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. 


Renee Collins said...

When I was seven, my twin sister and I swore an oath in blood that we would get American Girl dolls. (Not kidding.)

I wanted Felicity, but alas, never got her. I guess my soul belongs to the devil now or something. Not really sure how that works.

Thanks for the contest, Beth!! I'd LOVE to win Wither!

email: 1wrenbird AT gmail DOT com

Erin W. said...

Awesome interview! Can't wait to read the book and of course . . . an awesome contest!

Erin W. x


Victoria Stewart said...

I want this book soooo bad! I've heard nothing but good things, and the cover is absolutely mesmerizing!

Victoria S.

Unknown said...

I am so excited for this book. Viruses, feminism, and dystopia—oh my! Oh, and Felicity was my favorite American Girl too.

I would really love a copy of Wither: skrolled (at) gmail

Sasha said...

I wish I could write a first draft in under month, even just once!

I always wanted American Girl things, but I also wanted a my size barbie doll, neither I got but I guess I could always byy it wouldn't be weird, right?

I saw Wither the other day at work, and had to look at it immediately. I will definitely be reading it one way or another :)

email: cs_gal15 AT hotmail DOT com

Kimberly (ksmeza) said...

I am absolutely eager to read Wither!
It's great that everone can interpret books different ways I love seeing things from all different angles and that's the best part of it all you aren't wrong :)

thanks for the chance to win Wither

Sarah Lydia said...

I can't wait to read Whither!
I remember when I read American Girl books. I was at target and wanted one that was called a guide to boys or something and my mom was like "you're too young for boys!" it was very embarrassing for the seven year old me :)

Sarah Lydia said...

oh, and my email address is:

Knighton said...

I would love to win a book! My daughter and I read YA together and then we share with her friends and/or my students. Thanks for the contest. It sounds like an amazing book and the cover looks amazing.

Anonymous said...

Great questions! So insightful...loved Harold and the Purple Crayon too! Congrats on getting published, Lauren!

~Enamored Soul~ said...

First of all, thank you so much for the interview and hosting this giveaway!

I can completely relate to Lauren DeStefano on her writing method. So many people think that the writer's mood influences the character's outcome - when in reality, as a writer, the character becomes like a real entity to me, and their mood affects me far more. As a matter of fact, sometimes I face difficulty in completing a given manuscript BECAUSE I know that it will probably not end well for my character, and I want to postpone the inevitable.

And I absolutely adore that as a writer, she does not impose a certain opinion onto her readers. What they take from the book is up to the reader.

Thank you so much, yet again, Beth for hosting this giveaway, and for this wonderful informative post! Love it!

Email: or Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com

Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

Corinne O said...

this book sounds absolutely terrific! I would love to win a copy.
THank you for the contest and the awesome posts at both blogs!

oflynn at gmail dot com

Sherrie Petersen said...

This is one of the books I've been eager to get my hands on. I love the premise. And omigosh, what a gorgeous trailer! Thanks for the great interview and the chance to win :)

Jessica316 said...

Great interview!
I can't wait to read this book, Thank you for the giveaway!

Unknown said...

Great interview. I totally want this book.

Unknown said...

Beth, thanks for that inspiring interview with Lauren. And I loved her guest blog over at the League. I'm more motivated than ever. I can't wait to read Wither. And yes, it is a gorgeous cover.

Unknown said...

P.S. my email address is

Vivien said...

I loved her post! It was just adorable!! I can't wait to read her novel, it's been getting such high raves. And who doesn't love that cover?

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

TheGirlOnFire said...

I still have my American Girl doll, Samantha. My niece loves that she gets to play with her and all my outfits! Great interview!

Stephanie- thegirlonfire
thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

NeuroHormone said...

Hm. The book I'm reading has a big influence on my general mood.

Thank you for the contest! Have a great day!

email adress:

Misty said...

I pre-ordered this book I've been that excited. I think its a really great idea! Thanks for the interview. I love the wonderful author/reader relationship that blogging provides. Its a great way to learn more about my favourite books :)

Thanks Beth and Lauren


Anonymous said...

Great interview! I love the behind the scenes look at authors and their books. cwinn AT satx Dot rr Dot com

Kay said...

