Your work is now quite popular in Spain. Number the Stars and Anastasia Krupnik have just been republished with brand new covers. At the same time, a hard cover edition of The Giver has been launched with a big promotion campaign. What do you think about this?
I am always pleased to think of young people reading my books. And I think that if people in different countries, with different languages, are all reading the same books, it promotes a kind of companionship and understanding that is valuable.
A summer to die is based on the awful personal experience of your sister’s loss. We believe writing this novel must have been difficult. Did it help you to face that fact? Do you think literature can have a therapeutic function? Do you think it is a way of fighting your personal demons?
Communicating about troubling things is always therapeutic. Shakespeare said, in Macbeth: "Give sorrow words." Writing about things is a good way to confront your fears and your sorrows.
This subject is also present in Number the Stars. How did you get informed about the Nazi period? Did you travel to Denmark or talk to survivors?
I did a great deal of research, and yes, I went to Denmark and talked to people who had been alive during that time.
In some of your novels a teenager (Meg, Jonas, Anastasia) becomes friends with an elderly person (Will, The giver, Gertrude). Do you think intergenerational dialogue is important? Do you believe that today's teenagers (who can easily access information through internet) need the experience of older people?
"Accessing information" is not the same as truly communicating with someone. I think the passing along of wisdom combined with compassion and affection is very valuable thing for young people.
In the advertising of The Giver latest edition we can read "the book they didn’t want you to read", referring to the censorship that your book suffered in part of the US. How did your country react when your book was published? Has this reaction changed as time passes?
It didn’t begin immediately after The Giver was published. Gradually, as the book became more popular, certain very conservative adults, and groups, in the USA became troubled by it. This continues to be true. Some schools have been required to stop using the book.
How did you come up with the idea for The Giver? Was it originally a novel and then became a trilogy? What we find more innovative about this trilogy is its structure: the first and the second book have different characters that meet in the third one. How did you think about this?
I first conceived of it as a single book. Then I began to think about the second book, about what it would be like in the future if people had lost their technology and become very primitive, so that’s what I was exploring in Gathering Blue. Then it occurred to me that I could connect the two books, that the two societies could be co-existing and that people from them could connect.
After reading the complete The Giver trilogy, we still have some questions left. The action seems to take place in some kind of rural post-apocalyptic society, is that true? Is it set in a far future? Then, where do the character's gifts come from? Is it a kind of magic? How can be possible that from the same society arose so many dystopian societies physically so close and at the same time so different? What happened in the past that made the world change so much?
This would not be very far in the future, because things in Jonas’s community are still much like our world today, though technology has allowed them a great deal of control that we don’t have (weather, for example). Far into the future, things would (will) be almost unrecognizably different. And yes, you have to accept a certain amount of magic or fantasy. And of course it is unlikely that after cataclysmic events (nuclear war, or something of that sort) that two such dissimilar places could exist so close together.
Have you ever considered writing a sequel for The Giver (maybe with different characters, but set in the same world) considering the success of the trilogy?
No. I find myself more interested in what happens to Gabriel, who is mentioned only briefly in Messenger.
What can you tell us about the project of The Giver movie? Have you been able to participate in the process (in the screenplay or the casting), or have you preferred to stay aside?
It has been a very long and frustrating process, with several screenplays written and rejected. Lots of going back to the beginning, with new producers, new directors. At the moment it is in that stage again---back to the beginning. I don’t know if it will ever actually be made. I have no role in the writing or the production, but they have been kind enough to let me know what is taking place.
There are some later novels (The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau or The knife of never letting go GO by Patrick Ness) that keep, in some ways, the spirit of The Giver. Do you know these novels? How do you feel about being an influence for young authors?
I have heard of, but not read, the DuPrau book. I haven’t heard of the other title. But it is inevitable that if an idea captures the excitement of an audience, as The Giver did, then other authors will begin to examine that idea and address it in their own ways. That has always been true.
What is the main difference that you find in writing for teenagers or writing for adults (if you find any)?
No difference. My books are designated "young adult" because a young person is the protagonist. The craft of writing is the same, no matter who the audience is.
What do you think about today’s young adult literature? Do you often read other teen authors? What do you like best, Harry Potter or Twilight?
I don’t read other young adult literature. And I haven’t read either Harry Potter or Twilight, I’m afraid. I have a granddaughter who loves the Twilight series and a grandson who loves Harry Potter! But me: I read adult books.
Do you know if any of your other books is going to be published in Spain? What are you working on at the moment?
I don’t know about new translations to come. My most recent young adult book is called The Willoughbys, and I have a book called The birthday ball being published next spring. Both of those are light-hearted books, nothing like The Giver trilogy.