First things first: how are Anna and St. Clair doing? And what about Lola and Cricket? And Isla and Josh? Are they all doing fine?
Ha! Oh, I love this question! Yes, everyone is fine—and each couple is happily married. I can't tell you what else they're up to, though, because someday I might share that knowledge in the form of another novel. But, yes. Everyone is doing well. I like happy endings.
You have mentioned in past interviews that there is a lot of you in your characters and that you discover something new with each protagonist. What did you discover about yourself with Makani, your latest protagonist?
Makani's story, unexpectedly, ended up with a strong current of shame running through it. At the time, I was distressed and obsessed by the rise of public shaming on social media. Shame is the most dangerous human emotion. Depending on someone's personality, they'll either turn it inward against themselves—in a way that can become suicidal, if allowed to fester and grow— or they'll turn it outward. And they'll harm other people. While the killer in my novel turns it outward, Makani and myself turn inward. We're our own worst enemies.
In There's Someone Inside Your House, due to genre requirements, a third-person narrator is intertwined with your usual first-person female narrator. Do you keep in mind the possibility of using new/different narrators?
Yeah, absolutely. The narrator should always fit the story being told. It's crucial to try different ideas and be flexible. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of what I think I can write.
Diversity has always been present on your novels, but it seems to be gradually gaining importance. What is your take on it? And how do you think it should be used?
Yes, diversity is huge discussion in my country right now. A lot of voices are only being heard by a (white, heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied, middle-class) audience for the first time. So it's very, very exciting, but it's also brought out a lot of ugliness. And the only thing to combat that ugliness is to keep spreading these voices. They need to be heard in abundance. I always try to have my stories reflect the world that I actually live in, but as a (white, heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied, middle-class) woman, I can always do better. So I'll keep learning. And I'll keep trying.
If you'll indulge me, I have a question for you now, because I'm so curious! Are you seeing this discussion in Spain, too? Is your literature —and film and television— changing?
In Isla and the Happily Ever After we could already see a protagonist, who, unlike previous female main characters in YA literature, talked openly about sex. And in There's Someone Inside Your House, taking a further step, you bring up racism and gun control in the U.S. for discussion. What has been the general reaction of your readers?
I honestly don't know. With each book I've released, I've stepped further and further away from the public. It's self-preservation. I want to keep writing about characters and subjects that interest me, which won't always align with what readers want or expect. And that's okay! I have long made peace with the idea that my first novel, Anna and the French Kiss, will most likely be my most successful. It was an unexpectedly wonderful way to start a career. I'm just grateful that I still get to write. And even if my books don't pull in the same readers, I hope they'll always pull in a few new ones.
But my overall sense is that readers have followed me just fine through the additions of sex, racism, and gun control. What probably alienates them with more frequency is that each book has been less sweet than the one before it. But, hopefully, never less kind. Or hopeful.
Your visit to Spain to promote the release of Anna and the French Kiss helped you in the process of investigation for Isla and the Happily Ever After. It has also come to our attention that the research behind There's Someone Inside Your House lasted almost six years. Let us know: how crazy can the process get? Do you have any juicy anecdotes to tell?
I was so fortunate to have gotten to research the Barcelona scenes in person. I loved my visit to your beautiful country, especially meeting my readers and everyone at my publisher. And getting to hang out my future editor, Helena Pons. (And getting to eat your delicious Manchego.) What a gift!
But oh, man. Yes. Those other six years were long. I'm not sure the process ever got crazy, but it did get boring. Though I'm a slow writer, ideas come to me easily. So many exciting stories, twinkling and sparkling in my brain, are dying to burst into life! I get frustrated by having to stick with the same project for so long.
This book took longer to research because it had so many voices, and each voice had a different background and different interests—and they were often interested in subjects that I am not interested in. So, I had to research a lot of topics that I normally wouldn't, because it was important for me to understand why they cared about them.
Perhaps the most extreme thing I did was when my husband and I went on a road trip to rural Nebraska, where the story is set. It was late October, and we drove around until we found an abandoned cornfield, and then I ran through the brittle stalks to see what it would feel like if I were being chased. The sharp leaves scraped up my hands pretty badly, and my boots were fully coated in thick mud. We had to clean them off in the hotel room's bathtub.
Kiersten White and Laini Taylor are some of the YA authors who collaborated in My True Love Gave To Me, the first anthology you edited. Being close friends of yours as they are, have you ever thought about collaborating with them in something else? And, how was your experience editing the two season-themed anthologies?
I would love to work with both of them again. Unfortunately, I probably write too slowly for it to ever happen. I'll keep my fingers crossed, though. Perhaps when we're all graying, old ladies? But Kiersten and I still critique each other's manuscripts, and Laini read Anna before anyone else and gave me so much encouragement. I'm lucky to be friends with such extraordinary women.
And I cherished editing those anthologies. Thank you for asking. I got to work with and learn from twenty-two dream authors. That's just insane! I still can't believe it happened.
Recently Netflix gave the green light to the There's Someone Inside Your House adaptation. Will you take part in the screenwriting process? Are you excited that finally one of your novels is going to be translated into a different medium? Especially one that is closer to the influences behind the book.
Well. They did, and they didn't. Netflix did purchase the rights, but the chances of it being made are still pretty slim. Hollywood is peculiar like that. They'll announce book adaptations with a big splashy splash... and then you'll never hear another word from them again. But if they do decide to go forward, I wouldn't be the screenwriter. A very talented writer, Henry Gayden, is already attached to the project, and I doubt he'd want me getting in his way!
Of course, I would love for this project to move forward. You're right that it would be exciting for me to see this book —out of all my books— come to life onscreen, since it was so heavily influenced by the slasher genre. It wouldn't exist without those films.
We know that you are always writing and that you have been working on Book Five. What can you tell us about it? Will it follow the trail of There's Someone Inside Your House?
I wish I could. Hopefully, I'll be able to talk about it —and Book Six— later this year. The most I can say is that I think the announcements will make both sets of my readers happy.
Last but not least, your books are for us some kind of safe place that we love to visit and go back to. Could you recommend us some of the books and authors that make you feel at home?
I would be thrilled to! As a former bookseller and librarian, nothing makes me giddier than recommending a great book. I'm sure most of your readers are already familiar with her work, but Rainbow Rowell is always my first recommendation for a feel-good read. She writes loveable characters and situations that also feel honest. That's not easy to do. Her first novel for adults, Attachments, might still be my favorite. Sarah Addison Allen lives in my hometown, and she writes romantic novels for adults with a touch of comforting magic realism. My favorite is The Sugar Queen.
In YA, Amy Spalding is so, so funny—try Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys) or her breakout novel, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles). I'm glad more readers are finally discovering her work. And Nina LaCour's books always feel like home to me. Her most recent, We Are Okay, was the most gorgeous story about loneliness that I've ever read.
Finally, I'm a huge fan of JK Rowling and her alter ego, Robert Galbraith. Her characters, settings, sense of humor, food descriptions. I could just eat them all up. And David Sedaris is my all-time favorite writer. His most recent collection of essays, Calypso, is one of the most generous gifts that an author has ever given their readers.
It has been a pleasure to chat with you, Stephanie. Thank you so much for collaborating with us. We hope to see you back in Spain soon!
You're very, very welcome. These were outstanding questions —genuinely the best interview that I've had in a long time. Thank you so much for thinking of me!