Triangles, the first adult novel of New York Times bestselling YA author Ellen Hopkins, has just been released in paperback. She sits down with SheKnows to talk writing, family and why it’s so important for her to connect to her fans.
SheKnows: You’re active on Facebook and very connected to thousands of fans. Why is that important to you? What’s been one of your favorite interactions with a fan online?
Ellen Hopkins: I do want readers to know I’m a real person, with real feelings and a real life, both of which influence the things I write about. And I also think the connection with my readers (allowing them to share their own feelings and stories) is hugely important. This is a relationship, and so it works two ways. One of my favorite interactions began with a message from a man who said his girlfriend loved my books and told him she would not accept a marriage proposal unless he could talk me into coming to their wedding. I’ll be in the front row in October.
SheKnows: After writing so many New York Times bestselling YA novels (and you’ve written children’s books, too!), what was it that made you decide to write your first adult book, Triangles?
Ellen Hopkins: The time just felt right. A lot of my readers have grown into adulthood themselves, or have shared my books with the adults in their lives, so I had a built-in audience, waiting for some more adult themes. The idea for a book about midlife crises, however, came from one of my teen readers — a young man, in fact. It floated around in the back of my mind for a couple of years, and then two of my friends had major midlife dilemmas at about the same time. Watching their struggle made me want to write about something I believe most people grapple with at some point in their lives.
SheKnows: Why will fans of your YA books also like Triangles?
Ellen Hopkins: Like my YA books, Triangles really dissects the lives of the three main characters, illustrating the best and worst of them, as well as the peripheral players. My strength as a writer is character building, and that’s what draws my readers to return to my books. I write real life, which is sometimes beautiful and often not, and readers generally find some facet of themselves and their own lives between the covers of my books. I think that’s comforting, or at least illuminating.
SheKnows: What is your favorite passage from Triangles?
Ellen Hopkins: “Favorite” is hard when you’re looking at 80,000 words, but here’s one I really like:
Perspective is something gained with experience. A byproduct of living. Back-paddling through time, trying in vain to slow the current-driven journey. But we just keep moving forward toward our destiny, never really in control, despite our best efforts to manipulate outcomes, because no one makes it through untouched by the will of others.
And a favorite sentence: Time is a parabolic lens, bringing hindsight into focus.
SheKnows: Describe your writing space. What are five things that would give us some insight about you?
Ellen Hopkins: My office is light and airy and opens onto a patio looking toward the Virginia Range on one side, across the living room to windows overlooking the Sierra on the other. I couldn’t live without mountains nearby. The furniture is oak and my desk space is big enough to not be cluttered, but generally is. I just bought my first iMac, and it has the biggest available screen, which my eyes prefer. I have lots of plants (inside and out). And there’s usually a German shepherd parked at my feet.
SheKnows: We always ask about balance. What does it mean to you, and how do you achieve it?
Ellen Hopkins: When you work at home, you’re always at work, the saying goes. And that is true. Balance is learning to step away from that work (at least if you love it, and I very much do), even if that’s just long enough to have coffee with your husband on the deck or go downstairs to listen to your son play his guitar. You achieve it quite consciously, or it won’t happen, especially if you’re up against a tight deadline or totally immersed in your work in progress. I struggle with it, but know how important it is. My family and friends are my cheering section. They deserve time, too.
SheKnows: What books are in your beach bag this summer?
Ellen Hopkins: Every Day by David Levithan, In One Person by John Irving and Ask the Passengers by A. S. King.
SheKnows: Are you working on your next book? If so, can you give us any hints?
Ellen Hopkins: My next two books, Tilt (a YA companion to Triangles) and Collateral (my next adult book), are finished and will release in September and November, respectively. I’m currently writing the 2013 YA, Smoke, the long-awaited sequel to my sophomore novel, Burned.