We have several American Girl dolls in my daughter's collection, but I must say I was disappointed when they came out with Julie--the decade of my childhood can't be history, yet!
Wither sounds fantastic!
kaymcgriff at gmail dot com

Anita Saxena said...

Congratulations on the success! And doubts are my sworn enemy too.

anitasaxena at yahoo dot com

Diane said...

Sounds completely intense and yes, one of the most gorgeous covers ever!!! :O)

estrella8888 at roadrunner dot com

CJ said...

I am really excited to read this book! I had a friend just finish it a couple of days ago and she gave it 5 stars.. :) Thanks for the interview and the chance to win!

email: shortcut_2_mushrooms(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)nz

Ann Eisenstein said...

Great interview! I, of course, want to read the book now! Thanks for the opportunity to win my very own copy!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I read Wither as an eGalley last week. Beautifully disturbing. Great interview, ladies!

To me, Linden was very Ashley Wilkes: sweet and totally out of touch.

Stephanie Lorée said...

This book first caught my eye when I saw its cover and read the premise. Congratualtions to Ms DeStefanos! It looks fab, good lady.

stephanie AT stephaniemloree DOT com

Pam Harris said...

This book sounds incredible--I can't wait to finally read it. :)

Anjell! said...

Wow! I love this genre..XD I want to read this XD

starryeyedjen said...

great interview! i am so excited for this novel!


Ana Lucía said...

I want this book soooo bad! I've heard nothing but good things and the cover is gorgeous!!
Thank you for making it international, fingers crossed :D


Kaya H said...

ohh that was a great interview and I would love to read Wither. I have heard great things about this book for months now ;)

kasuranna at yahoo dot com

Melody said...

Great interview - BEAUTIFUL cover!!!! *swoon* :) Count me in...I'm going over to the League now!

Val said...

It's so interesting to hear an author talk about how much her characters effect her during the writing process. I always invest myself into the book and sometimes worry that the author is playing a game with their characters. I'm glad Lauren is even more invested emotionally with her character as I am.

I'd love to win this book.


Anonymous said...

Loved the interview and can't wait to read the book!


Jessica Hansen said...

I absolutely LOVED the trailer, it was great! I really hope to win this, I've been day-dreamer over it for months, and drooling over the cover!


Ashley Christine said...

That was an awesome interview! It's really nice to get to know an author.

Wither sounds like an amazing book and whether I win or not it is definatly on my list of books to read!

Jeigh said...

I would love to win this book, just so I could pet the cover! (Sooo preeety.) I think the story sounds awesome as well. Congrats to Lauren on your success, and thanks for the writing advice.

Chelsey G. said...

I've heard great things about this book! I would love to win!

Krispy said...

Thanks for the interview. So surprised about Wither being written in under a month! Wow! This book has been on my radar for a while. Excited to read it!


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I'm dying to read this book. I love Lauren's attitude about what readers should or should not take away from our writing. And I can't believe she whipped out the first full draft in a month - jealous!! :-)

Alexia Purdy said...

I'd love a copy, it sounds intriguing.

lulilut said...

I remember when there were only a few American Girls dolls and I could only afford one and trying to choose. I got Samantha but I love Felicity too. I would have loved to visit Colonial Williamsburg after reading the books.
Thanks for the interesting interview and for having a giveaway for Wither. I love Dystopian stories.
d.septer at

jpetroroy said...

Loved your advice about doubts. So spot on!

jpetroroy at gmail dot com

AimeeLSalter said...

I take it all back, Lauren. You're WAY cooler than me. Way. Cooler. You are.

And so's your book trailer.

Thanks for the interview Beth - I'm reading Across the Universe right now, so this is an amalgamation of two of my YA excitements on one page. Woot!

Gabrielle said...

I'd love to read this book - I've heard nothing but good things about it... Thanks for the contest! -

Bookluvr Mindy said...

I would love to enter the drawing for this book! Nice Interview!

My blog is

JenB said...

Sounds thrilling and very disturbing. I must read this!

mottcat AT yahoo dot come

Victoria Allen said...

LOVE the cover of the book and the first chapter!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great questions and answers. And congrats Lauren. You just got an awesome review of your book on The Story Siren. Can't wait to read this.

Snazel said...

