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Meet Author Lauren Oliver

TFK Kid Reporter Abhinav Piplani spoke with the bestselling author about her new book The Spindlers

November 05, 2012
COURTESY HARPER COLLINS CHILDREN'S BOOKS

TFK Kid Reporter Abhinav Piplani spoke to Lauren Oliver about her new book

Author Lauren Oliver’s new book, The Spindlers, is a fantasy about a young girl named Lisa whose brother’s soul has been stolen by evil spiderlike beings called Spindlers. Lisa sets off on a dangerous journey to the world below to rescue it. Recently, TFK Kid Reporter Abhinav Piplani interviewed Lauren Oliver at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Author Lauren Oliver

COURTESY HARPER COLLINS CHILDREN'S BOOKS
Author Lauren Oliver

TFK:

Was there a specific inspiration that caused you to write this book?

OLIVER:

Yes, there was. I have always loved a story titled Outside Over There, written by Maurice Sendak, one of the great children’s book authors. It’s about a girl who is babysitting her younger brother, and when she turns away briefly, goblins creep in through the window, snatch the boy and replace him with a baby made of ice. This idea of a changeling—and suddenly sensing a change in a loved one—stayed with me throughout my adult life. Then my sister gave me an illustration that showed a bunch of creepy fairies sneaking into a baby’s nursery. The picture reminded me of Outside Over There and that I’ve always wanted to write a book about what would happen if suddenly you woke up and a loved one had been replaced. That’s exactly what happens in The Spindlers: Lisa wakes up and finds out that her beloved younger brother Patrick’s soul had been stolen by evil spider people called the Spindlers, and he has been replaced by a changeling.

TFK:

Was there anything major in the book that you thought about changing, or did you have a set plan all along and did you stick to it?

OLIVER:

I did have to make some substantial changes to The Spindlers, both as I was writing and in editing. One of the things that changed the most dramatically was based on a suggestion by my editor after the first draft had been written. She rightly suggested that the world below, where Lisa goes to try and save her brother, was too dark, it’s geography needed to be expanded a little bit, [and it needed] more creatures, more special places. I spent a long time mapping out the geography of what this subterranean world would look like. Now I feel like I could write innumerable books set in the world below. But that was something that was really major, and something that I had not anticipated including in the book at first.

TFK:

What are the series of steps that you take in order to write a book?

OLIVER:

Well, first you have to have a basic idea for a plot, and along with that you have to have an idea for a narrator—the voice of someone who tells the story. I would define plot essentially as a conflict between what the main character wants, and the obstacles that are set up to ensure that the main character doesn’t get what he or she wants. Of course, plot is more complex than that, there are usually increasing obstacles and increasing stakes, but you need to have all those things in place. You also need to have the discipline and patience to park your bum in a chair for about 2-3 hours a day and actually get those words on a page. Again, I say patience and I mean it. It takes a lot of patience, especially because often you feel like your writing is absolutely horrible.

TFK:

Have you always had an interest in writing?

OLIVER:

My interest in writing comes from a deep and life-long love of reading. My fiancé makes fun of me, because I read everyday; I always make time for it. He’s always calling me a nerd, which I am proud of. I have been a lifelong nerd! After I finished books that I loved, such as The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, the Red-wall Series and Matilda, I wanted them to go on. I felt that something had been taken from me. So I started writing continuations of the [books]. It was basically fan fiction, even though at the time I didn’t know the term.

COURTESY HARPER COLLINS CHILDREN'S BOOKS

TFK:

Could you give some advice for writing fiction stories?

OLIVER:

First I think, reading is very important. I’ve learned things from everything that I’ve ever read. Whether it’s a book that inspired me, or a book that failed in certain places, they all make me think critically about my own work. I also think it’s incredibly important to practice writing every day. You wouldn’t expect to be a professional football player right away, or pick up the viola and play at Carnegie Hall the next day, you need to practice. You shouldn’t expect that it’s going to be good immediately, and don’t get discouraged if it isn’t. Also I think that writers are observers. They pay attention to how people behave. They pay attention to the types of things that motivate people. They pay attention to the world around them and on human behavior. So observing and focusing on the world outside of yourself is really important for a writer.

TFK:

During you career as an author, what have you learned that you would like to share with kids who want to become writers?

OLIVER:

You will have to develop a thick skin. There will be people who hate your books, there will be people who say mean things on the Internet, and there will be many rejections when you are trying to publish a book. I think it’s really important to know when to accept criticism and when to decline it. Many people told me that it was impossible to make a living as an author. Very few people told me that I could do it. But I wanted to do it, and I loved it and I persisted. So it’s really important to know when to block out the negative voices and to have faith. My favorite writing advice of all time is a saying: “Aim for beauty, and truth will not necessarily follow, but aim for truth, and beauty will follow.” So always aim for truth.


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