Interview with Ellen Hopkins

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Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times Bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Triangles, Perfect, Collateral and out Book of the Month, Tilt. Find out more about Ellen Hopkins on her website!

Can you tell us about your newest book, TILT?

TILT is about three teens, related by family and friendship, whose relative nice, neat lives spin out of control one summer. Mikayla finds herself pregnant at 17, and losing the boy she loves because of their mistake. Shane, whose gay, falls in love for the first time, with a guy who happens to be HIV positive. And Harley, just 14, gives way too much of herself to hang onto a boy who she doesn’t love at all. Central to all three characters are two things. Their parents’ midlife meltdowns. And the death of a little girl.

TILT is the companion to your adult novel, TRIANGLES. Would you say that TILT will still appeal to adult readers?

Absolutely. I think all my books interest adult readers, and TILT is no exception. But because of the ability to read the adult viewpoint in TRIANGLES, versus the teen in TILT, there is a fascinating dynamic. (No less fascinating, BTW, for teens who read both books.)

You write poetry, which is so unique to the young adult culture. Why do you think poetry is important for young adults to read?

Poetry is the essence of language–imagery, sound, rhythm. But it is also emotion, and that is what speaks to so many, most often on a subconscious level. Poetry creates big ideas, using very few words, and allowing readers to add details that make the reading experience quite personal. For instance, if I write that a guy has a “killer smile,” you get to decide for yourself what that looks like.

TILT is full of very intense topics such as teen pregnancy, depression, drugs, rape, etc. Did you find these topics difficult to write about at times?

Of course. But they are things teens are presented with every day, and it’s so important to let them know they are not alone in dealing with them. Besides, I also write about love and caring and friendship. Also threads in the weave of life, right?

Where did you find your inspiration for TILT?

Well, the characters definitely evolved from the TRIANGLES storyline, which is about how midlife reassessments affect everyone involved. I watched a couple of friends go through what could only be called midlife crises, and saw how their inattention affected family members, to a much smaller degree. As for the subjects I chose, all three have affected some of my readers, stories they’ve shared with me.

You also just released another adult novel, COLLATERAL. What’s next after that?

Next September, readers will get SMOKE, the much-requested sequel to BURNED. It’s a book I never expected to write, but readers were absolutely correct when they told me (over and over again!) that Pattyn’s story demanded closure. The story moves forward in quite unexpected directions, and I’ll tell you that, although I really never thought I would, I totally love the book.

What would you like to say to the teenagers who are going through some of the things that the ones in TILT went through?

No one’s life is obstacle-free, and pain is a part of living. But there is also joy, and after every dark phase comes light. Hold on tightly to who you are inside. Make it through, and you will grow into a stronger, smarter person. Love will find you. It has a way of doing that.

When you get a chance to read for your own pleasure, what are you going to pick up next?

ASK THE PASSENGERS by A.S. King. I love Amy’s books, and this one has been waiting for me for a while.