The Book Pixie: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lauren Oliver: Well I'm 5'9", with brown-black hair, and I like champagne and long walks on the beach...No, for real, let's see. Um...I grew up in a small suburb outside of New York very similar to the town depicted in Before I Fall. In high school I was kind of artsy, I guess; I was into art and dance and theatre, and I wore thick black wedge boots and, like, tight pleather pants and believed it was a fashion statement. I was a very good student (I have always been a nerd at heart) but also had kind of a bad attitude (I have always had an ambivalent relationship to authority).
I went to college at The University of Chicago, and graduate school at NYU, where I studied writing.
Those are the basic broad-stroke stats of my life. Other thing about me: I drink tons of coffee (ten cups a day), adore ketchup (I eat it on toast), and my spirit animal is either a newt or a greyhound (I have big eyes spaced pretty far apart, and I like to curl up when I sleep). My first tattoo was a pi symbol (told you I was a nerd!) but I now have nine others, which my mother hates.
I love to run and work out and be outside, but I also love to read in my house with a blanket over my legs. I believe in being nice, but not in being mistreated, and I am a very loyal friend. Sometimes, I still like to dance on tables, and I get all my music from the iTunes Top Ten. It's actually kind of embarrassing.
TBP: Give us a brief summary of your book.
LO: Samantha Kingston, the main character, seemingly has the world at her fingertips: she is pretty, popular, and she is dating one of the hottest guys in school. In other words, she has everything she could ever want. Friday, February 12th, should be just another day in her charmed life.
But instead it turns out to be her final day.
In the very first chapter (the prologue, actually), Samantha is in a fatal car accident. The catch is that Sam continues to wake up and relive the day of her death over and over, and the book follows her attempts both to figure out why she is caught in a continual time loop, and try to save her own life. On a deeper level, it is about a girl who is given the chance to re-evaluate her choices, actions, and desires in the context of her death. In that way it's kind of like a YA modern version of It's a Wonderful Life.
TBP: What is it you love most about writing?
LO: Wow. That's a tough question. I think what I love most about writing is the way that it enables you to be constantly in touch with a story and an experience and characters apart from whatever it is you are experiencing in real life; writing gives you the chance to kind of fold your life in two, to double it, so you can exist on two different planes simultaneously: the real and the fictional. I know that's a weird answer, but writing really is a form of escape for me. I write when I'm unhappy, or lonely, or feeling disconnected, and I get immersed in some other world in which I'm totally connected and distracted from any real-world problems. I also write when I'm happy, of course, but I do think that at base I see writing as escapism.
TBP: If you weren't an author, what is another career you believe you'd enjoy?
LO: A reality TV star sound pretty good...JUST KIDDING! I think I would enjoy acting though, or being a star on Broadway (presuming I had any talent, which I don't, particularly, although I did love to act and sing in high school, and college). But honestly, if I weren't a writer I think I'd like to be a cookbook author and a restaurant owner. I know that's a little bit of a cheat because I would still be writing, but what can I say? It's in my blood. And I love messing around in the kitchen and experimenting and feeding people. I also like to eat. A lot.
Actually, my ideal job would probably to be a restaurant critic. (But that involves writing too...like I said, I just can't stop!)
TBP: What inspired the idea for Before I Fall?
LO: I think a lot of different things inspired the book, actually. First of all, I've always thought about what my perfect day would be: a day i could relive over and over and still be perfectly happy. When I was younger it used to be a kind of game of mine, when I couldn't fall asleep, to try and imagine a moment or event or day of perfect happiness in as much detail as possible. Obviously this is an issue Sam addresses in the book, as she relives her last day over and over.
Additionally, right as I was starting to think about the book I was put in touch with a guy I'd "known," essentially, my whole life; we'd gone to elementary, middle, and high school together. I put "known" in quotation marks because what occurred to me once I started talking to him in my adult life was how little the impressions I'd always had of him -- impressions formed, I suppose from years of reported gossip, or half-truthful stories, or vague prejudices, or whatever it is the mechanism is by which we feel we know people in high school without actually speaking to them -- had been completely and one hundred percent wrong. He was literally the opposite of the person I had always thought him to be. (And he's now one of my closest friends.)
This got me thinking about a girl who would have a chance to cycle deeper and deeper into the minutiae of her everyday experiences, and thus begin to see them in a different manner.
TBP: How long did it take you to write Before I Fall?
LO: Writing the proposal--essentially, the first fifty pages, plus an outline--took about three months. The remainder of the book took about another five months to write.
TBP: What song would you say best fits Before I Fall?
LO: When I was writing the book, I listened to a song by Evanescence called "Bring Me To Life" a lot. It really only reflects the central section of the book, when Sam is feeling desperate and unhappy, and kind of railing against the time-loop that seems to have ensnared her by acting out.
But there is a line in the song, a kind of plea, that I do think encapsulates Sam's emotional state through most of the book: "Wake me up inside." At the start of the book, Sam is really a girl who is disconnected from her own wants and needs, but because she seems to have everything in an external way (looks; popularity; a boyfriend), she doesn't realize how numb she is inside, and how badly she needs to be awakened.
(Awesome choice! I can totally see how that song fits. I absolutely love it and it is the 12th most played song on my iTunes out of 1572.)
TBP: You are stranded on a deserted island and can only take books by one author. Which author would you choose?
LO: Dumas, but only because over 400 books have been attributed to him and it would give me a lot of material!
(And by the way, what kind of a sick, sick person would strand me on a deserted island without at least giving me access to a library?! Or a kindle at the very least?? Terrible to contemplate.)
TBP: Your house has just caught fire? What do you grab first?
LO: My computer! Or my external hard drive. And then probably a wooden box filled with all of the notes and letters and cards I have received from family, friends, and boyfriends since I was about seventeen. Actually, I keep the wooden box and all of my old notebooks in another wooden box--a sort of milk crate thing given to me by my friend Forest in college--so I would probably just grab the whole milk crate.
Now I'm thinking I should just put my hard drive in there, as well, for easy access in case of emergency!
TBP: Anything else you'd like to add before you go?
LO: Nope--just a big old thank you! Interviews make me feel special. :D
That, my friends, was the embodiment of awesomeness that is Lauren Oliver! I hope you all enjoyed the interview and will show your love by commenting. And on another closely related note...
HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY LAUREN AND BEFORE I FALL!!!
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