Becky Albertalli over internetvriendschap, Oreo’s en levenslessen (interview)

Becky Albertalli

Foto: Myrthe Spiteri

Dat casual ‘en als ik ga interviewen, komen er zeker ook schrijvers voorbij’ dat ik vorige week in mijn blogveranderingenblogpost (Galgje-woord) typte, kwam niet helemaal uit de lucht vallen. Helemaal niet, eigenlijk, want ik wist toen al dat dit artikel eraan zat te komen! Het zit zeg maar zo: ik deed een paar maanden geleden aan de Simon Vs. Baking Challenge van uitgeverij Blossom Books, met deze supermegageweldige chocolate chip cookie peanut butter Oreo brownies (of zo). Voornamelijk omdat ik van bakken en Oreo’s houd, eigenlijk, dus ik was nogal verbaasd toen ik ineens een mailtje kreeg dat ik had GEWONNEN. En dat ik dus 5 vragen voor Becky Albertalli (dat is dus de schrijfster van het geweldige boek Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda oftewel Simon vs. de verwachtingen van de rest van de wereld) mocht stellen. Ik deed natuurlijk een eeuwigheid over het bedenken van die vragen, en uiteindelijk werd het alsnog een soort allegaartje waarvan de helft bestond uit 2-in-1 (of 3-in-1) vragen. Gelukkig had Becky daar helemaal geen moeite mee, want een paar dagen later had ik haar antwoorden in mijn mailbox zitten. YAY. Dus bij dezen: Becky Albertalli over schrijven, internetvriendschap, geheimen, levenslessen en – hoe kan het ook anders – Oreo’s.)

(En oh ja, het is in het Engels want ik ben niet zo goed in vertalen, plus ik had er geen tijd voor, want ik typ dit om 2 uur ’s nachts, iets met deadlinestress en zo, dus mijn excuses als je geen Engels kunt.)

Did you know from the beginning who Blue were, or are you the kind of writer that just sees what happens? (In other words: how do you write a book from beginning to end? Do you do a lot of research and editing in between or do you just write?)
‘I love this question! So, in general, I fall somewhere in the middle on this issue. I like to have an outline of the story and plot points before I start writing, but almost all of the details and conversations come when I see where the characters take me. I did always know who Blue was going to be, but so much of his personality developed as I was writing.

I’m guessing my process will evolve over time, or change for different books, but right now, I draft chronologically (this helps me track where the characters are emotionally within the context of the broader story). I compulsively edit and reword things as I go, over and over again, so drafting takes me forever. And if I come up against something I need to research, I usually need to pin it down before my brain lets me keep writing. For characters who belong to communities I’m not a part of, I’m constantly researching and learning, both when I’m writing and when I’m not.’

What was the hardest or scariest part in the whole process of writing the book and having it published and why? (With Simon vs being your debut, I can imagine it was all sort of new and scary.)
‘It was totally scary – and it’s still scary every time another reader picks it up! I’m a really sensitive person. I know that about myself, and I think it’s why I write the way I write, but it also means I’ve had to find ways to deal with the fact that authors get a TON of criticism. It’s impossible to please every reader, and some people will passionately hate your work and shout about it from the rooftops. But then there are those people who connect deeply with your story, and when you find them, it’s really worth it.’

In Simon vs, Simon meets Blue on the internet and they’re both afraid that the other won’t like him in real life. What do you think about internet friendship (or even internet love)? Have you met people yourself through the internet?
‘I think internet relationships are so real, and I’ve met a ton of my closest friends online. And while I’ve never been romantically involved with someone I’ve met online, lots of my friends have met their partners that way. Obviously, it’s wise to be cautious (and people more knowledgeable than I am have written good guidelines for internet safety). But it can be such a beautiful way to get to know someone, as Simon would say, “from the inside out.” Also, often LGBTQIAP+ kids may not have a way to connect with each other locally, so finding safe communities online can be a lifeline.’

Being gay is probably Simons biggest secret and whatever it’s about, revealing secrets is always scary. What is the biggest secret you’ve ever revealed about yourself?
‘That’s such an interesting question! It’s almost hard to answer this, because the things that felt the scariest to me were, truthfully, such mundane, everyday things. They don’t compare to coming out at all. But, for whatever reason, I found it terrifying to tell my parents I was in a relationship, the first time it happened. Later, telling them I was pregnant was surprisingly scary, too!’

What is the most important life lesson you’ve ever learned? (This is a super random question, but I think it says a lot about people.)
‘I honestly hope I haven’t learned it yet – I want so much to keep learning and deepening my understanding of people and the world. But I think one of the most important pieces of wisdom I carry with me is the idea that every person you meet stands at the center of their own story. It seems really obvious when you say it like that, but it can be hard to keep in mind when you’re looking through the lens of your own experiences.’

And the obvious question: what is your favorite ‘dish’ with Oreo EVER? Do you have a recipe? (And: did you constantly eat Oreos while writing? Because I probably would’ve done that, haha.)
‘I have MANY favorites (and yes, I ate them constantly while working on Simon). One that I really love is Oreo butter, and it’s so easy to make! You grind up a bunch of Oreos, and then add vegetable oil right in with the Oreo crumbs in the food processor. You can play around with the ratios until you find a consistency you’re happy with. And that’s it! You can eat it with a spoon, but I most love it on top of vanilla ice cream.’

Wat is jouw grootste levensles (tot nu toe)? (Én je favoriete ding met Oreo?) 

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