Author Crush Friday with Annie Barrows
Glitter girls, you have pressing questions for your favorite authors and we have their answers. Welcome to our weekly segment, Author Crush Fridays.
We love asking questions and we love the answers from some of our favorite authors. Today we’re talking to the #1 New York Times bestselling author, Annie Barrows, who is the author of the funny, honest, and poignant YA, Nothing (September 5, 2017; Greenwillow Books). Thank you for talking to us today, Annie! We’re honored!
GLITTER: How would you describe Nothing to a new reader?
ANNIE: I have to say, it’s a lot easier for me to describe what Nothing isn’t about. It’s not about a love triangle, dead parents, suicide, a post-apocalyptic dystopia, artificial intelligence, drugs (well, not much about drugs), aliens, superpowers, fantasy kingdoms, or bad things that happened in history. It’s about two fifteen-year-old girls living life, like real life, like lying around on the couch looking at Instagram and snarking on other people’s outfits. Sound familiar?
GLITTER: How much research went into writing Nothing?
ANNIE: Ha! None. It’s happening right in my kitchen. All the time. Loudly.
GLITTER: How different was it for you to write a Young Adult novel versus your adult and chapter book series?
ANNIE: In some ways, Nothing was the easiest book I ever wrote; I really did stand in my kitchen and just write down every single thing I heard. The dialogue, the characters—all that stuff was simple. But story-arc? Plotline? That was tricky. The reality is, teenagers are completely oppressed. Parents, teachers, coaches, the DMV—they’re all out to make sure teenagers don’t do anything. Can’t go here, can’t do that, why aren’t you studying, take this test, do your homework, wake up—it’s one rule after another. I suppose it keeps teens safe, but it also makes a plot almost impossible. I’m sure this is why there are so many aliens and superpowers in teen books. Real life is hard to write.
GLITTER: How do you find the emotional truths in your writing?
ANNIE: Here’s a secret: all writers are vampires. Not the blood-sucking kind, the emotional kind. We sit around, looking innocent (or, more probably, stupid), and consume other people’s experiences. Every time I go to the grocery store, I get material. I see social exchanges, I watch faces, I listen to expressions, I gobble down tension and happiness, and then I use it.
GLITTER: Will we see your books on the big screen soon?
ANNIE: You sure will! A movie of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I wrote with my aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer, will be coming out next year. It features Lily James and Michiel Huisman in the leads—fabulous! I went to England this spring to watch the filming, and it was all extremely exciting.
GLITTER: How important are diverse books right now?
ANNIE: They’ve always been important—that’s why it’s so frustrating that it’s taken the industry so long to pay attention. And the struggle has multiple faces. I’ve been waiting—and I’m still waiting—for women’s talent to be taken as seriously as men’s.
GLITTER: What is the one piece of advice you can offer new writers? How many words do you write in a day? Do you have a set writing routine?
ANNIE: There are a million ways to be a writer, so there are almost no rules that apply to everyone. Maybe just this: You need to like to write, really like to write, because all the rest of it is a crapshoot. Luckily, I do like to write. I love it, in fact. And since I don’t teach or have any other job, I can—and do—write every day. Left to my own devices, I write about five hours a day. The number of words varies; some days, I spend three hours on one sentence, some days, I slam out a couple thousand words. One day I wrote six thousand words. Ouch. Makes my hands hurt to think of it.
GLITTER: Do you have anything that you love to collect?
ANNIE: Tulip bulbs! No, that’s a lie. I wish I collected something cool, but I don’t. Unless you count books. I have a lot of those. Also scraps of paper with one or two words on them. Also notebooks. I don’t think any of these counts.
GLITTER: What are you passionate about?
ANNIE: Kids. The weird, messed-up relations between kids and grownups in America. The linguistic-authoritarian complex. The colonization of the American imagination by corporations. Moisturizer.
GLITTER: What is the longest a fan has ever waited at a tour event to meet you?
ANNIE: Oh lord, several hours, I think. It makes me feel horribly guilty, because often, they’re little kids—like 7—and they stand in line to have me sign their books, and it takes ages, and I know they’re getting hungry and tired and they should be at home, and I’m not that exciting anyway. I don’t feel nearly as bad if it’s a grownup.
GLITTER: What are you working on right now?
ANNIE: The next Ivy and Bean book! It’s called Ivy and Bean: One Big Happy Family, and it’s so fun to be back with my girls! Teenagers are cute, but seven-year-olds are cuter.
Photo Credit: Amy Perl Photography
Annie Barrows is well-known for her New York Times bestselling adult titles The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society andThe Truth According to Us, as well as her children’s books that include the Ivy + Bean series, The Magic Half and Magic in the Mix. Nothing is her teen debut.