Instructions for Dancing came out five years after The Sun is Also a Star. You explained the reasons in the acknowledgements. Did the pandemic affect it too? How did the last two years' global outlook change your life, both as an author and a woman?
Instructions for Dancing was already completed by the time the pandemic started in 2020 so it didn't affect the novel. However, I do think that my outlook has changed as I think most people's have. I am more aware that we live in a global community and that our individual choices affect everyone around us. I try to live in the moment and I try not to procrastinate. Life can change in an instant and it's important to live it as fully as you can while you can.
In an achievement-oriented world, you stand for enjoying and living the process in Instructions for Dancing. Is this a philosophy that you have been able to bring to your life as an author—to enjoy the writing instead of focusing on the final result?
Wonderful question. Xavier from Instructions for Dancing is the character whom I'd most like to emulate. He believes in living in the present moment and in being spontaneous and open to all the things life wants to show you. I strive for those things too, but I'm not always able to achieve them. I do enjoy the writing, but I'm always focused on the final result as well. For me, writing a novel is like putting together a puzzle and so I need to have the entire picture in my head.
You contrast two realities of migrant people in The Sun is Also a Star. Natasha lives fearing deportation, and Daniel deals with the troubles of being a second-generation migrant. Since your own experience is close to these examples, what elements did you consider more important to capture in the book?
I wanted to capture the feeling of being trapped between worlds. Both Natasha and Daniel are children of two different cultures and countries. On one hand, that experience is wonderful and enriching. On the other hand, it can lead to a feeling of not quite belonging in either culture. Because of their love, Daniel and Natasha help each other to make their own culture and form a new country together.
Your first books had movie adaptations within just two years. How did you feel when you saw your characters brought to life? Did you participate in the production?
Both productions were wonderful and surreal experiences. The first time I visited the Everything, Everything set, I was overwhelmed with tears when I saw the actors speaking the words I wrote. It was wonderful to be able to share the experience with my daughter and to show her that you can make art and put it out into the world and affect people. In terms of participation, I was able to give notes on the screenplays for both Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star. I also visited both sets quite a bit. It's important to note though that books and movies are different art forms. I am definitely not a movie expert and I was happy to leave that process in wonderfully capable hands.