Thank you! I don’t know that I have much advice beyond the usual: read a lot; write a lot, etc. The one other thing I might mention is that one should never be afraid NOT TO WRITE. Thinking — about books, about your goals for your writing, about the kind of story you’d like to tell and the way you’d like to tell it — is for me at least an important part of the process.
I’m so excited (and a little sad) that In the Age of Love and Chocolate, the final book in your fantastic Birthright trilogy, is coming out in October 2013. Did the book have a title change, because I’ve also seen it listed as In the Days of Death and Chocolate.
Thank you, and I’m so glad you like the series. The truth about the title change is that I wrote two entirely different books for the last book. The first time I wrote the book it was called In the Days of Death and Chocolate. That version was pretty deep into the publishing process when I began to have a recurring, waking dream about Anya Balanchine. I kept having this fear that I would run into her and that she was mad at me. At first I tried to ignore her, but after a while, I couldn’t. I was at a party, and I actually thought I saw her across the room! That was a Saturday. On Sunday, I called my editor and I might have cried a little bit and I asked her if I could write the book again. She said yes, and now Anya Balanchine isn’t angry with me anymore.
Read the rest of the interview and enter to win signed hardcovers of the first two books over at YA Romantics.
Hello to you and your girlfriend. Is that an Appetite for Destruction T-shirt I spy in your profile picture?
I’ll begin by answering a question you didn’t ask. I don’t believe in an afterlife like Elsewhere and I absolutely didn’t write the book to propose a viable afterlife or even a viable world. I know this answer disappoints people, but I always feel I have to say it. I wrote the book to talk about the things that matter to me in this life, which is the only one I know and certainly the only one in which I have any agency. That said, the older I get the more I believe you can’t control any reader’s experience of your books. It’s probably silly of me to try.
Your question intrigues me. Since the question has been asked more than once, I hope you won’t mind that I’m answering it publicly. If there were an Elsewhere (which I’ve already told you I don’t believe) and if the entire human race died, I imagine that humanity would end, that the fates of Elsewhere and Earth are linked. Occasionally, souls do get lost on their way from Elsewhere to Earth and vice versa. (For example, when Liz found herself at the bottom of the ocean — had she never tried to save herself, there would be no Liz on Elsewhere or on Earth.) I once entertained writing a prequel in which the Captain from the ship and an entire boatload of passagers were lost at sea. If humanity dies, a lot of people might find themselves lost at sea forever.
There are other ways of answering this question. I could tell you, for instance, that there are definitely Elsewheres elsewhere. Liz’s experience of the world had been so limited when she died that she didn’t know the kind of people who might end up in the other Elsewheres. I have also entertained writing a novel about one of the other Elsewheres, but I probably won’t ever do it. Those Else-elsewheres are somewhat bleak and not places I necessarily want to spend a great deal of time.
The truth of all of it though is, Elsewhere is a story, not a postmortem destination. It’s a fantastical literary device meant to entertain people and possibly make them reflect on their own lives. You probably know this without me saying.
(If anyone ever gets to Elsewhere, I wouldn’t mind receiving a message in a bottle though.)
(I jest. Of course I jest.)
The third book is called In the Age of Love and Chocolate, and it publishes at the end of October. Every single one of these questions is answered. But the story is really about what happens when someone who has always been incredibly strong finds herself in a position where she has to ask for help. The story is about being mistaken, and how a person can be both super smart and super wrong. The story is about recognizing how much real beauty and sweetness there is in life. The story is about love in its right time, and about the women who want more than love out of life. The story is not a dystopia—my darlings, it never was.
It’s my favorite of the series, and I think even some of you who didn’t read or like the other two books might enjoy this one.
P.S. To answer one of your questions… Scarlet’s baby is a boy, and my editor named him. I wanted a name that wasn’t one I would choose myself. He’s called Felix, which means happiness.
Questions 2, 3, and 4 all involve James Larkin, the slightly Byronic, mood disordered, second love interest of Naomi, inMemoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.
Like you—and perhaps you are the same person or perhaps you are three different people—I think about James from time to time. Every now and again, a character is a little too alive, and it is hard to remember that you didn’t know him for real. I once wrote him into a different book that I didn’t end up finishing. But I can tell you this: he is in film school at Columbia and he is all right.
He still gets depressed every now and again, but now that he is older, he is better able to deal with his moods. He thinks about Naomi occasionally, but never tries to contact her. The Christmas before senior year of college, he runs into her at the airport. She is on her way home from school; he is on his way to California to see his dad. His flight is delayed so they go into one of those terrible airport restaurants: a TGI Fridays, that type of place. They talk for about an hour—he’s getting really into cinematography; she’s pretty sure she’s going into the family business, writing. When theypart, it is with promises that they’ll keep in touch, but they don’t
When she gets home, Naomi tells her dad that she ran into James Larkin of all people.
“How’s he doing?” Grant asks.
She considers the question. Even though she has had quite a few boyfriends since James, she still worries about him. How do you stop worrying about someone you used to love? “He seemed all right,” she says.
A couple of months later, Naomi Googles him and ends up on his Tumblr. Yeah, James is totally on Tumblr, but not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest. He’s got reasons he doesn’t like all those other social networks, and who knows how long he’ll even stay on Tumblr, right? James’s Tumblr involves screen captures of movie kisses. He’s still romantic, she thinks.
2, 3, 4/85
I suppose you are talking about the British paperback version, which has a blond girl wrapped in a blue towel, on a beach. I don’t know who she is except to say that the photo came from a stock photo house, like Getty. I know this photo has been used on other books, too. I think she represents Liz, but you probably know that already.
I imagine this girl was a child model. She’s probably a grown-up now. Maybe she’s in college or even older. Maybe she doesn’t model anymore. Maybe modeling was her mom’s idea to begin with and maybe she only did it to make her mother happy. Maybe she was cold that day. Maybe she wouldn’t like being on a book where the girl dies, but that’s the life of a model: You end up where you end up. Maybe, since the photo is from behind, when she sees the book in stores, she doesn’t even know that it’s her.
At this moment, there sit 84 questions in my tumblr askbox. For the next month, I’m going to try to answer them.
At some point I’ll write a longer post about the title change and what it means.
Things to know:
1) there are two funerals.
2) and at least an equal number of weddings.
3) the story takes place in new york, japan, and two other significant locations that haven’t been visited before.
4) you might be angry at Anya and at me when you read the book. The book is very different from the books that preceded it.
5) I hope you’ll leave the story asking the following questions: what does it mean to be a feminist? is Anya Balanchine a feminist? how do her childhood and her environment influence the choices she makes as an adult? why do you think she makes the choices she makes? is Anya Balanchine a good person? (We can discuss these issues somewhere, and I promise to tell you what I think if you want to know.)
6) But I am getting ahead of myself.
7) The book comes out in September October. The title is In the Days of Death and Chocolate In the Age of Love and Chocolate,and observant readers will note that this title completes the sentence begun by the previous two book titles.