Monday, March 21, 2011

Interview with Lauren DeStefanos, author of WITHER

One of the most highly anticipated books this spring is WITHER by Lauren DeStefano--the first of the Chemical Garden trilogy, a brand new face to dystopia, and featuring one of the most beautiful covers made!


WITHER tells the story of a world after the fall, where males can't live past 25 years, and females can't live past 20. Women are often kidnapped, forced into harems to reproduce. Women like Rhine--taken and forced into an unwilling polygamous marriage that she must escape if she's to find her brother, return home, and maybe even fall in love...before she turns twenty and it's all too late for her.

What interests me most about the story is the ticking time bomb. The crushing pressure of knowing that there's nothing you can'll never live past a certain date. More than the extreme situation, the bleak landscape, and the tangled romance, it's the ever-present death looming over all the characters that really draws me to this story.

Luckily, I had a chance to send Lauren (who is an absolute sweetheart and way cooler than me) a few questions about herself, her book, and her writing. So, without further ado: Lauren DeStefanos!


We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know? 

The book that's shaped me the most as a writer and as a human being is probably Harold and the Purple Crayon.

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up? 

When I was very young, I was positively obsessed with the American Girl books! My parents even took me to Colonial Williamsburg for summer vacation. Somewhere around middle school, though, I fell in love with adult fiction because it was much more dramatic than books in my age group, most notably of which was The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon. I entered the world of dark and tragic and never looked back.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I didn't give it much thought. I can't say I had many finely-honed skills. Towards high school/college I thought I'd work in an office of some sort and pursue publication on the side. I never thought I'd be fortunate enough to have writing as my career.


How much of you is in your book? 

It's my every intention, when writing, to completely detach my own life from the lives of my characters. If I'm feeling sad or mad or happy, it still doesn't change the kind of day my characters are having. In fact it's sort of the opposite; the moods of my characters and the overall tone of the story can impact me. When I was writing Wither, I would spend a good eight or nine hours in Rhine's prison, and I'd go to bed feeling just exhausted and defeated, like 'Is she ever going to get out of there? Will things look up?' I just wanted her to be happy.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages? 

I wrote the first draft in under a month. This is NOT typical for me--it hasn't happened before, and it hasn't happened since. It was just an adrenaline rush, I suppose; I kept writing because I wanted to know what would happen next. I revise as I go along, so that part got integrated into the actual writing itself. I'd come up with a solid draft by the start of October, at which point I sent it to my agent. It usually took several weeks or months to hear back from editors in the past, so I tried to just put it out of my mind. But Simon & Schuster offered a pre-empt before the end of the month. The whole thing happened incredibly fast. After that, I'd say my editor and I went back and forth on revisions for a couple of months; a lot was added, but little to nothing of the original manuscript was changed.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be? 

I would never, ever tell a reader what to take away from my book. There's no wrong way to interpret a story. I've had a few readers tell me they felt guilty for liking Linden, Rhine's obligatory husband, because they don't think that's supposed to happen. But there is no 'supposed to'--if that's how you feel, it's how you feel. It's genuine.


What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?

Okay, let me first just say that I never could have anticipated having such an enthusiastic publishing team promoting this story, or the wonderful response Wither has gotten from readers and the blogosphere thus far. It's higher into the stars than I would have dared to reach. For that reason, I have no predictions for where I'll be in 5, 10, 15 or 30 years; I'm just going to keep writing, keep trying new things, and see where it takes me.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer? 

That doubts are my sworn enemy.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author? 

My advice would be not to take writing advice too seriously. What works for one author may not work for another. You, the author, knows what's in your head better than anyone else.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest? 

I would be the last person to have an accurate answer for this. I'm constantly surprised by the reactions others have to my stories and the things readers take away from them.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have? 

This is not a peeve exactly, but when I'm really in the trenches of a manuscript and things have gotten intense, I get a rash on the back of my hand.

Just comment on the interview in the post here, and then check out Lauren's guest post and comment on the League, and you're entered to win a copy of WITHER! Open internationally--please leave your email address if it's not in your profile so I can get in touch with you. The winner will be announced on Wednesday at noon EST. 
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