This Thursday we are excited to officially announce our May Buzz Book. Staff and Press Corps alike have loved this book, not to mention John Greene who gushed about it to The New York Times. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re going to love Eleanor and Park! Ta’Necia, our YA specialist, was lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with Rainbow Rowell, author of this fantastic novel.
“Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is this year’s new “it” book in young adult fiction. BookPeople loves it, and it’s continually building its fan-dom across the internet. I personally loved Eleanor & Park so much; I was able to snag an exclusive interview with the author herself-Rainbow Rowell!!
(This interview can also be seen on Never Ending Stories book blog)
Ta’Necia: What was your initial inspiration for writing Eleanor & Park?
Rainbow Rowell: I have always, always wanted to write a first love story. I feel like, when you’re 16, you have the greatest-ever capacity for romantic love. You fall in love with every cell of your body. But, at the same time, at that age, you have so little to offer the person you love. You don’t belong to yourself quite yet—you still have school and your parents, you don’t even have your own space… And you also know that what you’re feeling probably won’t last. First love usually doesn’t. There’s a built-in tragedy to falling (truly) in love when you’re 16. It’s like every 16-year-old in love is either Romeo or Juliet. That is what I wanted to write about when I started this book.
T: Could you tell us a little bit about Eleanor & Park?
RR: Sure, it’s about two 16-year-olds who’re forced into sitting next to each other on a schoolbus. Eleanor is the sort of person who can’t help but draw attention to herself, good and bad. And Park is the opposite. He’s decided the best way to get through high school is to make himself invisible. They connect through music and comic books — and everything really — and they fall deeply in love. And then life gets in the way. (As life tends to do.)
T: You’ve written a couple of New Adult and Adult contemporary romances. What drew you to write for Young Adults this time around?
RR: My first book, Attachments, is for adults, and honestly, I didn’t intentionally shift gears when I wrote this book. This is just the next story I wanted to tell. I’ve always read both adult and YA books, so I don’t think of myself as an either/or reader. I guess I’m not an either/or writer, either. My next book — Fangirl, which comes out in September — is a YA book, too. But the book I’m writing now is about adults. One thing I have learned, with Eleanor & Park, is how wonderful and supportive the YA community is, both authors and readers. It definitely makes me want to keep writing YA forever.
T: What is your favorite scene or line from Eleanor & Park?
RR: No one has ever asked me that question! I was looking at the book recently for some reason, and I reread the scene where they’re kissing and arguing about gender roles and who the Han Solo is in their relationship. Park says: “You can be Han Solo. And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.” I sort of forgot that I’d written that, and it hit me right in the romantic-geek place.
T: What is it about Eleanor & Park that you think readers are falling in love with?
RR: Wow. I don’t know. I mean, when I was writing, I tried to write the sort of love story that I wanted to read. I intentionally indulged myself, lingering over all the details. The hand-holding and the phone calls. I wanted people to feel what it’s like to fall in love for the first time. I guess I hope that readers are connecting with that intention.
T: Since music and reading played a big role in Eleanor & Park, what are you currently reading and listening to these days?
RR: Fun question! I just read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and it rocked my world. And I finally read John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which is just delightful. I’m also crazy for Bryan K. Vaughan’s comic series, Saga.
As far as music goes, I’m obsessed with Allison May’s cover of LCD Soundsystem’s Someone Great
And I’ve listened to Walk the Moon’s self-titled album so many times, I dream about it.
If you want to know more about the music in Eleanor & Park, I wrote a giant blog entry about it.
Also, I make playlists for all my books on Spotify.
T: If you could take a never ending journey through any book, what book would it be and why?
RR: Oh, it has to be the Harry Potter books, doesn’t it? I mean, that world is just so rich and magical and endless. (Plus, I feel like I could be the girl who finally helps Draco get his head on straight.) It’s almost too easy of an answer.
T: What can your fans look forward to next? Will there be more YA in your writing future?
RR: Yes! I have a long list of book ideas, and about half of them are YA. So I’ll write as long as people want to read me. My next book, Fangirl, comes out in September. The three-second pitch is: a coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. It’s about a girl whose twin sister sort of abandons her just before they start college. The main character, Cath, isn’t sure she can make it through freshman year on her own – she isn’t even sure she wants to. She’s really into fandom, and has always felt more comfortable online than face-to-face. It is a love story, though, so — spoiler alert—she makes it out of her dorm room.
The book I’m writing now is for adults — or, I should say, about adults. It’s about a woman who gets an unusual opportunity to save her marriage. But saving her marriage might mean making sure it never happened.
T: The Ending of Eleanor & Park was very hard for me. Was the ending the same from the first draft to the final?
RR: *********SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!***********
In fact, it wasn’t! It was even more abrupt!
I initially had Eleanor drop away completely; I wanted the reader to have to work through her loss with Park.
It was the one thing that both my editors in the U.S. and the UK asked me to change. They wanted more from Eleanor, more of how she was feeling, more assurance that she was OK.
The book always ended with the postcard, but initially you had to imagine why Eleanor behaved the way she did. I’m very happy that I changed that.
I know the ending is still hard on people — I intentionally wrote it to be intense — and I’m sorry if it’s painful! But I just didn’t feel like I could sew everything up neatly for them. They’re 17! Seventeen-year-olds don’t get endings; they get beginnings.
T: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
RR: Oh. No. There isn’t. I want people to enjoy the story and connect with story, and draw whatever they will from it. Of course, I hope that people think about it. Because I think about the stories I love. But, no — no lesson.
T: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
RR: Write a lot. Read even more. When you read good writing, you’re training your ear. Also: read what you LOVE. Don’t get hung up on what you’re supposed to be reading.”