Now if I like Linden, I'll make a note to be shamelss about it. :D

if I win the book, my email is jasmine (dot) medusa (at) gmail (dot) com

Melissa Down Under said...

'Wither' sounds intriguing!
I loved the questions you asked Lauren in this interview, I also enjoyed her answers!
I loved that she embraced the readers varying thoughts and feelings about her stories and characters. I hope I can be that kind of writer one day.

email: kllamp(at)internode(dot)on(dot)net

Unknown said...

Wither has been on my wishlist since last year. I want to read it so bad and be inspired like those who have read it already. The story sounds intriguing and the cover looks gorgeous. Thank you for the giveaway!!

Meadowlark Layne said...

Thanks for the interview ladies. Just finished reading this the other day, and now of course I need my own copy.

Katie said...

You really don't know HOW much I've wanted to read this book. I've been waiting for it for MONTHS!

Jessica said...

This book sounds amazing! I can't wait to read it and would love to win it.


Unknown said...

Wants it needs it gots to haves it

Maia said...

I'd love to win! I've been wanting to read your book so bad since i first found out about it.


Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hi, Beth! Wonderful interview! Yes, we are our own worst enemy. We, as individuals are the only ones who can say yes we can, or no we can't.

It was so nice to get to know Lauren!

♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

April said...

I have been waiting for this book since I first seen it was coming out. Loved the interview.. it's nice to know a little about the author before diving into their book. :)


not sure if it shows on my profile. :)

mendy said...

I'll love to win Wither! Dystopian, viruses, and a dash of romance; it has me written all over it. Thanks for the giveaway.

Debora B said...

Great interview! I think it's really important for a writer to connect with their characters to the point you feel them as real persons. Like Lauren said about going to bed at night and thinking about whether Rhine would get out of her prison or not. I think that's what makes great and moving characters! So cool =)

I'd LOVE to win Wither! I'm dying to read it!!! *-*


Minas said...

Great interview! I can't wait to read WITHER!

Thanks for the giveaway!


Jenny said...

I can't wait to read this book! Dystopian novels are my new favorite genre. I also liked reading about Lauren's writing and publishing process as I would like to be a YA author one day. Thanks for the interview and contest!

Melissa/welachild said...

The cover is beautiful and the story sounds great! Can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic interview! Can't wait to read WITHER. :D

ashelynnsanford at hotmail dot com.

SJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SJ said...

I loved the interview.

Can't wait to read the book, so excited.

Anita said...

Great interview! I love how Lauren DeStefanos is completely open about what people pull from her writing, she has no other agenda than to entertain it seems, from her interview.

I also agree with an earlier comment, I was drawn to this book with just the cover alone, so whoever was the designer, kudos to them!

Reader Unfolded said...

Wow, that's a really in-depth interview! I love the way it's broken down too.

I can't wait to read this book!!!

erikadlugoAT yahoo(DOT)com

Cialina at said...

Wow! I'm kind of impressed on how fast the editorial process took place. I've heard a lot of great stuff about this book, and it will definitely be the next one I buy!

Lovely interview. :)


Heather said...

Wow Wither was wirrten in record time. Kudos! I love how Lauren doesn't let her mood affect her characters moods.


Book Twirps said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this book. I think it's awesome that you were able to crank out the first draft in a month. odell [at] booktwirps [dot] com

Alex said...

If I'm not too late I'd love to read this book and have an entry. That is incredibly curious: that she gets a rash. I liked her honesty to the questions; how she'd answer with determination or else confess that she didn't know.

Tea said...

I would luv to read Wither.

Susan Light said...

I hope I am not too late to enter to win Wither. I absolutely love dystopian fiction and this just went on my must read list!

Sarah Allen said...

Fantastic interview! I'm an American Girl fan too :) Thanks for sharing!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Kim said...

What a great interview. It made me even more excited to read Wither.

I'm so gonna win. *fingers crossed*

Linda: Book Ninja said...

I loved Harold and the Purple Crayon!
Can't wait to read Wither! The reviews have me dying to read it. The cover is amazing, too!
Lindadao2060 at yahoo dot com

ansindt said...

This book looks amazing! Can't wait to read it=)

Anonymous said...

I love to read this book.