Yes this is a Q&A with Lauren Oliver. Lauren Oliver is currently in the UK to promote the paperback release of Panic and she was in Birmingham last night but unfortunately I couldn’t attend due to family plans. However, Hodder contacted me and asked if I wanted to do an interview with Lauren Oliver and of course I said yes! Unfortunately I couldn’t do it in person because she was only in Birmingham for one day unlike quite a few people who could. I did it today over the phone and I was so nervous. I’m always nervous when I’m on the phone because I absolutely despise phone calls but I was also nervous because it’s Lauren Oliver! She is one of my favourite authors and I love her writing so I was nervous to speak to her. In fact, I was so nervous to the point where I wanted to cancel the interview because I didn’t think I could get through it. However I did, obviously and that’s what this post is all about clearly. I had to record the conversation and then type up her answers but I tried to keep it as exact as possible. Thank you to Lauren Oliver for her time and also thank you to Hodder for the opportunity. Let’s get started. (By the way listening to this conversation back really made me realise why I hate phone calls so much. I’m so awkward in them and my voice is horrendous)
1. Is there one of your books that holds a more special place in your heart than the others?
Well, you know, all of my books mean different things to me so it’s hard to say but I do think that in some ways actually my middle grade book, Liesl and Po, is the most personal book I’ve written just because I wrote it after the death of one of my dearest friends and my ex-boyfriend so I would say that Liesl and Po holds a special place for me.
2.What type of scenes are your favourite to write?
That is a difficult question. To be honest the easiest stuff to write for me is description but I think that’s true of a lot of writers. It’s really hard to write scenes where there are a lot of characters trying to interact and move around so that’s really challenging. I would say that my favourite scenes to write are dialogue between two people. I like to write friendly or romantic banter but yeah I really love writing descriptions too of houses and woods and trees and settings.
3. You’re most well known for your Delirium trilogy and the world is quite unique. How did you come up with it?
Well as I just said I love writing descriptions of trees and well I’ve always been interested in survival stories. When I was growing up, I loved a book which was about somebody who moves into the wilderness and makes him in a tree. One of the inspirations for Panic when I wrote it was thinking about things like Survivor and game shows where there are alliances and people are making deals so that stuff is always in my consciousness, the idea of surviving in the wilderness. I also grew up in a place where there was a lot of woods and we would go wandering all summer and through the forest and pretend that we were the only people still alive.
4. The ending to Requiem was quite open-ended. What made you decide to end Requiem the way you did?
First of all, I prefer things that are open ended. I am the kind of person who did not, for example, like the epilogue to Harry Potter. I like the opportunity to have readers exercise their own imagination and to think of what must and will come afterwards. In terms of the romantic choice, I just didn’t feel morally or ethically that ending with a romantic choice is the right message to communicate to people because it’s not a culminating moment of Lena’s life to decide who she wants to be with.
5. Where did the idea for Panic come from?
I was partly inspired in the plotting of it by things such as Survivor and TV shows like that. However the idea actually came from a fairy tale. There’s a Grimm’s fairy tale called “The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear”. It’s a humourous fairy tale but it’s about a boy who is basically too stupid to feel fear and he ends up becoming very successful and he marries a princess because he has successfully spent 3 nights alone in a haunted house and the king has said that anyone who can do this can marry his daughter. But it got me really thinking in terms of fear and why some people are able to face fear whereas others kind of spend their lives really minimalising situations in which they feel fear. The idea of fear challenges really came from that fairy tale.
6. Is there a specific moral or message you wanted to put across in Panic?
I think most of my books share a common message. I realise that in retrospect that all of my teen books feature characters who at the start of the novel, they are very fear motivated. Sam in Before I Fall is really afraid of losing her social status and discovering she’s a loser and fraud. Lena in Delirium is obviously afraid of doing anything to disappoint her society and family. Heather is, at the start, very afraid that she’ll be like her mum and that she’s a nobody so I think that the message in all of my books is that it’s really impossible to live an authentic life when you are driven or motivated by fear and you have to really not ignore fear, you have to embrace it in order to move past it.
7. Both Panic and Requiem are written in dual point of view. Did you find it easier to write one character over the other while writing these?
I don’t know actually, I mean in some ways it was challenging to write Hana just because I had to really strike a balance between making her sympathetic or interesting but also not be really emotive because she’s had the cure so I think that that was really challenging.
8. Your next book Rooms is an adult novel. Was it easier to write an adult novel compared to YA?
No, I don’t think either one is easier because it depends on the book itself. Honestly, Rooms was quite hard but that’s because it has 6 different points of view. It takes place in the first person, third person, past tense and present tense. So structurally it was really difficult. Also structurally telling the story from the perspective of the rooms and ordering it that way was really challenging. In some ways, Panic was the most challenging book I’ve ever written just because after writing a series for so long, it’s very difficult to transition into a totally different world and I had a lot of agony and anxiety over it.
9. Rooms is also a ghost novel and you’ve mentioned in ask Lauren Oliver that you live writing ghost stories. Where did your love for ghost stories come from?
I don’t know. I like thinking about the afterlife because I think it’s quite interesting. Also, I kind of have a sort of spooky sensibility. I love things with a little bit of darkness and a little bit of fantastical qualities. I think it might have also been possibly because I did not grow up in any particular religion so I’ve always had to think about that kind of stuff for my self and make decisions on it so maybe that’s where it came from.
10. Since it is an adult novel, will it still be suitable for your younger readers?
Yeah absolutely. I mean there is content in it. I mean there is sex, there isn’t graphic depictions of it but there is some. For most of my mature teen readers, it’s fine. In fact, one of the points of view is actually a teenage boy so I think there will be some of my teen readers who will really love it and find it the same sort of quality of stuff to love, some of the thematic stuff. However, there will be some teen readers for whom it is not appropriate for their level of reading and comfort.
11. Many people might not know about Rooms so if you were to summarise it in one sentence, what would it be?
(quite a few Umm’s occurred here as she considered this question) miracle literary modern ghost story.
12. You also have another book coming out called The Vanishing Girls. If you had to summarise that in one sentence, what would it be?
Two sisters, once inseparable, in the aftermath of an accident.
13. Finally, are you currently writing on any more books or do you have any more planned?
Yes definitely. I’m working on another teen book right now and another adult book.
Listening to all of that back just made me realise just how socially awkward I can be! However, I hope you enjoyed that and again massive thanks to Lauren Oliver and to Hodder for the Q&A. If you’re interested go check out my review of Panic and definitely go buy a copy.