The first meeting of the Mother of All Book Clubs was an art-brainy parent’s delight! We had drinks, we looked at each other’s shoes, and when Lauren Oliver, the author of Rooms, showed up to our party, we grilled her on her book, her writing process, and her views on women’s experiences—past and present. We were all generally brilliant together.
Our next book/meeting: November 13. Book: In Reach by Pamela Carter Joern. The author will join us. If you haven’t, you should join us, too!
Below are Lauren Oliver’s answers to some of our book club’s smartest questions.
1. JuiceBox: In this book you mix the everyday with the supernatural. Is that impetus part of you as a person? Are you mixing these things in your own belief system—communing with ghosts while doing the dishes?
Lauren Oliver: I wish! Although in general I resist doing dishes, period. (I do cook, though.) I think the collision of the normal and paranormal in Rooms stems from my love of magical realism and of fantasy that is deeply integrated with the real world. I've always loved books that suggest that reality might someday just be peeled back to reveal the extraordinary.
2. JB: The mysteries of the plot are revealed in the voices of many narrators. How did you keep them all straight, and how did you know when to switch the revealing?
L: I wasn't always sure who should narrate which particular section of the book, actually. A lot of that came through trial end error. Several sections I rewrote several times from different points of view.
3. JB: Your characters span existence in different time periods. How did you discover and claim the voices of (very different) ghosts Alice and Sandra?
L: That was one of the most exciting and also most difficult challenges of writing Rooms. Alice is born in 1920; Sandra is born in the 50’s and comes of age during the explosion of the punk rock scene of 70’s New York. Their lives, morals, speech patterns, prejudices, and preoccupations could not be more different. I did a lot of research and a lot of interviewing. I spoke to people who would have been Sandra and Alice's contemporaries and took expensive notes.
4. JB: You worked in young adult literature as an assistant editor at Razorbill (a young adult imprint). How did that work prepare you for the making of fiction?
L: Well, I'd always been a writer, but I'd really struggled with narrative and structure. And working as an assistant editor and then editorial assistant really taught me about the mechanics of plotting and storytelling.
5. JB: Did you feel a responsibility to stay true to your many young adult fans as you wrote this “grownup” novel?
L: Hmmm. No, not really. I knew many of them would be uninterested in this book but feel that the best way to honor my audience and their intelligence and their ability to think and grow is to assume that they are honoring mine and granting me those same freedoms. I like to think I am a real writer who writes for the love of it, as is evidenced by the scope of my work, meaning that I will never write something just to cash in on or exploit my audience. This holds true for all my work—middle grade, teen, and adult—and I hope this is at least in part why people find authenticity in it.