Lauren Oliver is the fantasatic debut author of Before I Fall. Do I need to say anything else?! Thanks for this, Lauren!
Before I Fall has a very unusual premise that I haven't come across before. What was the inspiration behind the story?
The idea came from a bunch of different places. The idea of the 24-hour “redo” came from an old childhood habit: When I was younger and having trouble sleeping, I would try to imagine in as much detail as possible the “perfect day”: the kind of day I wouldn’t mind reliving again and again.
In terms of themes, the book is predominantly about change. Sam grows substantially from the first page to the last; the idea of change, and whether it’s possible, and how, and under what circumstances, is always something I’ve been interested in. There were other issues I wanted to explore—like the the interrelatedness of people—and from all of those rough ideas came Before I Fall.
Sam starts off as a highly unlikeable character. Did you ever worry that your readers wouldn't be able to look past her initial behaviour?
Um, did I? Yes. I still do. It actually keeps me up at night. Fortunately nearly everyone addresses this in reviews, and usually people really come to care about Sam by the end of the book, so hopefully there is some level of awareness about her character’s development. And also, I mean, not everyone is nice in high school. She may be unlikeable at the beginning, but you know what? There are, unfortunately, lots of unlikeable people in the world; I thinks she’s also recognizable.
Are any of Before I Fall's social observations based on real-life experiences?
Oh, yeah, sure. I don’t think it would be a very good book if I hadn’t based its characterizations on observations and real life. People were not in general as mean in my high school as the characters depicted in Before I Fall, but there was a certain amount of casual cruelty that is just endemic to that time. And all of the needs and wishes and frailties and insecurities of the characters—that’s all “based” on real life stuff. It has to be, in order to feel real. That doesn’t mean it’s based on real people, however—but it is based on my understanding of how real people behave.
If you were in Sam's shoes, and had to relive your last day over and over, how do you think you'd cope?
Pretty poorly, I imagine. I throw a tantrum when my favorite bagel place is out of sesame bagels, so I’m not really sure I’d have the mental fortitude for it! :) I think I’d have the most fun doing all of the “crazy” stuff you’re not allowed to do in real life—speaking your mind completely, one hundred percent honestly, and making out with (snogging?? Is that the British word??) unsuitable people, stuff like that.
[Jenny: Yes, snogging is the word! ;) ]
Before I Fall has a beautiful cover. Did you have any say in the design?
I didn’t, but I agree: It’s absolutely stunning. The first time I saw it, it literally took my breath away.
Since writing Before I Fall and getting your publishing deal, how has your life changed?
Oh, man. My life has changed so drastically. When I got my publishing deal I was totally broke; I loved in a kind of run-down apartment with three girls. I was a full-time assistant editor at Penguin; I was also a full-time graduate student and in addition worked at a club three nights a week (until 4 in the morning!) to help support myself. (Publishing isn’t the most lucrative job…). On nights I bartended I had to sleep over at my mom’s house because cabs wouldn’t drive me all the way back to Brooklyn at that hour, and she used to wake me up in the mornings, and I would literally wake up crying. That’s how tired I was. (Not to sound all “poor me,” but it’s true!)
Now I am a full-time writer and I get to travel and sleep eight hours a night and do what I love for a living. And I moved around the corner from my old apartment, but I live by myself now, in a beautiful and peaceful space. In other words, I am much happier, and very grateful.
How important do you think bloggers are when it comes to promoting debut authors and novels?
Oh my gosh. Immensely important! I’ve found so much unexpected support from bloggers; it has been truly incredible. I’m not naturally great at self-promotion, and so having a community of people get behind my book and help me figure out ways to get the word out there has been so critical. I’m still blown away by how kind and helpful and, yeah, just supportive the blogging community has been.
What's next on your writing agenda?
My second book, DELIRIUM, comes out in early 2011. It’s very different from Before I Fall but I am so excited about it. It’s basically a dystopian Romeo-and-Juliet story…but you’ll have to read it to get any more details! :)