Ellen Hopkins Captivates Both Young
Adults and Adults in Novels of Verse Audio Interview (about 15 minutes)
An exclusive Authorlink interview with the author of
numerous YA books, including, PERFECT,
and her latest adult novel, TRILOGY

By Paige Crutcher
November, 2011

Perfect cover
by Ellen Hopkins

Buy this Book
at Amazon.com

Ellen Hopkins Portrait
Ellen Hopkins

Captivating: the word sums up the work and the author. Dark, affecting, and poetic, Ellen Hopkins tackles the many faces of reality. From Crank’s honest look inside the world of crystal meth addiction to teenage prostitution in Tricks, Hopkins appears fearless in her willingness to explore the many avenues inside a teenage wasteland. Authentic and telling, Hopkins refuses to limit herself or her readers. Drawing from her own life, and the world outside her, she writes freedom for those seeking knowledge beyond the fear. In her latest novel in verse, Perfect, she shines her light on perfection and how far four teens go to fit their image of the word’s description. Hopkins shares a glimpse inside the storybuilding of Perfect, the role perseverance played in her writing career, and one of the loveliest things she’s ever seen.

“There's plenty of fluff in the world. And too many vampires and zombies.”

AUTHORLINK: You’re a poet as well as a novelist, writing beautiful prose. What drew you to poetry?

HOPKINS: Everything. Imagery. Poetic devices. Metaphor. The purity of the language. The challenge of creating a broad view with few words.

AUTHORLINK: You write novels that affect the reader, as well as captivate them. The subject matter has been called dark, or edgy. Have you ever had the desire to write something fluffy, to just go in a completely different direction?

HOPKINS: Well, I do have a couple of picture books in my files that I wrote, thinking that's what I'd be as a writer. I'm not. There's plenty of fluff in the world. And too many vampires and zombies. I think I'll stick with what I do best.

AUTHORLINK: Real life is messy. Pretending it’s only moonlight and magnolias is living in a fantasy world that doesn’t exist. How do you feel about those who challenge your writing, or think of your stories as ones that should be “banned?” Do you believe this reaction comes from fear?

HOPKINS: Censorship is mostly fear-based, that and wanting to feel at least a tad bit in control when life seems like a runaway train. Conquering fear is hard. But that's what people need to do, and books can give them the knowledge they need to get beyond fear.

AUTHORLINK: What do you believe makes a great story? Is there an element that you believe must be present?

HOPKINS: Character! Without great characters to laugh with and cry for, what's the point of any story?

“It started with IMPULSE, actually. Readers wanted to know how Conner's parents (especially his mom) felt . . .”



AUTHORLINK: Will you share a little about the storybuilding of PERFECT?

HOPKINS: It started with IMPULSE, actually. Readers wanted to know how Conner's parents (especially his mom) felt about the way IMPULSE turned out. I thought it was a fair question, so started with Conner's twin sister, Cara, and what was going on at home while Conner was in the hospital. Her drive for perfection, as was her brother's, was spurred by her parents' relentless pressure. It was a great place to start a book, and I had a few other small-role characters to flesh out as well. Kendra, for instance, is mentioned in IMPULSE as Conner's "skinny cheerleader ex-girlfriend." The rest unfolded around differing ideas of "perfection."

AUTHORLINK: You’ve used real life as inspiration. Do you feel that you have to be a little fearless to write so honestly?

HOPKINS: Probably. I mean, you can't be afraid of how others might react, not if the story is shouting that it needs to be written. My "fearlessness" has evolved from quite a few years of living–of experiencing extreme highs and the lowest lows, and coming out stronger on the other side.

“If my words weren't an honest exploration, readers who have experienced those things would not be fairly represented.”



AUTHORLINK: Drugs, affliction, pain, loss – these all act as secondary characters in many of your works. How important is it to you, as a writer, that your work is authentic?

HOPKINS: Well, it's everything, isn't it? If my words weren't an honest exploration, readers who have experienced those things would not be fairly represented. I serve as their voice. If I didn't write "real," they'd be silenced. Again.

AUTHORLINK: You’re a NYT best-selling, award-winning author of stories that impact and change lives. When you were starting out, did you ever imagine arriving at the point in the journey you’ve reached today?

HOPKINS: No way. I hoped my books would do well. But I never foresaw the success I've realized, and since it wasn't my goal to begin with, I feel extremely lucky to have found it.

AUTHORLINK: What sort of a role did perseverance play in your writing world?

HOPKINS: It should play a huge role in every writer's path to publication. Perseverance and experimentation. Because I really don't believe you know where you belong as a writer until you get there. Thus, my irritation with impatient authors who submit once or twice then decide the publishing world just doesn't know what's good. Growing is part of the journey. Patience is extremely important.

“Maybe it's just because my timing was right or whatever, but traditional publishing has been very good to me.”



AUTHORLINK: Writers all over are struggling with the future of publishing – to publish the traditional route or to go it alone. Readers will always read, but do you believe one route is more beneficial than the other?

HOPKINS: Maybe it's just because my timing was right or whatever, but traditional publishing has been very good to me. I know all the indie-pubbed success stories, but they are few in comparison to how many straight to E-books are turning up every day. Sorry, but very few of those will realize success, or deserve to, because so many writers ARE impatient. Story isn't enough. It must be told well. I always suggest trying the traditional route first. Legacy publishers have huge resources an indie-pubbed author can't tap into.

AUTHORLINK: When you create a character, do you ever doubt the man or woman you’re breathing to life?

HOPKINS: If I do, he or she goes away really quickly. I can't afford to write characters who don't belong in a story. Character building is pretty much all I do in the prewrite phase, so my characters are already alive and talking to me before I sit down to write them.

AUTHORLINK: What's the loveliest thing you've ever seen?

HOPKINS: That's a hard one, because life offers thousands of those moments. A recent one I loved, though, was watching a honeybee and a butterfly share a coneflower in my garden, each taking just what they needed, side by side.

AUTHORLINK: Finally, if you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

HOPKINS: If I started all the way over, a pilot. Starting from here, a teacher.

About Ellen Hopkins:

To learn more about Ellen Hopkins, including her poetry, recourses for writers, and wall, visit her at: http://ellenhopkins.com/YoungAdult/

About Regular Contributor
Paige Crutcher

Paige Crutcher is a wordie, writer, book addict, blogger, National Authors Examiner and columnist for authorlink.com. Visit her articles at: http://www.examiner.com/authors-in-national/paige-crutcher, her blog: http://paigesprose.blogspot.com/ or follow her on Twitter: @PCrutcher.