October 3, 2012

Psychtember Interview with Adele Griffin

I'm happy to welcome Adele Griffin, author of numerous YA novels including Tighter, The Julian Game, Picture the Dead, and the upcoming All You Never Wanted, back to the blog! (Adele also participated last year in Psychtember, with a character interview of Isa from Tighter.)

First, a bit about Adele and All You Never Wanted:

"Adele Griffin, a two-time National Book Award finalist (Where I Want to Be and Sons of Liberty), is the acclaimed author of Tighter, The Julian Game, Picture the Dead, the Vampire Island series, and many other books for young readers. Adele lives with her husband and young daughter in Brooklyn, New York." (from book)

"With my eyes closed and Alex's core friends all around me, it was like I'd become my big sister, or something just as good. And so who cared if they were calling it Alex's party? One thing I knew: it would be remembered as mine.

Alex has it all—brains, beauty, popularity, and a dangerously hot boyfriend. Her little sister Thea wants it all, and she's stepped up her game to get it. Even if it means spinning the truth to win the attention she deserves. Even if it means uncovering a shocking secret her older sister never wanted to share. Even if it means crying wolf.

Told in the alternating voices of Alex and Thea, Adele Griffin's mesmerizing new novel is the story of a sibling rivalry on speed.
" (from Goodreads)

And now for the questions...

1.) Many of your YA books deal with some psychologically twisted stuff. What draws you to write these kinds of complex, flawed characters who are often in need of professional help? What would you say the appeal of these kinds of stories is for the reader?

I don't know why I go dark but it always feels right! I think it's because I myself always felt like a peripheral person-- if not exactly a disturbed one. My father was in the military, and I grew up being called "new girl" -- an uncomfortable and yet familiar role.

2.) Alex's perspective is written in 3rd-person and Thea's in 1st-person. How challenging was it as a writer to switch not only from one girl's voice to another, but from one POV style to another? Are there any writing tips you can give for making these kinds of transitions work?

Oh so happy you asked that question! I made that choice to underline who these girls are. Thea is truly manipulative, and I wanted her cozy 1st person to draw in the reader because 1st is more intimate-- but ultimately then you are trapped in her skewed reality-- and her total insistence on it. Whereas Alex is holding us at arm's length in 3rd person, while her narrative is an unwinding, and a painful raw reveal of who she really is.

3.) Alex and Thea are sisters, but they really couldn't be more different in personality. If you could give Alex one personality trait of Thea's, and Thea one of Alex's, to help balance out both girls, which attributes would you trade?

I'd give Alex a dose of Thea's self-esteem, and I'd make Thea a bit less tone-deaf, so that she could share Alex's ease in social situations.

4.) Envy is one of the prominent themes throughout All You Never Wanted. Who is one YA author you envy and/or one YA book you wish you'd written?

I have real envy of HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff. and I have some Patrice Kindl envy because I love her variety of concepts.

5.) If you were suddenly thrust into the lap of luxury, would you react more like Alex does, or more like Thea? Why?

My guess would be I'd have an Alex reaction only in that she is a bit of a control freak-- though I wouldn't make my rules so spartan or self-destructive. I did relate to Alex-- I think it would be awful suddenly to live a life where nothing is special, or a treat, or has to be earned.

6.) Alex is the more obvious candidate of the sisters for therapy, but I rather suspect Thea could also use a good dose. Who do you think would respond better to treatment (either in the form of psychotherapy or medication)? Or is either of them a "lost cause"?

When Thea needs it most, she lacks conscience, which always signals a little bit of "lost cause." But in most of the book, she's floundering, and her story in many ways is about how she is surrounded by resources-- by caring people who unfortunately are not caring about her. She's kind of like that adage: "water water all around and not a drop to drink."

7.) Xander's character works very well as a foil for Joshua. What's one thing you feel Xander can offer Alex that Joshua can't?

Ah, Xander! This is the first male character I ever wrote who I got a crush on myself. What I like best about Xander is that this guy has no secret agenda. He's fallen for Alex, boom, the end. While Joshua is just trouble eight different ways.

8.) Books can change a fair bit from first draft to final copy. Did All You Never Wanted undergo any major changes (scenes, characters, etc.)?

Yes, big time. Early drafts had a lot less Alex-Xander, and then I realized that part of her reconnection had to be about physical delight, about not punishing her body but rewarding it. So pages got sexier. And Thea was more flat-out awful. I had some great reads on the book, and the big note from my peers was to give Thea more vulnerability and history-- moments for the reader to empathize with her.

9.) All You Never Wanted works as a title for this book on several levels. Was this the working title from the start, or did you have to go through an arduous brainstorming process before you came up with the perfect choice?

It was called WOLF when it came it. I was thinking of "the wolf at the door" and "the girl who cried wolf" but it got nixed-- everyone said YA readers would be hoping for a werewolf. I love this title, it's very on-point.

10.) Imagine Thea from All You Never Wanted, Raye from The Julian Game, and Jamie from Tighter somehow all end up at the Figure Eight lunch table. What happens?

That's the scariest lunch table ever. I think Thea the bully would enlist Raye the hench-woman to gang up on Jamie the victim-- and from there all hell breaks loose.

Thanks so much, Adele, for giving us some more insight into the writing process and characters of All You Never Wanted!

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