I was so excited when Lauren Oliver agreed to do this interview – it was one of those e-mails I didn’t think I’d get, given her success and busy schedule. Thankfully, Lauren is one of those authors who likes to share her knowledge, so she agreed. Lauren is the author of numerous books ranging genres and age groups, the most recent being the middle grade fantasy, The Spindlers. When she isn’t writing (which I gather is seldom) she is working with Paper Lantern Lit – an interesting porject you should check out here.
Your father is a writer and literary professor, and from interviews I’ve read, it seems that you often run your work by him as you’re writing. How important is this relationship in your writing career?
Very important. I’m very close to my dad and I value his insights tremendously. It’s great to share interests with your parents–I talk about writing, and story, with both of my parents every time I see them.
You began writing YA dystopian fiction but your more recent books are children’s novels. Was this an easy transition for you? What differences have you noticed in your own writing style as you tackled a new age group?
Actually, my first book, BEFORE I FALL, was a contemporary YA. Since then, I’ve done middle grade fantasy, dystopian YA, more contemporary, and even a grown-up book! (Due out in Fall 2014). I don’t consciously notice that the process of writing is any different; I find in all cases, the characters are the ones who guide you through the central concept.
Out of all your books, which is the one you are proudest of and why?
I can’t pick! It’s like asking a mom to pick her favorite child! I’m proud of all of my books in different ways.
In terms of your writing process, what do you consider essential to getting your ideas flowing (other than your obvious love for coffee!)?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it also has to do with my level of alertness–sleep! If I’ve slept well and am well-caffeinated, I can create pretty fluidly.
When it comes to revision and editing, do you love it, loathe it or see it as a necessary evil?
I love it. I especially love line-editing, and getting to focus in a really specific way on the rhythm of sentences and the particularity of language. I’m actually moving into this new phase where I edit first on my computer and then print out my manuscript and edit again by hand. It literally feels like physically diving in!
You seem very open handed with the things you have learned over the years of being a writer (the Harperkids ‘How a book is made’ series and your endeavours with Paper Lantern Lit). What do you enjoy most about sharing your knowledge with others?
Well, you know, I’m just a writing geek. It’s one of the few things I truly love and feel competent to speak about! And I love creative collaboration. When I studied at NYU, I was blown away by the experience of sitting in a workshop and getting to talk about storytelling and character development and language. I guess I am just hoping to reproduce that experience!
You once had an ordinary day job… what was it and what was it like to stop and write full time?
I used to work as an editorial assistant at Penguin Books, so I was the low-man on the totem pole. It was definitely a huge transition to switch to writing full-time. Writing can be a lonely business, and for a while I was shocked by the fact I actually missed by little cubicle and all my co-workers. But it was also a tremendously liberating experience.
What are your thoughts on the rise of self-publication? If you could go back in time, and this kind of technology was as readily available as it is now, do you think you might have considered it?
I think it can be a great thing; on the other hand, I think it can be kind of a wilderness in which writers and books get lost. I would have self-published had I not been able to get the support of traditional publishers, sure. But I’m very happy with my career as it has shaped up!
Is there one thing no one tells new writers about the writing industry?
Ooof. There’s a lot that no one tells you about the publishing industry. For example, writers don’t get to pick their covers!
Can you tell us what you’re working on right now or is it top secret?
Right now, I’m working on a new YA book, which mixes contemporary realistic with elements of fantasy. And I’m working on a super secret middle grade project!!
Take a look at the video series Lauren did for Harper Kids about the book making process. It’s fantastic!