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Monday, April 30, 2012

Authors Unlimited

On Saturday I headed to St. Joseph's College in Long Island for Authors Unlimited: a day-long smorgasbord of authors, readers, writers, and...pasta salad? Oh, yes, my friends.
After napping in the car (I brought my own pillow), I arrived refreshed and ready to go, with the exception of the rather unbecoming coffee stain that resulted from my attempts to caffeinate in a moving vehicle. (My first words to my greeters? "I just spilled coffee on my butt." Perhaps not the most elegant greeting.)
My escorts for the day were two lovely teens from a neighboring high school, Alice and Melissa, who fired intelligent questions at me and spoke of their own creative aspirations. 
Throughout the day, they were there to joke with me, lead me through the maze of hallways and events, and of course, keep that caffeine flowing.
There was a limo ride and a marching band, and even fans waving pom-poms! It was the first, but hopefully not the last, time I have walked the red carpet.

I participated in a panel with awesome authors like Jenny Han, Adele Griffin, Lisa Greenwald, and George O'Connor; the other writers could have doubled for stand-up comics, so I had to bring my A-game.
Afterward, I did three individual sessions (and ate four plates of pasta salad in rapid succession--talking makes me hungry!). Many of the attendees were aspiring writers, and all of them were avid readers, and we had dynamic discussions about everything from discipline and work habits to the Hunger Games movie.
Lastly was a signing, and a chance to talk one-on-one with my fans.
All in all, an amazing day, especially since I got to go home with a bag full o' swag and some homemade cookies!

Friday, April 27, 2012


It's time for another writing challenge! I know I haven't done one of these for a while, so I'll give you all a quick refresher on the rules. I will give a prompt. In response, you will have two weeks to write a 200 word creative response and e-mail it to me laurenoliverbooks@gmail.com in the next two weeks. I will pick 3-4 of your submissions to showcase on this very blog!

The prompt for this challenge is. . . awkward! No, really, awkward is the prompt. What does awkward mean to you? Is it blurting out you like someone, only to have him/her confess to liking your best friend? Is it the moment at graduation your uncle gets drunk and confesses he wished he'd married your mother instead of her sister? Is it your father trying to give you advice on the birds and bees, or your mom asking your advice on the very same subject? Or is it (like the image above) when someone gives you a present that you just have no idea what to do with! Take this anywhere you want, so long as the prevailing theme is a moment of supreme and skin-crawling awkwardness.

Remember, you have two weeks so get it in before May 11th!
Happy Writing!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What leaves Fiona Paul Breathless?

So this week, Penguin has been announcing its five "Breathless Reads" titles for autumn, and I am thrilled that my friend and collaborator Fiona Paul has made the list with her stunning debut Venom, which takes sexytime, then multiplies it by Venice, throws in dash of gondola-makeout-sessions, and raises it by the power of a hottie artist. Uh-huh. You heard me. That's SCIENCE. Check out Fiona's blog here: http://fionapaulbooks.blogspot.com/2012/04/i-am-breathless.html for more about the announcement, and you can find a description of Venom on goodreads.

Since Venom will no doubt leave its readers breathless, I thought it would be fun to return the favor by asking Fiona to name some things that leave her breathless. Check out what she has to say:

  1. Scary haunted houses. I know a lot of haunted houses are lame, but there is one outside of St. Louis called Terror Cave that is actually built inside of a natural cavern. The ‘rooms’ focus on providing lots of hiding places for the amazing live actors. These actors not only separate you from your friends, but also chase you all throughout the cave (especially if you shriek like a tiny schoolgirl, as I apparently do.) Last Halloween, I stumbled out of Terror Cave literally gasping for breath.
    Vintage 80's Cover!
  1. Horror novels. On the adult side, I’ve read just about everything Dean Koontz has ever written. He does both supernatural and realistic horror so well. On the YA side, I remember tearing through Christopher Pike books when I was in grade school and then sleeping with the lights on and the door to my room locked. Some of my favorites are Slumber Party, Chain Letter, Weekend, and Spellbound. I don’t even know if those books are still in print, but just thinking about them makes me want to read them again!
  1. Breathtaking views. Breathless isn’t just about being scary. As a former rock climber (hey, I’ll still go if anyone is interested) turned avid hiker, I love the view from up high. I also love the ocean. Here are a couple of breathtaking views from some of my favorite vacation spots.
Bryce Canyon, Utah. 

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand.
New Zealand wins the prize for most breathless place on the entire planet. Beaches, mountains, fjords, waterfalls, jungles, volcanoes, and big cities too? What more could anyone possibly ask for?

