I got the chance to meet the famous Ellen Hopkins this summer at ALA in Washington DC. It was so awesome! She gave me a little writing advice and really spoke the truth. This lady has been through some tough stuff, and she’s worked through it and helped so many people with her writing.
Check out this awesome interview!
What inspired you to start writing poetry?
I’ve written poetry pretty much my entire life. Published my first poem when I was nine, and that inspired me to keep writing it, I guess. I’m a member of a poetry group here in Carson City, and have been for over a decade. So I was growing my poetry before I ever considered combining it with fiction. That was a natural move for me.
When did you know you were going to write the Crank series?
First off, I never expected it to become a series. I started Crank when my daughter went to prison. It was a way to work through the previous six years of our life, and those were six years of hell. As I wrote the book, it became clear that it was a bigger story than just mine. Too many people have lived it. I knew the book would speak to many.
Was it hard to write about something so personal?
Because I didn’t start the book [Crank] expecting publication (or even hoping for it, really), it wasn’t hard to write. The story itself was fresh in my mind, and processing it was necessary. Glass was harder to write because it explored the deeper part of her addiction. Some of those scenes were very difficult to relive.
What’s been the hardest part for writing books for you, in general?
The hardest thing is balance. Finding time to write, while promoting the other books, doing school visits, book festivals, writers conferences, etc. Plus all the everyday stuff. I still have a child in middle school, and it hasn’t been a good experience for him. So dealing with that, my husband, my grown kids and their children. My dogs. My house. My yard. Mentoring other writers as a regional adviser for SCBWI and through my poetry group. Being a friend. And now I’m writing two books a year–one YA and one adult. Yikes! Can we create a few more hours for every day?
If you could do something other than write for a living, what would you do?
I’d probably be a pilot. I love flight and aviation. I suppose that might get boring after several years, but not as boring as being an accountant. Math is not my favorite thing.
What book do you wish you’d written?
Tough question. Not sure I can name a book because all authors are so different. But there are lines in some books I’ve read and wished I’d written. I can’t quote them now, but I distinctly remember reading Laura Weiss’ Such a Pretty Girl and thinking that.
What authors inspire you the most?
Historically, I’m a huge Stephen King fan. Also Ken Kesey (who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Both are character-driven authors, and for me, character should drive every story, even genre.
What’re the best three young adult books you’ve read this year?
Amy King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz; Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere; Holly Black’s White Cat.
What’s the best advice you could give someone wanting to write a novel?
Start by building characters. Know them inside out before you sit down to write. Who are they? What does their family look like? Who are their friends? What do they need/want–and more importantly, why? Motivation is the driving factor for every great story, I think. Once you know all that, let plot flow from your characters, rather than trying to force them into an artificial plot line.
What’s your favorite cuss word?
I don’t use them often, so when I do I want to make the greatest impact. The f-word generally accomplishes that.
When you die, if there is a Supreme Being, what do you want them to say to you when they welcome you back?
I hope He thanks me for making a positive difference in this world. I believe I’m doing that and, in fact, think my writing is a ministry of sorts. Life presents many challenges, and offers up a lot of pain. But there is light beyond all the darkness. I hope my books help people reach for the light.