Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Talking to Lauren Oliver

Today I am pleased to welcome Lauren Oliver to Ticket to Anywhere and to YA Roundup. Lauren is the author of Before I Fall which is available now in stores.

First off…tell us a little about you?

I grew up in Chappaqua, a small town in Westchester, New York (very similar to the fictional town of Ridgeview, the setting for Before I Fall.) I was very creative—and extremely melodramatic—as a kid. Actually, I pretty much haven’t changed at all!

My parents are really cultural enthusiasts and our house was full of art and books and music. I was always dancing in the living room, or putting on plays with my older sister (one spectacularly ill-fated production of Les Miserables comes to mind), and drawing or messing around with clay. I don’t remember when, specifically, I “wanted” to be a writer. My father is a writer and I grew up seeing him write every day, so for me writing was just something you did. It was a normal part of everyday life. You woke up, you brushed your teeth, you ate, you wrote.

I remember finishing my first “novel” when I was in fourth grade. It was, like, thirty hand-written pages and I’d worked on it for a month. I remember fantasizing about what the critics would say when they reviewed it. I had serious delusions of grandeur.

What is your writing process like?

My writing process is really inconsistent. For example, today I did all my writing in an airport. Yesterday I did all my writing on the subway, typing on my phone! When I’m home I like to sit at my dining room table so that I’m extremely close to the coffee machine (easy refills!). And sometimes I like to go to cafes for a change. My favorite café of all time to write in is called Arabica. Their coffee is strong and hot, their toast is delicious, the space is sunny and warm. Unfortunately, it’s in Portland, Maine, which makes the commute somewhat problematic from my house in Brooklyn. I usually type on my computer but sometimes, when I’m stuck, I switch to writing long-hand. I write in Moleskin notebooks pretty much exclusively. They are so worth the hype.

What’s the best advice you have received about writing?

Two pieces of advice. Aim for truth, and beauty will follow. Aim for beauty, and truth will not necessarily follow. And: Write every day.

When you finish a book who reads it first?

My agent, Stephen Barbara. Occasionally I show little portions of my books-in-progress (3-5 pages) to friends, but very rarely.

What’s your most embarrassing childhood memory?

Yeesh. I have no idea. To be honest, I’ve probably successfully repressed my most embarrassing childhood memory. I threw up once in the cafeteria in first grade after eating a banana. That was pretty embarrassing. And I still despise bananas. I don’t even like to look at them.

If it makes you feel any better I did something similar in the second grade. Public vomiting in class. Wasn't fun and so I can understand the trauma!

What was your worst subject in school? Your best?

To be honest, I was a pretty solid student all around (read: I am a nerd). But actually, in high school I took Introduction to Photography and just bombed. I think I almost failed, even though it was a notoriously easy class. I just, like, cannot take good pictures.

What was your first job?

I babysat all through high school, but my first real and official job was as a lifeguard at the local Swim and Tennis club. It was awesome. We basically just tanned all day, then broke into the pool at night to go night swimming.

What’s your idea of the best meal ever? What sort of foods do you like to eat when you are sick?

Wow. I am a HUGE foodie so that is a difficult question. I literally live to eat. The best meal ever definitely involves freshly baked bread, and butter, and food you can eat with your hands: mussels in a pot, corn, lobster. Something like that. It also involves delicious wine, really good friends, and outdoor dining. Pasta is my biggest comfort food. I eat it when I’m sick, and tired….and happy and excited, for that matter! Yum, yum. I wish I had some now!
Mmm....pasta...I think I know what I'll be having for dinner tonight. lol

What’s something that made you laugh out loud today?

I caught myself dancing, in public, to Halo by Beyonce, and then burst out laughing. I’m sure everyone thought I was insane.

Well you are insane...but isn't that why we love you? =) And I am so going to have to get you to reenact this next time we meet up in NYC and document it on video.

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want for company?

Oh, wow. Somebody with excellent survival skills. Probably my sister. She’s small, but she’s scrappy and self-sufficient. Although, she would probably kill me after about five minutes, so maybe that’s a bad idea.

What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?

I have a paralyzing phobia of worms.

