Hello bookish people! Today, April 7th, is momentous because author Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, is now out in the wild! Hooray! Grab a copy, will you? It is worth reading! I promise. 🙂 But in case you need more convincing, you might want to check out my 5-star review here. For the love of Becky and Simon, I came up with an idea for a blog event to honor their day. Well, this is it! Happy Becky & Simon Day, everyone! *throws confetti* I hope you guys enjoy the contents of this post. 🙂
The awesome Becky Albertalli talks about writing, Simon, Oreos (YUM!), and more in this exclusive interview!
Photo credit: Decisive Moment Events
At what age did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. That being said, my ambitions have been a little all over the place, and I figured author would go the way of my other dream careers (among them: veterinarian, actress, director, teacher, and pet store employee). But my interest in writing has always been there, even when I took a different path in grad school, where I trained as a clinical psychologist.
Every writer has a writing process. Could you please describe yours?
In many ways, I think I’m still learning my process! When I wrote SIMON, worked in almost total isolation – almost no one knew I was writing, and the first person to read it was the critique partner I met on Absolute Write (still my CP, and now also one of my closest friends!). Book two has actually been a completely different experience. I’m connected to a much broader swath of the writing and publishing community, so the book has received feedback at several stages from my editor, agent, and several friends and critique partners. It also feels very different writing this book, knowing that it’s actually going to be published! Admittedly, it’s been hard for me to separate that process from everything that’s happening with SIMON.
What is it about young adult fiction that prompted you to write your own YA book?
There’s so much to love about YA. For me, I’m drawn to the immediacy of teen stories – it’s such a confusing, heart-wrenching, butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of time. It’s really special to be able to reconnect with some of those feelings and experiences. I think I love working with real-life teenagers for the same reasons.
Which YA authors do you look up to?
There are so many authors I admire! Right now, I am completely in awe of the We Need Diverse Books team, who are among the most passionate, committed, and talented people I’ve ever met. I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse behind the scenes of WNDB, and I’m constantly blown away by how hard these authors work to fight for desperately-needed changes in this industry. Their impact has been immeasurable, and it’s been thrilling and humbling to watch it happen.
Name three of your all-time favorite YA books.
-THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky
-THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS by Jaclyn Moriarty
-I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson
How did the idea for Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda come about?
It’s interesting: I feel like the story and Simon’s voice just sort of came to me – sometimes I didn’t know what was going to happen in the book until I wrote it. It’s only now that I can look back and attempt to trace its influences. I see shades of You’ve Got Mail, THE YEAR OF SECRET ASSIGNMENTS (one of my all-time favorites, mentioned above), and, oddly, a musical by Jason Robert Brown called 13. But SIMON is kind of its own thing. I have no idea where the idea came from, honestly!
How long did it take you to write Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda?
SIMON took me about four or five months to write, with another month spent editing and working with my critique partner. I believe I started the book in June of 2013, and queried in early November.
What would you like readers to learn from Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda?
Interesting question! I feel pretty strongly that readers are entitled to their own interpretations of the book, and that those interpretations are more important, in the end, than my intentions as an author. However, I’ll say that writing the book helped me organize some of my own thoughts about privilege and the tendency to view majority groups (straight, white, cisgender, etc.) as defaults.
Main character Simon Spier is gay. What was it like writing from the perspective of a teenage gay character? Did someone you know in real life inspire him?
It felt very natural for me writing from the perspective of a gay teenage boy! Part of that probably comes from working for so many years with LGBTQIA kids and teenagers as a psychologist, but I’m very careful not to base any characters on therapy clients. I would say Simon is pretty similar to me – he’s just much funnier and more charming.
Simon is a theater kid. What song from a Broadway musical best describes his personality?
This is one of my favorite questions I’ve ever been asked! I’m going to go with “My Junk” from Spring Awakening. I don’t know if it describes his personality, exactly, but there’s something so Simon about this song. I interpret it to be about that almost obsessive romantic fantasy life you have sometimes when you’re a teenager – the way you carry thoughts of your crush around with you everywhere. Simon’s feelings for Blue are like that.
