New York Times best-selling author Ellen Hopkins recently published “Perfect,” a fictional novel about issues facing modern teenagers such as drugs, eating disorders and body image. Staff Writer Megan Goldschmidt spoke with Hopkins about the novel, her writing style and what she hopes readers will gain from reading “Perfect.”
Megan Goldschmidt: You wrote about Connor, one of the teenagers in the book, in your previous novel, “Impulse.” Why did you want to continue writing about his life?
Ellen Hopkins: The idea really came from a number of readers who came to me and wanted to know how Connor’s mom felt.
MG: In the past, you’ve written books about issues like drugs and addiction, why did you include plastic surgery and homosexuality in “Perfect?”
EH: You know I have gay characters in pretty much all my books. I kind of main stream them so they don’t always stick out. Cara’s story is kind of a coming out story but it’s not the only thing happening in her life. As far as the plastic surgery and eating disorders these are things that are affecting my readership. So a lot of times readers will come to me and ask me to write about certain things that they feel are important to write about.
MG: How do you decide what is appropriate for your young-adult fans to read?
EH: I just write the characters. There is a certain amount of censorship as far as my writing. In “Tricks” for instance it’s about prostitution so obviously there has to be more sex in that book than in some of the others. It just depends on what feels right for the characters or for a certain scene I’m writing. I want to show possible outcomes for some choices, and so by illustrating them I hope my readers will consider what you could do yourself in the situation.
MG: How long does it usually take you to write the poems at the beginning of the chapters?
EH: Sometimes it takes a really long time, and sometimes I stress. I could stress over a single poem for an hour or more and those will slow me down. But because I am interested in formatting, I’m interested in the visual and I want to keep them there. I enjoy the challenge.
MG: At the end of the book it seems two characters triumph and two fail. What do you want readers to take from this?
EH: Their failures, if you want to call them that, are probably going to be temporary because they’re teen characters. So we feel loss, and take home that we’ll hopefully learn from our failures. Sometimes we fail, and that’s true in life. That’s why at the end of this book we end at a funeral because that is a major failure that can’t be taken back.
MG: How important are the parents of your teenage characters in the book?
EH: Our parents develop who we are as people, so they sculpt who we are as children and who we become as adults. A lot of young adult novelists dismiss parents but I don’t see how you can possibly do that because the parents are why the characters are who they are.
MG: Why do you write for both young-adult audiences and adult audiences?
EH: I think there are stories that are coming to me that are adult stories. I’m doing a book on deployment and what that means to the families left behind. It will come into the adult market because I wrote that for more of an adult story line. Not so much because of the characters’ age, but the story line.