  1. Stunning works of art and architecture. I’m lucky to have traveled a lot, and there are so many jaw-dropping things to see that narrowing this down to a couple was excruciating.
Notre Dame, Paris. 
Michaelangelo's David, Florence. 
Okay, technically I have only seen The Gosling on the silver screen, but are those pecs and abs not a work of art? (Suddenly Michaelangelo’s David looks like he needs to hit the gym.)

5. And finally, the last thing that makes me breathless (and, to be honest, terrified, excited, honored, surprised, and as giddy as a little girl who unwraps a pony on Christmas) is the chance to be part of Penguin Teen’s Breathless Reads campaign for Fall 2012!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thoughts on Plot pt. 1

Contrary to the classic writing adage that instructs us to “write what we know,” writers often have to force their poor characters into situations that they themselves would never attempt. For this reason, being a book character has got to be one of the worstjobs ever. Your whole life is determined by an evil mastermind who will always sacrifice your well-being for the sake of narrative tension.

For example: In my own life, I tend to shy away from conflict, particularly with my close friends and family. Who likes to get angry? Who wants to feel as though what you want directly contradicts what someone else wants? I'm not saying I'm afraid to stand up for myself, but I don't go around picking fights, either, and I'm usually pretty quick to apologize if I think someone is mad at me.

Unfortunately for my characters, tolerating sustained conflict is probably the number one thing writers need to learn to do when they're plotting a book. The central element of plot is conflict. At its most basic, person A wants one thing; person B doesn't want them to have it, for whatever reason. Romeo and Juliet want to get married; their parents won't let them because of an old family grudge. Frodo wants to be a normal Hobbit, Gandalf thinks he is the best choice to protect the ring. Bella wants to be on equal terms with her boyfriend, and he wants to protect her soul. Or maybe he wants to eat her? (Confession: I never made it through Twilight.)

Weirdly, it can be just as hard to allow your characters to exist for protracted periods of time in “bad” or “difficult” situations as it is to allow conflict in your personal life. On the fourth day of Before I Fall, which I think of as Sam's “darkest day,” Sam is fighting with her friends and her parents. She is kind-of almost-sexually assaulted by her teacher. She feels broken and worthless.

This was not an easy scene to write. As Sam becomes increasingly despondent and then increasingly wild--as she acts out by provoking the attention of Mr. Daimler, and then must suffer the consequences--it was hard not to feel like someone in a horror movie screaming, “No, don't go in the basement!” I hated having to do this to Sam. I hated placing her in this position. But I knew I needed to heighten the central conflict of the novel: Before I Fall is really the story of a girl warring against herself.

Remember: by putting your characters through the ringer, we create a space for readers to reflect on conflict and difficulty without experiencing it directly. We illustrate the need for and the great power of resolution.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Great New Illustrations

I was incredibly excited today to open a package and find the Catalan version of Liesl & Po (or La história de Liesl i Po)! It's always fascinating to see the way cover art is reconceived by my international publishers. In this edition I was additionally struck by the beautiful interior
illustrations by Ramón Rosanas, which I had not yet seen. I've posted some of them below. Cool, huh?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Although it has already been announced elsewhere, I'm so excited to officially announce on my blog that I have sold my very first adult book, ROOMS, which will be coming out in the Fall of 2014! It is always a ridiculously happy and surreal occasion when I sell a new book, but this venture in particular marks two important milestones.

First is the opportunity to work with Ecco, which has housed so many amazing writers and books (such as Russell Banks, a personal favorite). It's just an unbelievable honor to be edited by such a deeply literary imprint.

Secondly: as previously described, ROOMS will be my first published novel officially for adults! (I say "officially" because 1) my teen books have many wonderful and dedicated adult fans and 2) I hope many of the teens who have read and loved my other books will find pleasure in reading ROOMS). While I love writing for young adult and middle grade readers – and will continue to do so – I've always wanted to work in as many genres, and for as many ages, as possible. It's amazing to have the opportunity to really embrace this as a really fun challenge, and push myself creatively. I think the best way to keep yourself growing and learning as an artist is to constantly explore and try new things, and I'm just so psyched to do that with with this book!

Who knows? Maybe next I'll write a children's picture book so I'll have readers from the cradle to the grave!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sneak Peek: Spread the Deliria

Coming Soon....

Join the Resistance!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Long and Winding Road: Book To Film

People often ask me whether I'm afraid the film version of my books won't be "faithful," or won't adequately live up to the book itself. Usually, I say I-don't-care-just-get-me-to-the-red-carpet-and-buy-me-a-pretty-dress, but I thought I'd take a moment to give a slightly more thoughtful response.

