Questions for Alyson Noël
Q. Riley Bloom first appears in Evermore, book one in your New York Times–bestselling Immortals Series. What inspired you to create a middle-grade series dedicated to Riley?
I had so much fun writing Riley’s character in Evermore that she ended up getting a much bigger part than I’d planned. She just kept showing up—usually in some crazy wig and costume—and I kept indulging her because she was so enjoyable to have around. So, when my publisher approached me to create a series for Riley, I jumped at the chance—and I’m so glad I did. The Riley Bloom series is an absolute blast to write!
Q. Shimmer is your second middle-grade novel. How is the experience writing for tweens different than writing for young adults?
I’ll be honest, as excited as I was to get started on Riley’s adventures, when I first sat down to write, I had a moment of panic. I was so used to writing teens and adults that I just wasn’t sure I could create a twelve-year-old protagonist who could carry an entire book. But when I realized that I didn’t have to write a twelve-year-old per se, as no two are alike, that I only had to write Riley, a character I already knew and loved, the story began to flow and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had writing a book.
I love writing YA, because there is just so much territory to explore, and since writing Riley’s book, I’ve found that to be even more so. Even though she’s dead, Riley has an entire future yawning before her just waiting to be discovered, and it’s that part of the journey that makes it so much fun!
Q. In Shimmer, Riley faces her biggest challenge yet when she encounters Rebecca. What makes Rebecca’s story all the more intense is that it’s based on a true story of a slave revolt in St. John’s Island in 1733. How did you discover this little-known period in history? Do you often turn to moments in history to enhance your writing?
One of the fun parts about writing Riley’s character is that I can send her to any far-flung location in the world in order to deal with a ghost from any period in time—her being dead means she has none of the usual boundaries! So while I was researching an exotic location for Shimmer, I came across the story of the 1733 St. John slave revolt, and knew it would provide the perfect background for the kind of story I wanted to tell.
Q. As Riley learns more about her mentor Bodhi in Shimmer, she discovers he had an experience with bullying that is still haunting him. Bullying is an unfortunately popular subject these days. Do you feel it’s especially important to address this issue for your middle-grade fans?
Definitely. I was bullied as a kid, and though it went on for five horrible years, the effects of that experience lingered much longer. Unfortunately back then, it was a topic that no one was willing to discuss, much less acknowledge. And I had neither the tools to deal with it, nor access to anyone or anything that could help me find my way through it. It’s a subject I’ve explored in some of my previous books, and in light of all the recent bullying-related tragedies, I felt it was time to explore it again.
Q. Shimmer ends with some exciting hints at what might be in store for Riley as she continues her journey as a Soul Catcher. What can readers look forward to in Dreamland, the next installment in the Riley Bloom Series?
In Dreamland, Riley sets out to find the place where all dreams are created, hoping to send a message to her sister, Ever, but instead, she finds herself trapped in a nightmare created solely for her. . . .
Q. Evermore was your first paranormal novel and a departure from your seven previous books, yet it debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. What inspired you to try writing a novel in this genre?
I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal, so I’m kind of surprised I didn’t try my hand at it earlier. But, as my stories are often inspired by my own life experiences, it wasn’t until a few years ago when I went through an intense period of grief after losing three loved ones in five months—and then shortly after nearly losing my husband as well—that I was ready to explore concepts of the afterlife, the soul’s journey, and immortality in my writing.
Q. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? When did you decide to pursue writing professionally?
Well first, I wanted to be a princess, and then a mermaid, but it was after I read my first Judy Blume book back in sixth grade that I knew I wanted to be a writer. And though I took the occasional writing class through the years and read a lot of books on the subject, it wasn’t until the tragic events of 9/11, when I was working as a flight attendant out of New York City, that I decided to finally go after my dream. About two and a half years later, I landed my first book deal for my debut novel, Faking 19, and I’ve been at it ever since!
Q. You are a New York Times–, USA Today– and Publishers Weekly–bestselling, award-winning author published in 35 countries, with over 3 million books in print in the U.S. alone. Did you ever dream of this level of success?
I definitely dreamed of it, but it always seemed so hazy and distant, and just out of reach—so, to have it actually happen was a very surreal, enormously rewarding moment!
Q. You were raised by a single mother, and money was not abundant growing up. How has your life changed since Evermore debuted on the New York Times bestseller list in 2009?
I’ve been working since I was twelve, when my parents’ divorce sent my mom to work as a department stores sales clerk, and the minimum wage she earned barely covered the necessities. I pitched in with babysitting gigs until I turned sixteen and went to work in retail, as well. So, while I’m definitely enjoying this newfound abundance, I still work as hard as ever, it’s just what I do, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon!
Q. Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free Productions, has recently optioned your adult novel Fly Me to the Moon for development. Is there any movie talk for your young adult novels?
Oh, I’ve been champing at the bit on this one—and I can’t wait until I get the okay to announce it! But for now, all I can say is that we are very, very, (very!) close to signing a contract with a major studio with an impressive track record for these kinds of projects!!
Q. What can fans expect to see next from Alyson Noël?
Well, Shimmer is coming soon! It will be in stores on March 15, 2011, and will be followed by the final installment in the Immortals series, Everlasting, in stores Summer 2011, and another Riley book in Fall 2011. So, it will be a busy year! Then, I’ll begin a new YA series, Soul Seekers, which is set to debut in 2012!