Friday, August 15, 2014

Author Feature: Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins has a new novel out next week that is going to make teens think.  While her books are too serious for me now, Ms. Hopkins's work is something that was certainly missing when I was a young adult ...and something I would have enjoyed then.

She explores all sorts of explosive topics and I love that.  In some circles that makes her controversial, but well, I'll put it like this:  In one of my all time favoirte films the character of Stephen Hopkins, signer of the Declaration of Independence, is quoted as saying, "...in all my years I ain't never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about. Hell yeah! I'm for debating anything!"   Now I have no idea whether the man actually said it, but I agree with him whole heartedly.  That's how I feel about Ms. Hopkins's books; they make you think and what could possibly be wrong with that?  I'm glad they're out there and when my daughter is ready to read them, I will love reading discussing them with her.

Here's a little bit about her latest, Rumble:

Can an atheist be saved? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of faith and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.

“There is no God, no benevolent ruler of the earth, no omnipotent grand poobah of countless universes. Because if there was...my little brother would still be fishing or playing basketball instead of fertilizing cemetery vegetation.”

Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything.

Not in family—his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble.

No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble…a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question.



A Conversation with Ellen Hopkins
Author of RUMBLE

Q:  The idea for RUMBLE came about after an exchange with a teenager on Facebook. You must get hundreds of messages from teens daily. What was so striking about this particular post?

A: In response to a mosque bombing in the news, I posted, "We all serve one Creator." This young woman, 16, responded, "It's awfully arrogant of you to think I have to believe in anything." That struck me because my own teen years were all about asking big questions: "What if God isn't what I've been taught he is?" "Can there be life after death without a God?" "Could the energy physicists describe in fact be our souls?" "How do we reconcile faith with science?" To have no belief, and be satisfied with that, seemed counterintuitive to being a teen.


Q: To build on that last question, you believe that teens should be asking big questions rather than cutting themselves off from possibilities. Why do you think it is so crucial, particularly for teens, to constantly consider “what if”?

A: Without "what if," where would we be? Still living in caves, eating grubs? The human intellect requires "what if" to move forward. Teens are the near future. They must question the status quo, and what they've been taught as "absolute truth" or condemn the future to the same mistakes their parents and grandparents made.


Q: What do you think of adults trying to censor teens either through what they read or what they write (as we see in RUMBLE)?

A: For the same reason they try to censor anything—fear.


Q:  You’ve said that the voice of your main character, Matt Turner, is the strongest and most unlike your own that you’ve ever created. Why? Did this make it more challenging to write?

A: Matt is able to channel the immense pain he holds inside through dark humor and sarcasm, not that everyone appreciates it. I'm more straightforward, including in my storytelling. It was actually fun to write a "sneak up from behind" kind of kid.


  
Q: Both extremes—atheism and fundamentalism—are represented in RUMBLE and interestingly enough they are represented by a boyfriend and girlfriend. Why did you choose to have Matt (the atheist) fall in love with Hayden (the evangelical)?

A: Love often operates outside of boundaries, doesn't it? I think there is a drive in some people to challenge boundaries, climb over (or knock down) obstacles, experience discomfort. And sometimes chemistry trumps intellect.


Q:  Bullying and suicide are major issues in RUMBLE. Matt’s brother, Luke, takes his own life after a group of teens discover he is gay and “out” him in the most humiliating way on social media. Does the internet make it easier for people to taunt and bully? What kind of research did you do on these issues and did you discover anything surprising?

A: Social networking is a weapon for kids who might not otherwise bully because they don't have to measure the pain they're inflicting by looking into their victims' eyes. Plus, "friends" can join in so easily. Rarely is it one person bullying in this fashion, and that is where the bullied kid begins to feel like there's no way out. It's a pack mentality. I did a lot of research, and it was the sheer number of kids who have been bullied that surprised me. Plus, the reason most of those who resort to suicide is they suffer from depression beyond that caused by the negative behaviors.


Q: PTSD is a topic you’ve written about in the past with your debut adult novel Collateral. Why did you choose to revisit it in RUMBLE?

A: PTSD continues to be a growing problem in this country, as more of our soldiers have returned home from war and are trying to assimilate. It's no secret that many veterans aren't getting the help they seriously need, and I think it's important to remind people of that. PTSD doesn't always manifest itself immediately. It can happen years down the line, and resources must be kept available well into the future.


Q: What do you hope people will take away from reading RUMBLE?

A: That forgiveness and redemption are only possible if you accept them, and that's all about accepting yourself.


Q: What’s next for you?

A: Tangled, my next adult novel—in prose!—is finished and in production, to release Summer 2015. I'm currently writing the next YA—not in prose! Traffick is the sequel to Tricks, and will publish Fall 2015.



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Want to win a copy of Rumble before it comes out?  Click here:  

http://girlsjustreading.blogspot.com/2014/08/giveaway-rumble-by-ellen-hopkins.html

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