I recently read the first draft of the excellent Delirium script. (Did you know that Delirium was on its way to the big screen? Oh, yeah, baby.) I felt the script was remarkably faithful to the book, which is fascinating, because it managed to condense 400-ish pages into a slender, moving, and breakneck-paced script of about, I don't know, 120 pages (and much of that was margin space!).

It got me thinking. So...did I use too many words as I was writing it? Would it have been possible for me to lop the book in thirds? Or is the script too condensed, too crystallized--is it missing key elements?

The answer to both questions is, I think, no. Film is a visual medium. That means its tools, is language, is totally different from the tools I employ as a novel writer. And maybe that's why I've never really "feared" that something would get lost in translation. I mean, yes, bad movie adaptations happen, but I think that in order for books to become good movies, they must transform. Being faithful to the book must mean that you are willing, onscreen, to depart from what was on the page. Just like any other translation, sometimes in order to preserve the spirit, you must alter things structurally, grammatically. And film has a far different grammar than fiction.

When I re-read the Delirium script, I realized that certain things had really changed. I hadn't noticed these alterations on first read because the script felt like a faithful interpretation to me. The spirit was there, and that's what's important to preserve.

As the French like to say...plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose...[The more things change, the more they are the same.]

So...bring on the pretty dresses and the red carpet! I'm super excited about seeing Delirium and am already brainstorming cast ideas. Any suggestions for Alex? ;)

xo Lauren

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's the End of The World As We Know It

...And I feel GREAT!

Some people have predicted that the apocalypse will arrive on December 21st, 2012, but I think we all just might implode before that, possibly as early as this Sunday, April 15th, when a whole host of dystopian worlds collide at Books of Wonder in NYC.

I am THRILLED to be reading at one of my favorite bookstores, BoW, with three incredibly talented young authors, Including Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me), Veronica Rossi (Under The Never Sky), and Anna Carey (Eve). And you should be thrilled too!

So please, please join us at Books of Wonder, from 1-3 pm, for a reading, a signing, and of course, a Q&A.

Can't wait to see you!

Monday, April 9, 2012

More Things I Learned On Tour (Now That It's Finally Over)

1—I am not “hardy.” Maybe I should have recognized this before; but I am just not one of those can-do, full-of-gumption people who powers on despite fatigue, hunger, and loss of sleep. No. When I am hungry, I get cranky. I like my nine hours of sleep, thankyouverymuch. And I am still suffering from jetlag so severe that all I can do is sit on the couch, wearing a hood, complaining about being cold and tired until my fiancé offers to get me soup to shut me up. If this were the 1800s, I’d be dead of consumption. Or apoplexy. Or whatever weaklings died of back then.

2—I could listen to tree frogs sing every night. I was truly moved by Australia’s beauty. Sydney is a stunning city, interwoven with harbors, parks, and bridges. I loved Melbourne, too, which, because of its narrow byways, cobblestone streets, and sidewalk cafes, reminded me very much of a European city. (Brisbane, I didn’t get to see ANY of your fair city...or I’m sure I would love you too!). But what I liked best was the thrumming of what I think were tree frogs, as well as the many bizarre bird calls that occasionally scared the sh$t out of me when I was strolling through the streets.

3—Australian wine is delicious. So is Australian coffee. But you will pay dearly for it. Truth be told, I had known about the coffee already. My favorite coffee place in Brooklyn, DUB pies, serves Australian-style coffee. Fun fact: I actually thank DUB pies in the acknowledgements of Before I Fall, for keeping me hopped up on caffeine and ready to work. As for the price...WTF?? Australia is hands-down the most expensive place I’ve ever been, and I’m counting Jimmy’z in Monaco! I come from New York City, and I was shocked.

4—Books are a cross-cultural language. I suppose this is true of any “special interest” group (weird to think of reading as a special interest, but it is), but I was really struck during my travels to the opposite side of the world that the love of books, the experience of reading and being swept away by story, is transcendent. It renders cultural and even linguistic barriers negligible—everyone understands when you say, “Harry Potter changed my life.” And yet because of that, my time abroad felt weirdly and wonderfully mundane. Book people are the same all over the place.

5—As Dorothy said, there really is no place like home. :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writing Advice You've Never Heard Before!

How many times have you been told to "show, not tell," or that it's important to "write what you know?"
While these tried- and true- adages about writing are important, equally important are the tactics and habits that good writers develop unconsciously, and that thus often fail to make their way into any Beginning Writer's Handbook.

1--Turn off your ipod. Writing is about people—how they communicate, behave, and interact. You can only learn about people through observation, so rather than cranking the ipod when you’re on the subway, street, or bus, listen to people instead. Cultivate the fine art of eavesdropping, and of spying on people while pretending to be staring blankly into space. Go ahead and peep if you have to! Just don’t get arrested.