You have a great love for Oreos (so does Simon!). If you were given an opportunity to customize an Oreo flavor inspired by your book, what would it be? What would you call it?
My custom Oreo flavor would be Classic Oreos with extra crème, and I would call them Double Stuf. 🙂 Simon and I are total traditionalists when it comes to Oreos. If I HAD to put my own spin on them, I might change their shape to the iconic SIMON text bubble – but I refuse to interfere with the perfection of their flavor.
You are one of the friendliest authors on Twitter! Book bloggers love interacting with you. What was your reaction when people started to express their excitement for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda on the social media site?
What a nice thing to say! I’ve had an absolute blast getting to know members of this amazing community on Twitter. I’m always so surprised (and a little excited) when people approach me like I’m famous. I’m so not famous! I’m sitting here next to a stack of diapers and breast pump accessories. 🙂 But I’ve been so thrilled by the response so far to SIMON. I feel so lucky that his character has connected with so many people, and that others are looking forward to meeting him. When people get Simon, it makes me feel like they get me!
What are your best moments so far in your publishing journey?
The whole thing has been a publishing fairy tale, honestly, and there have been so many wonderful moments. Some of the highlights: accepting my agent’s offer of representation, my first phone call with my editor, getting to know my publishing teams at Harper, Penguin, and my other publishers abroad (I’ve even become friends with my amazing French translator at Hachette Romans, Mathilde Bouhon!), reading my first reviews, getting blurbs from some of my favorite authors, getting to know other debut authors and seeing my friends’ books in bookstores…
If I had to pick one favorite, I’d say it was the amazing weekend I spent in Nashville with my best author friends: Adam Silvera, Jasmine Warga, and David Arnold.
And finally, what writing advice would you like to share to aspiring writers?
I know the classic advice is to keep reading – and that’s so incredibly important. To add to that, I’d say it’s so helpful to become a close observer of your own life. Fall in love, hang out with kids, hang out with old people, tell stupid jokes, laugh, make out, be lazy, argue, eavesdrop, daydream – and then spend an extra moment processing it all. Everything I like about my own writing comes from this process of integrating my own experiences.
Connect with Becky on: Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram | Website
Next up on this special blog event is a guest post from the extraordinary SIMON SPIER. Take it away, Si!
Greetings from Simon! Cute drawing by Becky Albertalli. 🙂
Here’s the thing: Oreos are freaking delicious and music is freaking awesome, and they should always be consumed together. Because I love you so much (and especially because I don’t feel like studying for a history quiz), I’m going to give you some very important guidelines for your eating and listening pleasure. So, with no further ado, I present:
- Between the Bars by Elliott Smith/Oreo fudge bars (http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2014/08/oreo-fudge-bars-recipe.html)
- Heard Them Stirring by the Fleet Foxes/ Oreos stirred with milk
- Black Sand by Jenny Lewis/Finely ground Oreos
- Tower Song by Martha Wainwright/tall stack of Oreos
- Time to Pretend by MGMT/ Golden Oreos
- Frozen by Tegan and Sara/Oreo ice cream
- Dark Matter by Andrew Bird/Oreo butter (http://www.thekitchenpaper.com/oreo-cookie-butter/)
- Things That Scare Me by Neko Case/Watermelon Oreos
Wow! Who would have thought that eating Oreos could have a soundtrack? ONLY SIMON! 🙂 Thanks for sharing such a brilliant playlist, buddy!
In celebration of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda‘s book birthday today, I’m giving away a FINISHED HARDCOVER COPY of the book! The giveaway is open to Philippine residents only. I’m so sorry international followers! 😦
Please click on the link below to be directed to the Rafflecopter form:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
*Huge thanks to the ever amazing and generous HarperCollins Publishers for the giveaway copy!