An Interview with a trio of awesome: LIBBA BRAY, RACHEL COHN and MALINDA LO

Last week I had an wondrous opportunity. I was able to interview three amazingly brilliant authors for NYMBC. Libba Bray, Rachel Cohn and Malinda Lo. It just doesn't get any better than that. I had a lovely time with them all. It was the first time that I had ever met Rachel and she was just lovely along with Libba and Malinda (whom is a local favorite). I was nervous but regretted that our time together was very brief. I wanted to thank these authors for being so nice and pleasant to interview and I wanted to also thank NYMBC for giving me this interview. PSSSST...another reason why NYMBC rocks the casbah of book love. Now, please sit back and enjoy this fun and interesting interview and I hope you like what these ladies have to say.

RR:Why do you write novel novels for young adult readers?
ML: Well I have to admit that I did not set out to do that.  When I wrote my first novel Ash, I just wrote it and I did not think about the audience at all and I probably assumed it was for an adult readership because in the original draft the main character in the end is in her mid-twenties. So, when I finished it though I looked at the market and I realized that it fit much better into YA and that is where it sold and miraculously in the final draft she is much younger in the end. After that I started reading a lot of YA and I really loved working with my publisher and all my ideas since then have been YA so that’s why.
RC: My answer is going to be similar. I don’t really think that I write specifically for young adults I just write for whoever wants to read my book and I try not to think of an age cap either way on it, but I do love writing teen characters. When I first set out to start writing I wrote two adult novels that nobody bought and people who read them kept saying when your characters are teenagers things are a lot more interesting and you seem to get stuck there and maybe you should stay there. Finally I took that advice and that is how I ended up writing about teenagers, then again I like to think that I write for people of all ages.  I love that teenagers like to read the books and hopefully relate to them, but I think of them as a reader too. I am much older than the mean age of my characters but I love YA books.
LB: I’ll just make it three part harmony and say what they said. I always feel that in story to story you’re always trying to find the beating heart of that story. I definitely…I’m probably drawn to those teenage years because their filled with conflict and you’re trying to find your identity. I always say that weather you’re 14 or 40 you never stop coming of age. And so I think I am drawn to those stories because we are always trying to figure out who we are and our place in the world. Where we fit in, where we don’t fit in  and I just think that adolescence is chock full of all kinds of conflict and hope, there is so much that is going on and so I am really drawn to that. And it was actually my husband who turned me onto YA literature because I had been a failed playwright and he said I think you should really write YA and I actually remember the first YA book that I remember falling in love with completely, I didn’t know that you could do this was Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn.
RC: Ahhhhh I am going to cry now….
LB: It’s true.
RC: Now I feel the grandmother of this group
LB: You were just so far ahead of the curve.
RC: The other question being why do you write about teens and my answer to that is…adults are BORING.
LB: Except for us
RC: It’s exactly as they said, there are such highs and lows and everything happens for the first time and the intensity of everything as a writer is so much fun to explore.
RR: What is on your nightstand now and what would your recommend for others to read besides your novels?
LB: Besides obviously the works from these lovely ladies beside me which I would. Books that I read recently? I really loved Every Day by David Levithan, love that book. So much to chew on and so heart rending. I loved Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater which was just terrific. My mind start to go woop woop
RC: I know I am cheating by looking on my phone
LB: Those are the two books that immediately spring to mind of having read them recently. You know I think it is such a golden age in YA there is so much good stuff out there right now. I hear the book Code Name Verity is fantastic and I cannot wait to read that.
RC: I’m going to say that along with their books two friends of mine I adore is Patricia McCormick she wrote her new book Never Fall Down which was a finalist for the National Book Award. It is incredibly haunting and powerful and disturbing and like all of her books incredibly sad sorry, but life affirming in the end.  I also have an Aussie contingent of friends Jaclyn Moriarty has a book coming in the spring called A Corner of White and it is so delicious. It’s about these two worlds; two teenagers one who lives in a mythical place in the kingdom of Cello a parallel universe and the other is this girl who has run away from home and lives in Cambridge, England and they communicate thru pieces of paper that get left in a parking meter. It’s extraordinary, one of the best books that I have read lately.
LB: Can I add one more thing? (Umm…Yeah!) Novaren Suma’s 17 and gone. She wrote Imaginary girls which is fantastic and 17 and gone is coming out this spring, Amazing. And Gayle Forman’s  Just One Day speaking of before sunrise after sunset . Just One Day is a book about a girl traveling to Paris and that come out also in the spring and I got to read an early release and I am really lucky because it’s soooo good.
ML: I have to recommend the book Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. It just came out last month and it is so much fun. It’s a funny, charming gothic mystery about a girl in England from a town called Sorry in the Veil which has to be the best name of a town, ever. The girl Kami thinks that she has this imaginary friend in her head and she learns the imaginary friend is real and he is this boy who is now at her school and she realizes that this is really a horrible, horrible thing. I just loved this book because it is so funny and warm and it also has the hallmarks of a wonderful gothic novel which I love. It has the scary haunted house, the creepy weird family that lives in it. It’s just a lot of fun.
LB: I agree It is hilarious.  It’s a laugh a minute and you’re right,  It’s sorta like Jane Austin taking on North Abbey.

