lena’s world and knowledge of the world grows. The book takes place in two different time frames, and Lena really comes into her own.
Currently more series than standalone novels are being published in YA, but two out of your three published books are not part of series. What advantage do you find in writing standalone books?
It’s never a deliberate choice. If I feel I can tell the story in one book, I will. If I feel the story is larger than that, as I did in the case of Delirium, I’ll expand it and grow it.
Recently you have become an entrepreneur and have founded Paper Lantern Lit. What made you take this step?
I missed working with young authors; I’d been an editor at Penguin and quit to become a full-time writer. And I found I had creative energy that had no place to go, no room for expression. Why work with PLL resolves both of those difficulties.
We have read your parents are writers as well. What kind of literature do they write? How did they influence your life and your work?
My father writes nonfiction books about serial killers. (Very different genre!) My mother edits a literary magazine and writes primarily short stories.
How would you defend the young adult genre against those who think it is second-class literature and that a writer is not really serious until he/she doesn’t try adult?
“Adult” is not a category of literature—nor is “young adult.” Some adult books are bad; some are great. The same is true of young adult. I’m not sure, apart from that, I know what it means to be “serious” as a writer. I don’t write with a clown hat on.
Apart from REQUIEM, the third part in the trilogy, what other projects do you have? Can you tell us something about them?
I have a middle grade book, THE SPINDLERS, due to be published in the fall of 2012. Other than that, I am kind of just playing around. I’m not sure what my next project will be yet.