Spotlight: The One Where I Interview Rainbow Rowell!

Hello lovely readers! In case you are wondering whether the headliner is, in fact, true…IT IS! I had the tremendous and thrilling- and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity- to meet Rainbow Rowell, the New York Times bestselling author of hits such as Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, Carry On, and more! 

Thanks to a generous prize draw courtesy of Raincoast Books and the author, I had a chance to interview Rainbow Rowell before a special author event featuring Rainbow and acclaimed graphic novelist (and Pumpkinheads illustrator!) Faith Erin Hicks took place. Rainbow and Faith were doing an author event on behalf of their graphic novel collaboration Pumpkinheads, which released in August of this year. Rainbow also welcomed the publication of Wayward Son, book two in the Simon Snow series, in late September of this year.

After opening with a congratulations to Rainbow on the release of both Pumpkinheads and Wayward Son, I had to mention that my first introduction to Rainbow’s work was, in fact, her debut novel Attachments -a novel I love very dearly- and one that Rainbow called a ‘sleeper’.

Onto the questions we go, and I hope you all enjoy! 

Regarding collaborative work with artist Faith Erin Hicks and your graphic novel Pumpkinheads: how did this project come about? 

Rainbow had expressed interest via Twitter in writing a graphic novel and an editor from First Second reached out to her to take her up on the offer! After agreeing to work together on Pumpkinheads, Rainbow and Faith met for the first time before starting work on their graphic novel.


Did you feel less pressure as a creator knowing you had a partner there with you responsible for and supporting the project with you? 
Rainbow mentioned that she actually felt more pressure as a co-creator than as a solo creator: when you’re working with a partner, there is someone else is depending on you! That being said, Rainbow said that the experience of collaborating with Faith was delightful and joyful; you have a person surprising you with their work and taking what you’ve done to a place you could never have expected (in this case, bringing a script to life with artwork!).


Has there been a reader reaction to one of your published books that has surprised you the most? (e.g. the intense love of the Simon and Baz coupling? Or something else?)

Rainbow has found that it surprising that readers have been so invested in the couple/coupling of Simon and Baz- and how investment in that couple seems to transcend the books. A second reader reaction that has surprised Rainbow: readers’ affection for the character of Micah (introduced in Carry On). Rainbow noted that he is such a small part in the novel- a character that we don’t even meet!- that reader fondness is somewhat unexpected. But, as Rainbow added, it could be that because readers care so much about the character of Penelope, anyone important to her will be important to readers!  A third and final surprising reaction from readers that surprised Rainbow: complaints that Fangirl ends all too abruptly!


Regarding Wayward Son: Did the intensity of readers’ affection for Simon and Baz (or for any of the main characters) ever interfere or weigh in somehow on your sequel writing plans?
As an intense fan of things she herself loves, Rainbow does worry about making her own fans happy. But! She said that she has to establish clear boundaries for herself between her writing and what the fans want from her writing. Rainbow has seen creators get frustrated with their fan bases, and notes that she does not want to be on the receiving end of her fans telling her ’what to do’. When Rainbow sees her fans telling her (sometimes with great vitriol!) ‘don’t do this’, or ‘you better do this’, she has to take a step back so she won’t respond or write something reactionary. With this question, we also veer a little bit off here into talk about social media and the dangers that lurk within. Rainbow notes that she tries not to pay too much attention to the publishing industry goings-on, or gossip, as it can make her feel anxious. As compared to arguably high-level fame authors such as John Green or Cassandra Clare, Rainbow feels as though her level of fame makes being online and talking to readers more manageable.


Which new character introduced in Wayward Son has garnered the most reaction from readers? Has it surprised you? 

Shepard! The overall reaction, Rainbow said, has been positive to this character! She also noted here that she wanted to have a person representing Omaha in the book! There were conscious decisions in writing Wayward Son to move space to characters like Agatha, Penny, as well as new characters like Shepard and Lamb. Rainbow has also heard from readers who have read Wayward Son that think there is a possible romance between Shepard and Agatha looming…(my personal thought on this is that there is more likely a romance looming between Shepard and Penelope, but we shall see!). When asked if I was worried about Shepard being a ‘bad guy’ of a character in Wayward Son, I said that I was only at first, but then loved him the more I learned and read about him. Some readers have also asked Rainbow if she is Shepard (as the character of Shepard, as like Rainbow, hails from Omaha!), but she categorically states that she is not. Shepard is, as Rainbow describes, overly optimistic, super capable, as well as an extrovert!


Is there a book of yours that you would like to see adapted into a film or TV series? 

Rainbow feels that Pumpkinheads and Landline both lend themselves pretty well to a movie/screen adaption, and that not much work is needed there for adaptation. For example, regarding the main characters in Pumpkinheads, Josiah and Deja: everything you need for them is all on the page, they are full developed and ready to be on screen.


Is there one of your books that you would fiercely protect against adaptation? 
Interestingly enough, Rainbow mentioned that she is the most cautious about Eleanor & Park being adapted, though that is actually the book that is in development as we speak! She is cautious about many things regarding this reader-beloved adaption: who has taken on the project, the studio behind it, the cast. Rainbow added that she thinks the main characters in Eleanor & Park are more vulnerable than most of her fictional characters, and it would be easy to get them wrong.


What are the top three books currently on your to-be-read list?
With the caveat that she does not read fantasy novels while writing and working on fantasy novels herself, here are Rainbow’s top three: Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House; Holly Black’s Folk of the Air Trilogy; and Jo Walton’s Lent (she also mentioned that Jo Walton is her favourite author!).


If you are able to speak to them, what is a project (or projects) for 2020 that you’re excited to share with readers?
Two things to share!  First: more Marvel Runaways comics! There are currently four volumes out, with another column collection to be released in the spring of 2020. Second: a surprising bit of news coming soon related to an existing books! That’s all Rainbow can divulge at this time, so keep an eye and ear out for news coming soon!


I would like to extend a mighty thank you to Rainbow Rowell for her time and consideration of my questions, as well as to the kind folks at Raincoast Books for organizing this wonderful opportunity. It was such a fabulous, fun- and happily surreal- experience!

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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