May 2012


Rainbow Rowell is the author of Eleanor & Park and Attachments. She is a newspaper columnist in Nebraska.

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  1. 1. What inspired the story behind Eleanor & Park

    I've always wanted to write a first-love story. There's something so powerful about falling in love for the first time; it's like a drug. I was thinking about how, when you're 16, you have the capacity to fall in love more powerfully than you do at any other time of your life. But you have so little of your own to offer. You can't make any promises - you don't have time or space or freedom. All you can promise someone is what you feel. It's like every 16-year-old in love is Romeo or Juliet . . . I wanted to write a book that viscerally reminded people what it was like to feel that way.

  2. 2. What it hard writing about Eleanor’s dysfunctional home life?

    It was hard. That part of the book was somewhat autobiographical for me. Being bullied. Living in a rough neighborhood. Dealing with a bad stepdad. I think part of me wanted to relieve some of the pressure of those years. Writing about things - even if you're not writing about them exactly, this definitely isn't a memoir - helps you work through them.

  3. 3. Do you ever wonder about what has happened to your characters after the story ends?

    Yes! It's funny you ask that because I've written three books now, and Eleanor & Park is the only one I ever think about writing a sequel to. I think it's because the characters are so young; they don't really get an ending in the book. (Seventeen-year-olds don't get endings, they get beginnings.) So I've crafted an entire sequel in my head. I know exactly what happens to them and when. Whether or not they live happily ever after together. My agent accuses me of writing my own Eleanor & Park fan fiction.

  4. 4. Why do you like writing about characters who are misfits or loners?

    Oh, that's a good - difficult! - question. Probably because I feel like an outsider. I'm really not. I have friends. I'm a newspaper columnist. I'm a married lady ... But I think I'll always feel like I'm on the outside looking in, trying to make a connection with the world at large. Like I'm always walking out of stride. (Does everyone feel this way?) My friend Allie Larkin - who wrote the book Stay and is great - says that my books are about people trying to believe that they deserve love. I think she's probably right.

  5. 5. What are your favourite pop culture memories from the 80s?

    Lots of them made it into Eleanor & Park! I discovered comic books and alternative music in the '80s - and it was like someone turned a light on inside my brain. Inside my whole body. I remember getting a stomachache when I would hear a new U2 song ... Which was rare in Nebraska in 1986. They didn't play U2 and the Smiths and the Cure on the radio. Those were the bands that did me in, plus Tears for Fears and Wham! and Duran Duran. They Might Be Giants, R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs. In comics, it was The X-Men, Sandman and Marshal Law.

  6. 5. What do you think of your book covers? Did you have any input?

    I'M CRAZY ABOUT THEM!! I don't get much input. The publisher usually sends me something and says, "This is where we're going, what do you think?" So far, especially in the UK, I've been like, "HOORAY!" The Eleanor & Park cover and the Attachments paperback cover were both illustrated by the same amazing person, Debbie Powell, and I think they're epically gorgeous. (I've blogged a bit about the Eleanor & Park cover process. In the original illustration, Eleanor was very thin ...)

  7. 6. What’s the nicest thing a reader has ever said to you?

    That they stayed up half the night reading my book, I know that it's-three-a.m.-but-I-can't-stop-reading feeling. So it's a real thrill when someone tells me my book robbed them of sleep.

  8. 7. Tell us about your journey writing Attachments. I believe you wrote it over seven years?

    I did. At first it was more of a hobby. I didn't feel like I could really dedicate myself to it. I had a full-time job and I was having kids, and I didn't feel like I could say to my husband, "I'm going to disappear for a week while I work on my Very Important Novel." Also, this might seem basic, but there are a lot of words in a novel, and I didn't feel confident about managing them. I'd never written a book before - I didn't know how it worked or whether I'd even be able to finish. It was finally my sister who said, "You have to finish this. I want to know what happens."

  9. 8. Did you believe the Millennium Bug was going to disrupt the world?

    Ha! Not really ... Maybe I didn't believe that because I wasn't organized enough to prepare for Armageddon. I remember thinking it might make life inconvenient for a few weeks. It's funny now to remember what a big deal that was.

  10. 9. What made you pick journalism as a career?

    I was very un-romantic in college; trying to write a novel would have been way too impractical for me. Journalism combined writing (the only thing I could do) with activism and health insurance. Also, even then I was hoping I'd get to write a column someday.

  11. 10. What are you working on now?

    I've just finished my third book. It's a coming-of-age story about a girl who's just started college and who doesn't feel brave enough for real life. For love. For the future. For the dining hall. She's an identical twin, and her sister is moving on without her - and she's all caught up in fandom (like Harry Potter fandom). It's a book about being brave enough for life. And brave enough to talk to handsome farmboys with dirty blond hair ...

  12. 11. Who are your favourite chick lit authors?

    Marian Keyes is the ultimate for me. Her books are funny and moving - and so beautifully crafted. Whenever someone asks me to recommend a book, I always suggest Rachel's Holiday. It's nearly perfect.

  13. 12. What’s the best book you’ve read so this year?

    This year? The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter. It's this weird, gothy little coming-of-age book from 1967. The writing took my breath away.

  14. 13. What five songs would you put on a mixtape for someone and why would you choose those tracks?

    I think I'll do an Eleanor & Park mixtape!
    Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod by The Mountain Goats. Because it's the perfect "I'm trying to stay alive and become who I need to be despite my terrible stepdad" song.
    Out of Control by U2 because it captures the chaos and elation of being 16.
    There's a Light That Never Goes Out by the Smiths because the whole thing is so Eleanor. Every single line. Every single shivery note.
    And Under Your Thumb by the Vaccines because it's so Park. I mean, this line: "Mutually assumed, utterly consumed. Totally adored, Eleanor, Eleanor."
    St. Swithin's Day by Billy Bragg feels like the end of the book to me. It feels like trying to hold on to something. Like longing.
    And two more! It feels like this tape needs more love songs, so here are two desperately romantic Park songs: The Shining by Badly Drawn Boy. And I'm a Better Man for Having Loved You performed by David McAlmont.

  15. 14. Was there a reason you were called Rainbow? Did you like having an unusual name growing up?

    My mother thought it was a good idea ... I did like having an unusual name. I've never been crazy about the name "Rainbow" - but I liked being the only one.

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