Lauren Oliver Saves the Day – And Alex Tags Along! (Author and Character Interview)

by Madeleine Rex

First, let me just say that Lauren Oliver is my hero. She earned this title by swooping in (red cape and all, you really should have seen it. Kodak moment.) and saving my English grade. Things had gotten… jumbled, and Lauren had to receive and answer my interview questions within five days. And she turned her homework in early, the little overachiever!

Lauren is the author of Before I Fall (Review) and Delirium (Review coming soon!), and the latter is to be released in February of 2011. Lauren also has a snazzy little blog that I really must start reading. Want to join me?

Without further ado, Lauren and her fabulous character, Alex:

Questions for Lauren:

ME: Were you surprised by the hype surrounding Before I Fall? Did you ever in your wildest dreams (even beyond the dreams of dancing the Macarena in cowboy boots) imagine your first published novel would land you on the NYT Bestsellers List?

Lauren: How did you know I often dream about doing the Macarena in random footwear?? Honestly, no. It has been an unbelievable debut.

ME: What’s, in your opinion, is the value of an MFA program? It’s part of my plan for the future, and I’m sure that many other writers would be interested in your take on it.

Lauren: I think there are several really valuable things about attending an MFA program. The first is simply the time it gives you to immerse yourself in your work, to speak with like-minded people, and to read wonderful books (I really think the reading list was one of my favorite parts of the NYU MFA program). Also, it teaches you how to accept critiques; but just as importantly, it teaches you that sometimes it is necessary to ignore critiques. Both are equally important.

ME: It’s not common that a writer will jump genres between their first book and their second. In fact, we’re told time and time again not to do that. What made you decide to make that leap to dystopian, and how did your critique partners/agent/editor react?

Lauren: I didn’t actually think of either of my books in terms of genre, so maybe that made it easier. I’ve always wanted to write a range of books, and I’m typically attracted to story and character as opposed to a “type” of book. It’s true that some authors are encouraged to stay within a genre, of course, but I’ve been blessed to find editors and an agent who have really encouraged me to expand my voice and my range. I’m so grateful for that.

ME: Were there vast differences between being published for the second time and being published for the first? Was it less or more stressful? We so often hear about a writer’s “road to publication,” but it’s hard to believe that road ends when the debut novel hits shelves.

Lauren: That’s a great point, and of course, the road doesn’t end. I think the stresses are different for a second-time publication: you worry about disappointing your fans, or you worry about falling under the “curse of the second book.” At the same time, you do have some kind of readership to depend on, which is so nice. I think every book brings its own stresses, and its own rewards, honestly. But maybe I’m just a stress ball!

More Delirium-Related Questions

ME: The idea of love being a disease definitely isn’t one I’ve heard before. What thought lead to the premise of Delirium?

Lauren: It was funny. I had just read a great quote about the fact that great books are usually about death or love, and then I was watching a news channel about a rampant flu panic, and I think the ideas—love, and the panic surrounding diseases—just kind of combined in my head.

ME: Characters, characters, characters! Goodness knows that the characters in Delirium are fabulous. Goodness is also aware of the fact that character development/creation is a common topic in the writing community. What’s your particular process when it comes to creating and developing characters? Or isn’t there one? Do they simply “germinate” on their own?

Lauren: I’m not sure I have a process, other than to spend a lot of time thinking about people, and why they are how they are—why they say the things they do, and become who they become, etc. I think that attentiveness to other people ends up floating through into your work.

ME: World-building must have taken a huge chunk of the time spent writing Delirium! Had you ever tackled creating another world before? Did much of the systems and lifestyles of the folks in the book came along with the original idea, or did they tag along later?

Lauren: World-building was definitely much of the fun of Delirium. To a certain extent, of course, every book requires world-building; every fictional landscape, however closely it may approximate real life, requires detail and fleshing out. But in this case that work was more comprehensive and expansive, and I did much of it before I started writing. I had to, in order for it to logically hold together.

Questions for Alex:

ME: Who’s your favorite author? What is it about his/her books that strikes you?

Alex: Probably Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His work is forbidden, obviously, and I think it’s because he writes so truthfully about everything human—loss, love, hope, mourning, death—it’s all there in his work.

ME: If you could pick a single person in the world that you “love to hate,” who would it be? I can imagine you’d have quite a list of possibilities.

Alex: I love to hate anyone who would rather have his eyes closed than confront pain or difficulty.

ME: What is your favorite word?

Alex: Yes.

ME:  When you met Lena, or when you saw her for the first time, what was the first sentence that ran through your mind? Did it run in circles, refusing to give up and disappear, or did you forget it after a moment?

Alex: I don’t think it was really a sentence so much as a feeling. When I first saw Lena, it was like coming up for air after a long period of being underwater.


And that, my friends, is a fabulous interview. Thanks again to Lauren!

If you have not yet read a book of Lauren’s, please, please do! She truly is a fantastic author, and her books have a way of entrancing you.

One Commentto “Lauren Oliver Saves the Day – And Alex Tags Along! (Author and Character Interview)”

  1. I had a great time reading the interview. And I'm curious of what you think about Delirium because even though I haven't read it yet, I loved Before I Fall like you ;D

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