I feel the same way about spiders. *shudders*

If we were able to take a peek at your nightstand, what book(s) might we find there?

I keep an ever-rotating selection on my nightstand. Right now you’d find A Brave New World, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Let The Right One In (an awesome Swedish vampire book), and a copy of my book! (But not because I’m re-reading. An awesome blogger in Spain illustrated a copy for me and I was recently checking out her illustrations before bed.)

I've never heard of Let the Right One in...but Swedish vampires? That definitely sounds interesting. And for those interested in checking out some of those illustrations check out Lauren's blog post about it here. Although I'm not so sure I believe her on the not re-reading based on this photo

There's some serious book love going on there Lauren! lol

What is the book that you most want to read again for the first time?

That is a fabulous question. The Great Gatsby, probably. It’s just such an impeccable, beautiful, revelation of a book: and the last line! Even re-reading it takes my head off. To be able to discover that again for the first time would be pretty much a religious experience for me.

Don't hate me but I don't think that I ever actually finished reading The Great Gatsby. I know that I somehow managed to write a report on it for school but it was...well....um....slightly fabricated and supplemented by library research. Please don't rat me out to my old teachers!

Are there any books that you might have lied about reading (we promise we won’t judge)?

Ha. Yes. I’ve lied about reading Lolita. I tried to make it through that book so many times and never succeeded; I always stop at around page sixty. It is my dirtiest, most shameful secret (so thanks for forcing me to air my dirty laundry). Weirdly, I do love Nabokov. I am now relishing in a collection of his short stories. I just can’t get into that book.

What’s a book you’ve been a book bully for. (ie one you’ve liked so much that you practically beat people over the head just to get them to read it)

A nonfiction book called Proust Was a Neuroscientist, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garci Marquez. Also His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pullman, and the Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo.

If you could meet any character from another book, who would it be and why?

Honestly, I’d probably choose Mr. Darcy, so I could steal him away from Elizabeth Bennett. He’s so crush-worthy!

Mr Darcy is total crush-worthy! And, just for the record, he's mine so back off. lol

When you write, which comes first title, plot or character(s)?

Definitely characters. Plot is difficult for me; I really have to struggle to generate workable, viable plots. And titles are next to impossible for me. I almost always title books after they’re completed.

Which of your characters is most like you?

Hmm. I think each of my characters probably has elements of me. I relate to Sam’s fierce dependence on her friends, and her struggles to generate a meaningful sense of self. I relate to Lindsay’s fearfulness, and her tendency to conceal that fear behind bravado and arrogance. Like Ally, I’m obsessed with cooking and still dream of having my own cooking show. And I relate to some of Elody’s insecurities, and the way she tries to escape them.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book (without being spoilery of course)?

Ha. I’d probably change a lot of little things: turns-of-phrase, sentences, images. But nothing major, no.

Which do you like better: cats or dogs? Unicorns or zombies?

Big, slobbery dogs that can fend off zombies, of course.

Speaking of zombies…the Zombie Apocalypse has started, what is your zombie plan? And if you could have one of your characters assist you in the fight against the undead…who would it be and why?

I would probably have Rob assist me in my fight with the undead, because I wouldn’t at all mind sacrificing him to a zombie. In fact, I might enjoy watching a zombie slurp out his brains! In terms of a zombie plan…I’ve been taking kickboxing classes for six months, so I’m pretty confident I could kick some undead butt.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Yes! I’m very excited about it. It’s a dystopian book called Delirium. It takes place in a kind of alternate history of the United States. Love has been diagnosed as a contagious disease, and scientists have developed a cure for it. I won’t say a ton about it, but it’s big and romantic and there’s a Romeo-and-Juliet element to it, and I’m super, super excited about it.

You aren't the only one!! I can't wait to read this book!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you, thank you, thank you. And please keep reading. That pretty much summarizes it.

Thanks Lauren for taking the time to answer questions. And thanks to all of you for stopping buy today. Also if you haven't picked up a copy of Before I Fall yet be sure to do it the next time you are at the bookstore. Its filled with some of the most brilliant writing I've read in a long time.

L to R: Tiffany, Sharon, Lauren and me.


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