Today we are fortunate to have the wonderful and talented Ellen Wittlinger visit us and answer a few questions for us. Hard Love won the Printz Honor Award in 2000, the first year of the Printz Award. Isn't the new cover beautiful?
About the book: John, untouchable since his parents' divorce six years ago, and Marisol, who's recently come out as a lesbian, meet through their interest in writing zines, personal homemade magazines into which they pour their life stories.
About the author:
Ellen Wittlinger is the author of 14 novels for young adults, including such titles as Sandpiper, Blind Faith, Parrotfish, and her newest book, Love & Lies. Her novel Hard Love won a Michael L. Printz Honor Award and a Lambda Literary Award. Many of her novels have been listed on the yearly best books lists of the New York Public Library and the American Library Association; she has also won state book awards in Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania. A former children’s librarian, she lives with her husband in western Massachusetts.
2k8: You won the honor award in 2000, the first year the Printz was awarded. What was that like? Can you tell us about the "call," when the committee called to let you know you'd won?
Ellen: It was amazing to be among the first Printz winners--and it was such a stellar group of writers too--it couldn't have been more exciting. When the call came, fairly early in the morning for a slug-a-bed like me, I couldn't wrap my mind around it. I don't know what I said in response to the committee chair's telling me, but probably something like, "Are you kidding?" I was on speakerphone and I could hear all the committee folks laughing in the background. That convinced me it was no joke. My editor called me with congratulations later in the morning after the announcements were made, then my agent called too, followed by many writer-friends. You don't get many mornings like that in a lifetime.
2k8: Did winning the award affect the writing of LOVE & LIES: Marisol's Story? Make it harder, perhaps?
Ellen: No, because I had no intention of writing a sequel--to HARD LOVE or any other novel-- for many years. People asked for a HARD LOVE sequel, but I always felt after each book was finished that I'd told that story and it was over. Not that I didn't want to revisit some of the characters, but I just couldn't imagine what story I'd be telling. It seemed as if the story of those characters had already been told. It took a number of years before I thought seriously about whether or not there was another story to be written about these same characters. I kept getting stuck on the fact that Marisol was going to college and YA novels don't usually follow characters there. When it finally occurred to me that she didn't necessarily HAVE to go to college right away, everything else fell into place. The new book would be HER story this time with Gio around as her friend--and his story could also continue in a positive way.
2k8: If your current writer self could travel back in time to talk to your debut novelist self, what advice would you give him/her?
Ellen: Good question. I think I might have said, "Don't quit your day job," which is what I did after the first novel came out. There are always ups and downs in the career of a writer and it might have been helpful to have that second identity (not to mention the second income) at many points along the way. On the other hand, I would have said, "You're in this for the long haul--don't get upset by every slight or bad review." Sometimes you have to have a thick skin to keep on believing in yourself.
2k8: And to end on a light note - what kind of pie are you most looking forward to eating this summer?
Ellen: Oh, peach pie... always peach pie!
Good luck to the Class of 2k8!
Thank you, Ellen, and best of luck to you too! Having you here was a real treat - even better than peach pie.