"The Spindlers" is Lauren Oliver's second novel for middle-grade… (HarperCollins )
Novelist Lauren Oliver has only been a published author for two years, but in that short time, she's racked up three New York Times bestsellers for her young-adult novels, a movie deal, and two books for middle-grade readers, the most recent of which has received five-star reviews. We caught up with the Brooklyn-based author as she was packing her bags to go on tour for "The Spindlers," a middle-grade title about a girl who ventures into a secret underground to save her brother from soul-sucking spiders. Oliver, 29, will be talking and signing books at Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book in La Verne on Wednesday night.
You've had so much success writing for young adults. The first two titles in your "Delirium" series were both New York Times bestsellers. Your first book, "Before I Fall," wasn't only a bestseller, it's been optioned by Fox 2000 Films. Why did you want to branch out into middle-grade titles with "Liesl & Po" and now "The Spindlers?"
Some of my biggest influences were from that time when I first discovered a love of reading: Roald Dahl's "Matilda," C.S. Lewis, some great classics, which would be characterized as middle-grade. There's still something magical about those early experiences of discovering a portal into another place and world.
Which is the plot line of "The Spindlers." Why do you make Liza travel to the place called Below?
Having been a big Lewis Carroll fan, that world is a playground. You can just really exert your own imagination, so it gave me this fertile place in which to generate creatures and whole geographies and really draw from myths and some of my classical influences. It was just fun.
All of your books have female protagonists. Is that intentional?
It's funny. I've gotten that question a lot recently. It's not so much a conscious choice, but I am a girl, so probably I'm naturally more inclined to thinking about girls and their world and their psyche.
Is there any difference in crafting a compelling protagonist for a middle-grade audience versus teens?
There are certain parts of writing that are really deliberate. There's a certain amount of world-building and decision-making, but there's this whole alchemy of writing that happens unconsciously. There's almost like a Dr. Frankenstein-type of writing. You're trying to create a main character to make a piece of the world start living and that becomes your guide to the book. So if I create a heroine who's 11 years old and feels realistically 11 or 12 with the realistic concerns of an 11 or 12 year old, I don't have to worry that in the middle of a story she'll want to stop and go to a bar.
In "The Spindlers," Liza discovers her little brother's soul has been stolen and she ventures to get it back. Where did Liza come from?
She's an amalgamation of me and my sister. My sister's name is Lizzie, in fact. She's very adventurous, loyal, imaginative and also stubborn. She sees the world differently. She understands there's magic concealed beneath the ordinary. She lives a life of imagination, which was certainly true of both me and my sister.
What can we expect to read from you next?
I recently sold a super-secret middle-grade series. I don't even know when it's coming out, but I'm in the middle of writing it. My last book in the "Delirium" series is with the editor. I've written another young-adult standalone called "Panic." That will be out in 2014. And then I sold an adult book, so that's the next thing I'm working on right now. It doesn't represent a permanent departure from teen. It just represents that I'm going to try to do all things whenever they appeal to me.
That's a lot of books.
I write every day, so it just adds up. I write 1,000 words every day, or when I'm working on two books, 1,250 words. I'm constantly inspired by things I hear and see. I'm always feeling like there's not enough time to write all the books I want to write.