Now the individual questions
RR to Malinda Lo: Adaptation is different from your two previous novels was it more difficult or easier to write and why?
ML: It was easier because my second novel Huntress was the hardest thing I have ever written in my life. I hope that I never have to write anything harder than that. So, coming off of that experience Adaptation was a breeze. I wrote it a lot faster than Huntress and I think that’s because Huntress is a very serious book. I enjoyed writing it. When I think about my inspirations for Huntress It’s like doasim and the I xiang and there are some very serious philosophical questions in that book whereas Adaption is about three hot teenagers trying to escape dead birds that are falling from the sky.
Lots of laugher from the other ladies
ML: So, it totally has a different feel and it was so much fun to write and I think that’s why I really sped through it and I love sci-fi too.
RR to Rachel Cohn: How is writing Beta different to writing your other well known YA novels
RC: It was different that I’m just not a fantasy writer by trade and so I really had to step up my game a lot in terms of that. I haven’t read a lot of either in terms of fantasy so I think people who are much more well read in that area have a leg up in terms, because they just understand more about the rules and world building and I had a big, big learning curve in terms of that. I still find it very intimidating and I have this whole new respect for fantasy writers. I mean I always loved them anyway as a genre I respected it but being frigid to it as a reader and now I wanna kinda gobble it all up. “How did you do that…and that?”
RR to Libba Bray: What Inspired you to write the Diviners and how much research went into it?
LB: What inspired me? I always wish that I had a great answer to that. Like, I was on the bus and John Green walked by and said you know what you should write about? ….the 1920’s.  It always seems to come…there are ideas that come from all over the place and one of the things was I am selfish and I wanted to write things about I enjoy and I enjoy horror. I was a huge horror reader when I was growing up so I love horror, I love history, I love politics and in the 1920’s is such a fascinating period. In time it feels as if it came right out of central casting and so I really wanted to write something that was set in the 1920’s and I wanted to do something spooky because I love the spooky. But, at the same time this was about four years ago when I started to do the research and started to think about it. I really wanted to write about something post 911 America because I felt that we were living in very scary times and I found things like homeland security, that to me was a scary phrase and the patriot act was scary. The idea that we were seating our civil liberties for some kind of false sense of security, really there was so much to think about. I heard Lois Lowry recently say that people always say that you should write about what you know but that she wanted to write about what she didn’t know, what disturbed her, what kept her up at night and I thought yes, that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to explore things that were keeping me up at night but I wanted to do that with monsters and ghosts and stuff. So, that was really the inspiration and I started doing research four years ago but I was writing other books so I would just kind of read and then I would be working and I would go back and read and then about two years ago I started really doing the in depth research and I went to the libraries and I went to the New York historical society and I went to the Paley Center for Media and I listened to old radio and tons of books. Eventually I hired a research assistant in Seattle who is Lisa Gold a librarian and I could then say hey I need primary sources for follies girls, can you point me in the right direction…so yeah, there was lots of research.


**Thank you, NYMBC for this opportunity. It is greatly appreciated xoxoxo

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