Brace yourselves, readers, the entirety of Deb's side of this interview belongs on Tumblr. Just read on to see what I mean...
GC: What has been your favorite experience writing for YA?
DC: I’ve had so many great experiences, from meeting ardent fans and librarians, to paragliding for the release of HONEY, BABY, SWEETHEART. (You can read about that, and – eek – see pictures, here). But I think my most favorite experience was getting to spend time with Judy Blume at the National Book Awards the year I was a finalist and she was accepting a lifetime achievement award. We had met earlier that week when we appeared on a panel together, but it was when she rose to speak that the lump in my throat started.
I looked around the room, my agent Ben on one side of me, my editor on the other, my children and family in every thought, and I tried to make real the fact that Judy Blume was there in front of me, speaking about her own years of writing and struggle and perseverance, her own journey to that night, giving voice to my own thoughts and expressing my experience, the same as she did when I was twelve.
GC: How did the experience of writing He's Gone differ from writing for a younger audience?
DC: The writing process wasn’t all that different from my other books. As I writer, what I basically do is put myself in a characters shoes (and mind and heart and bathrobe) and then tell the truth from there. I believe we are more similar than different - the thrill of new love, the crush of loss, the frustration of your car breaking down on an already bad day – the feeling is the same at eighteen or forty-eight.
Love is love at any age, and so is joy and so is sadness.
The surrounding elements might alter - a teen might be living in her parents’ home, versus Dani, for example, who lives in that gorgeous houseboat in He’s Gone; the loss might be a boyfriend versus a husband; that car might be Dad’s Honda versus Dani’s own old Audi. But the heart, I believe, is age-neutral – knowable, relatable, and understandable always, and heart is what creates a story a reader connects with.
GC: Were you very aware during the writing process that your target age range was elevated? What changes did that establish in your narration?
DC: I was aware that my target age range was elevated, and that allowed me to play more freely with complex sentence structures and deeper themes. That said, one of the greatest things about my “crossing over” from YA to adult was that my previous nine young adult novels are already fairly complex and character driven, and my readers are already a mixed bag of ages.
I have a lot of older teen, college-aged and adult readers. In my YA books, the main character is always a teen, of course, but my books also feature adult characters of varying ages.
Mothers and daughters both struggle with screwed-up love lives, for example, or generations of women are present as characters, having something to say about relationships, family, and identity. I’ve also always tried to push the boundaries of YA as much as I can. So writing a book for adults wasn’t a great leap. The biggest change was that the boundaries I always try to push didn’t exist anymore. There were no more fences for me to stay in or out of. It was very freeing. I could just write. No holding back.
For me, writing within those boundaries is actually in many ways more challenging.
GC: Do you believe YA is only for young adults, or Adult is only for those who have "graduated" to the literary scene? Why or why not?
DC: No way.
(GC: Good answer)
DC: As I said, my YA books have many adult readers, and I myself read plenty of adult books as a teen. What matters is that the book speaks to you or offers you something (entertainment, insight, connection) that you are looking for.
The book is what speaks to you, not the shelf you find it on.
That said, some content is better appreciated by older readers.
It’s kind of like watching those Disney movies later in life. There are some great jokes and heavy themes in there that you’d never have understood when you were three and watching the daddy fish try to find the baby fish. Still, your younger self loved it, and that’s the important thing.
GC: Was this the first adult novel you ever wrote?
I actually wrote four unpublished adult novels before my first book, THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING, was published. So, writing for adults is pretty familiar territory. And, since this is my tenth book to be published, it’s a bit like coming full circle.
DC: We actually thought THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING was an adult novel. It’s about a young girl who watches her father spiral down to commit a crime of passion. The content is pretty heavy. When it got bought as a YA novel, my life in YA began. I always call it the luckiest accident. I’ve loved my YA life.
GC: What inspired He's Gone?
DC: The inspiration came much the same way the book begins. I woke up one day, and my husband wasn’t there.
I did that thing you do when you try to figure out who is home, where you listen for the TV in the other room, or the sound of the toaster lever being pushed down. And suddenly there was the What If that often begins a book. What if you woke up one day to find that your husband had vanished?
And while my own was merely out walking the dog, the situation was much more complex for Dani and Ian in He’s Gone.
GC: Would you be interested in crossing genre once again and writing for the burgeoning MG group? Or even trying your hand at a picture book?
DC: I don’t think so. My teen and adult readers and the themes of their lives are more meaningful to me.
GC: Having written for both YA & Adult now, do you think one particular genre fits you better as a storyteller?
DC: This is the biggest cop-out answer ever, but I think they both fit equally in their own ways.
I like coffee and I like tea, right? I like coffee in the mornings, and tea in the afternoons.
I like holding that warm cup in my hands, no matter what’s in it. I can’t imagine life without either of them.
GC: Will you write for adults again? And what's next on the YA front?
DC: Yes, definitely. I’ve already finished my next YA, THE LAST FOREVER, which will be released next April (and, I must say, it may be my favorite book yet of ALL). My next adult book (the title is still a secret ) will be released in 2015. I’ve just started working on it, and love it so far. I hope you and your readers look for them both!
GC: I know I'll be on the lookout, and you best be, you lot!