In addition to reading MANY books as part of the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee, we also get the chance to hear from teens about the nominated books (more on that later). Before this year's BFYA "Teen Session" at the ALA conference in New Orleans, authors Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler entertained the teens (and committee members) talking about their newest book, "The Future of Us," which they co-wrote. Thanks to Penguin Teen for making this event happen!
Asher ("Thirteen Reasons Why") and Mackler ("Tangled"), are each well-known authors with a LARGE fan base, but you might be surprised to discover that they did not know each other before they decided to write this book together. "The Future of Us," set in 1996, takes us on a journey with two teens, neighbors Emma and Josh who discover that they can see their future through a crazy application that has taken over Emma's computer...Facebook. What if you could see your future, who you were going to marry? On Facebook? Before Facebook was invented?
The book is AMAZING (my review will follow), and what follows is some notes I took on the talk the authors gave about how they wrote this book.
I was surprised to learn that they did not know each other before this project. One email from Carolyn to Jay led to many email conversations about books they like and don't like, and eventually to this idea to "share the creative space." When they felt safe to be themselves, they decided on the concept and the characters.
Both wanted to capture the feeling of the highs and lows of the teen years, much like a John Hughes movie (of which, they are huge fans). They both wrote the book, not one particular character, writing chapters together (back and forth via email) until it "felt right." Asher and Mackler told stories of times where they would tell the other "Oh, you're so smart, I'm so glad you wrote that scene" or "I'm sorry, but I have to take that out now" and then discovering that they had actually written it.
In the book, Emma discovers that she is not happy in her future and wants to change it. Josh, however, discovers that he has married the hottest girl in school and doesn't want Emma to mess with anything! It is really about the small choices that you make and how that affects your future.
After talking about what it was like writing the book, the authors took questions from the teen audience. Here are some of their answers:
Did you have a favorite character in this book?Both: Did not have a favorite character, but both liked the secondary characters and where they ended up going and how they evolved and grew.
How long did the process take?It was about a year for the whole process...nine months to write the book, plus extra time for edits.
How did you choose the character names?Jay: Very scientific about it and looked at the census data for that year to find out most popular names.
Carolyn: Picked based on feeling, and what felt right.
What were your favorite books growing up?Jay: "Bridge to Terabithia" (Paterson) was his favorite as a kid, and then he stopped reading as a teen except for required reading. In 2000, he read "Stotan" (Crutcher) and became a fan.
Carolyn: Loved Judy Blume books as a kid. Reading "Tuck Everlasting" was the first time she felt "deep." In this new book, Emma's favorite books on Facebook are listed as "Tuck Everlasting" and "Harry Potter."
What do you like about the other's writing?Jay: Loves Carolyn's characters. Her books are easy to read, the words are exactly what they need to be. She is the modern Judy Blume.
Carolyn: Loves the tension Jay creates. She didn't move from the time she started "13 Reasons Why" until she finished it. Likes that he thinks about what will keep the reader reading.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How long did it take you to become published? Do you have any suggestions for teens who want to write?Jay: Wrote a "horrible" book about the Easter Bunny which we will never have to read. There were 12 years of rejection until "13 Reasons Why" was published. He kept writing, and now 13 Reasons is going to be a movie.
Carolyn: Always loved reading, and didn't write until later. She wrote in journals at first. Now she throws away a lot, and does much rewriting. Aspiring writers should read and write what you like to write, what keeps you excited!
By the way, Jay shared a story that should make fans very happy. While in New York, celebrating the completed novel with each other and their respective families, Jay received a phone call alerting them that the film rights to "The Future of Us" have already been sold!
The book comes out in November, so make sure to get on your library hold list now. If you are an EJH student/community member, I have an advance copy, so please comment here to be next in line (after several readers in my neighborhood...both teens and adults)!