Monday, July 13, 2009

Author Bites - Ellen Hopkins on Why

After reading Tricks I had to get Ellen Hopkins to talk a little bit on my blog. And she graciously agreed. And she agreed to talk about why she writes the kind of stories she does. She just made me love her even more!

First, I'd like to thank Donna again for plunging into Tricks, which is undoubtedly my toughest book yet, in many ways. I found it quite interesting that she said she had to put it down several times, yet was almost obsessively drawn to return. Interesting, because my husband had the same reaction. You'd think he'd be used to my writing by now.

My path to bestselling author was never a sure thing, yet I feel like fate drew me here. I knew I was a writer. Knew I could make a living writing, and I was eeking out meager sustenance as a freelance writer and nonfiction children's book author when fate slapped me in the face. My oldest daughter, my "perfect child" fell in with the wrong crowd, gave crystal meth a try, and our lives have never been the same. It was six years before I could even try to make sense of that, and the only way I could figure to do it was to write her story. From her point of view. Problem was, in prose it was my voice, not hers.

Confession: I've always been a closet poet. It wasn't academic poetry, or even particularly polished, but I'd been growing it through a local poetry group and was beginning to come into my own as a poet. So when I saw another verse novelist, Sonya Sones, speak at a conference I knew almost immediately that verse was the way to tell "Kristina's" story. Verse is personal. Interior. Filled with imagery, stark as it might be, and once I started Crank in verse, well the rest was [fairly recent] history. Less than five years, in fact.

Okay, I got my catharsis. And more. In fact. I discovered something totally unexpected--where I belonged as a writer. I understood not only my daughter, but her generation. OMG, as they say, I so remember my own teenage struggle to find my place in the world. False starts. Wrong turns. A good deal of pain, and yes, not a little joy. And I can put those things on paper, in a way that resonates not only with teens, but with those who have been teens.

I continue to write tough subject matter because issues like sexual or physical abuse, addiction, cutting, depression and more touch every single life, in one way or another. Still, despite what to many might feel like no way out, there is hope. But hope is all about intent. Reaching for something better. Through the (literally) scores of messages I receive every day, I know I am offering hope, and the knowledge that people, young or old, are not alone within their imagined isolation.

Yes, there is room for fluff in literature. Gossip Girls. Vampires. Captain Underpants. But there will always be a deeper hunger for books readers can relate to their own lives. I had a story that led me to this unimaginably wonderful place. Maybe you do, too. Fictionalize where you must. But be fearless. Some special reader (and maybe an entire generation of them) needs to hear your voice.


Readingjunky said...

Thanks for bringing us Ellen's words. She's a wise woman.


jessjordan said...

I LOVE Ellen's books. They're disturbing and haunting, but in the best way possible. She opens my eyes. She makes me think. She inspired me to try writing in verse ... even though I wasn't any good at it. :)

I cannot WAIT for Tricks ... and, fingers crossed, to meet her at the SCBWI LA conference. (Hopefully I won't go crazy fangirl and start crying and screaming her name. Just kidding, Ellen, if you're reading this ...)

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