2--Go to therapy. You know how I said that writing is about people, and how they behave, speak, and interact? Well, it’s also about what they feel. And you’ll never have better access to feelings than to your own. You need to understand them, to think about what motivates and frightens you, what brings you happiness or provokes anxiety. So get a therapist! If you can’t afford a shrink, spend some time journaling your thoughts, or meet with friends for a good old heart-to-heart. Bonus? You’ll get closer with your friends.

3--Go stir-crazy. Imagination is a skill. Like any other skill, it can be strengthened through habit--and conversely, will run to seed if it isn’t exercised, like a butt that gets parked too often on a couch). Actually, butts and imagination have a lot in common: TV and endless web surfing takes a toll on each. It’s so easy, nowadays, to take refuge in worlds that have already been imagined for us—in books, movies, webisodes, cute kitten videos on Youtube. But that means that our own imaginative capacity never gets its workout. Power down the ipads, nooks, kindles, TV, and computers for a day, and feel that crazy, itchy, gotta-do-something-cuz-real-life-is-boring burn. Start daydreaming. Start fantasizing. Think yourself into different characters and different worlds.

4—Delete Angry Birds from your phone. Writing is hard. Writing often sucks. And unless you’re paid a gajillion dollars to write already, you’re probably trying to juggle writing while in school, or working, or popping out babies, or all of the above. There will always be many competing claims for your time and attention. But you know what? All of us—even the busiest among us--have five minutes here and there when we’re alone, and bored, and we surf facebook or start lobbing birds at various architecturally unsound structures. And instead of doing that, we should be writing. I wrote Before I Fall while commuting between a full time job, full-time graduate school, and part-time work at a nightclub. In spare moments on the subway or yes, in the bathroom, I typed paragraphs on my Blackberry, later emailing them to myself so I could cut and paste into a word doc. Two hundred words is better than no words. Forty words is better than no words—and if you have time to compose that pithy tweet, you have time to bang out forty words.

5--Be selfish. See entry #4. Right now, as you’re reading this, you probably should be doing something else: laundry, data entry for your boss, homework, calling mom. . .The list of obligations we’re all trying to juggle on a daily basis could fill a novel in itself (a really boring novel, but a novel nonetheless). It’s really hard to make time for writing, especially before you’ve been paid to do it; writing time usually comes dead last on a list on the list of Important To-Dos. But it shouldn’t. If you love it, it should be a daily part of your life. Period. Train yourself to value it above almost everything else except, I don’t know, peeing and eating. You can go without clean socks for a day—no one will notice. You can talk to your friends tomorrow or over the weekend. Writing is just as important as your homework. And take-out exists for a reason. Make time to write. Pretend you’re already getting paid for it, and one day you will be.

6--Take a humiliating job. I’ve worked in a variety of service jobs in my life I’ve waitressed at a rowdy Canadian bar in Paris where ex-pats liked to puke up their poutine in the bathroom; I’ve worked in swanky clubs where the patrons thought it was funny to insult the servers (when they weren’t trying to grab your ass). I’ve been called every bad name in the book—and some that aren’t in it—by leering, drunken a-holes with nothing better to do. And you know what? I’m glad. As a writer, you have to be prepared for hard criticism, rejection, and humiliation. You have to develop a thick skin, and a desire to persevere, even when you feel like crawling into a hole and putting a blanket over your head...preferably until you suffocate. So get your practice early. Toughen up. Get insulted. Get rejected and criticized. And let it roll off your back. That way, the first round of rejection letters won’t even phase you. Or the second. Or the third.

Bonus? You’ll have interesting backstory when you finally land that feature profile in the New York Times!

7—Develop a gym habit. This is strange, but half of my breakthrough ideas have occurred when I’m at the gym or taking a long run. I think it has something to do with relaxation: the brain, typically dominated by everyday concerns about bills, dinner, relationship issues, future plans, detaches from “conscious” worries, which permits the subconscious mind to start firing out ideas. If huffing on a treadmill isn’t your idea of relaxation, try yoga, or knitting, or something physical and repetitive that allows your conscious mind to “switch off.” Bonus? A hot body...or hand-knitted scarves for all your friends and fam at Christmas. :)

8—Shower more. You know how I said that half my breakthrough ideas have occurred when I’m exercising? The other half have hit me when I’m in the shower. (See above for my theories on relaxation and the unconscious mind.) So steam up your bathroom and soap up. Bonus? Your significant other will thank you!

Let me know what you think!



Content by Lauren Oliver - Copyright 2011. Blog designed by Ella Press Studio - 2011.

Author Photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie - Copyright 2010. Original Font Idea by Erin Fitzsimmons - 2010.