Thursday, October 13, 2011

Author Interview: Ellen Hopkins!!!!!

Author Interview: Ellen Hopkins

Imagine that you're adopted, love your adoptive parents, and then meet your birth mother -- only to find that she's written poetry her whole life. Just like you! That really happened to Ellen Hopkins, an amazingly gifted poet writing for teens (and adults) today.

Ellen has written five New York Times bestsellers, all in verse. Her poetry, written as full-length novels, tackles such real-life struggles as addiction and abuse. Suffice it say that here at CCPL, her books are HUGELY popular. Check out a few (click on the titles) and meet this amazing writer at YALLFest! But first, read our interview with her:

We’re all so excited that you're coming to Charleston for YALLFest! What made you decide to come?

I love Charleston! Was just there a couple of weeks ago, in fact, so am looking forward to a return visit. Your food rocks! And so do my Charleston readers.

Your books are written in verse. When did you start to write poetry?

I published my first poem--a haiku--when I was nine, and I've been growing my poetry ever since.

What has it been like to show a new generation that poetry is relevant to their lives?

I love that I've been able to open eyes to the beauty of verse and feel especially proud to hear from readers who now want to learn more about poetry, or write their own. Poetry is the heart of all storytelling. I'm glad my readers are enjoying verse AS story.

Why did you start writing books for teens?

It's no secret that Crank, my first teen novel, is a personal story. It had to be YA, because that's where the story struck. After that, I knew I had found my place as a writer. I respect teens and will continue to be a voice for them.

How do your books reflect your own experiences as a teenager?

Not too closely. I mean, there are universals like first love, first sex, first illicit drink, etc., that are reflected there. Also the way teens interact with each other. But as a child I did not experience abuse or thoughts of suicide or self-harm. I have come to understand these things, however.

Your first book, Crank, deals with meth addiction. What prompted you to write it?

Because it happened to my daughter, the perfect kid who no one would have ever suspected it might happen to. And it was happening to too many other people--young and older. I wanted to change that if I could.

How much is semi-autobiographical?

Crank and Glass are about 60 percent fact. The rest was fictionalized to add details I didn't witness and to change characters so they wouldn't too closely resemble real people.

You write about very serious issues facing teens -- addiction, suicide, and abuse to name a few. What got you started on these topics?

I want to write the teen experience, and it isn't all about getting straight A's and aiming for an Ivy League college. These issues do touch teen lives on a daily basis, and it's hugely important to understand them. How else can we fight them?

Which of your books was the most difficult to write?

Probably Glass, which was the deepest part of my daughter's addiction, and very hard to relive.

Did you get along with your parents?

For the most part. I had an unusual childhood in that I was adopted as a baby by an older couple. My dad was 72 when he adopted me, and my mom was 42. So we didn't go skiing or mountain biking together. My mom and I did share a love of horses, and we rode together. My dad lived until I was 16, and his death affected the family deeply. But my mom was always a really good friend to me.

Who did you look up to growing up?

People who I saw as trying to make a positive difference in the world--Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.

Which of your characters is most like you?

Probably Cara in Perfect, not that I questioned my sexuality, but I did a lot of self-examination and came from a place of quiet strength. I think she's the same way.

Which of your characters was most painful to create?

Kaeleigh in Identical, who was inspired by the stories of some close friends. I did love writing that book, however.

Your new book, Perfect, tackles the impossible goal of achieving perfection. What gave you the idea?
Interacting with teens a lot over the last few years. I've seen the pressure put on them to achieve goals not always their own. I wish we could let them be kids a little longer. To just enjoy their teen years and learn who they are before driving them toward "success," whatever that means.

What's next for you?

The 2012 YA, TILT, is already in production. I'm just diving into the 2012 adult novel, COLLATERAL, about deployment and what that means to those left behind.

See you at YALLFest!

1 comment:

  1. i love ellen Hopkins and her books, they inspired me to write poetry very day of my life.