Lauren Oliver on Mystery, Strong Reactions To Her Books, and Her Upcoming YA Novel VANISHING GIRLS

Lauren Oliver’s VANISHING GIRLS is out Tuesday, March 10th.

What does it take to write several New York Times bestsellers, from a YA dystopian series to adult contemporary standalones? We sat down and chatted with very diverse author Lauren Oliver about the process, her favorite parts of each of her books, what it takes to write a good mystery, and more! We even got the scoop on her next teen novel after VANISHING GIRLS called BROKEN THINGS!

How does your writing process differ between a series and a solo book?

The writing procures itself is pretty similar. Obviously, structurally, you’re thinking further ahead when you’re writing a series. I think I actually learned from my last experience writing a series. Now I have a middle grade series and I’m kind of writing all three at once before publishing the first one because I want to make sure all the details line up. But otherwise it’s just *laughs* you have to pay more attention, I guess.

Similarly, is there a difference in your process between writing a young adult book versus an adult book?

Again, the process itself in the same. I write my way in, figure out who the characters are going to be, and get a feel structurally of what the conflicts are going to be. But that being said, every book has its own set of challenges; it’s own joys but also its own frustrations.

Was any book particularly difficult to write?

ROOMS was hard to write because it has seven narrators and two of the people are dead, so they can’t really do anything or interaction with the real world. They speak in first person present. There’s five narrators that speak in third person past. There’s all of the action in the house takes place in one house so there’s all these horrible challenges.

PANIC was also pretty hard but I think that was an emotional difficulty because I wrote that after the series, DELIRIUM, so I’d been in that world for so long and I had to transition.

Speaking of DELIRIUM, the short story ALEX is now out as an eBook. Out of all of the short story perspectives– HANA, RAVEN, ANNABEL, and ALEX– which was your favorite?

I loved writing Raven. She’s just a character I really loved and I loved doing more for her, to explore her further, for sure.

Now for PANIC. Was the plan always for Heather to win or was there a different ending?

Yup. The plan was always for Heather to win but I wanted there to be a lot of different twists and turns, who’s allying themselves with who, and switches back and forth.

How do you think the game might have been different if it was in a more affluent area?

I don’t think they would have played. Part of it was to explore what kind of desperate situation would cause people to actually play.

Would you have entered?

Yeah, but probably because I was an idiot in high school! *laughs* It goes with the territory.

What do you think is the most important takeaway from PANIC?

PANIC is about the definition of bravery, I think. It’s about embracing fearlessness but not in a daredevil sort of way. It’s kinda of fearlessly redefining ourselves as someone who is worthy, someone who is deserving, someone who can connected.

Switching to ROOMS, which was creepier: Dealing with death and ghosts or unmasking the issues haunting all the characters, dead or alive?

Definitely the issues. The ghosts– There’s a kind of funny version of phantoms presented in the book– but it’s definitely the secrets and discovering what they done and what they’ve been denying that they’ve done was the creepiest part.

How did your young adult adult readers respond?

It depends. Some of them don’t love it because it’s very adult. Some of them absolutely adore it and they’re into the entire family and the revelation of who they are. It’s a lot like most of my books. I get a lot of passionate, vociferous, and strong reactions to most of my books.

Both ROOMS and VANISHING GIRLS are full of mystery. Other than just solving unknowns, what are the important elements of a good mystery?

Suspense is all about the control of information– When information is revealed, who knows what. I think mysteries are really contingent on characters, because it’s the characters who have ultimately done things and are keeping secrets and you kind of have to justify that. And other elements of mystery? Cool settings, I think are important.

What can you tell us about VANISHING GIRLS?

VANISHING GIRLS is a hard book to talk about! But it’s about two sisters in the aftermath of an accident. They used to be very close but they’ve not anymore. In fact, they’re not speaking. It’s suspenseful and strange and a little bit eerie. And that’s all I’m gonna say!

What are you most interested in readers experiencing while reading it?

Just the relationship between Nick and Dara. It’s just really special. I love exploring relationships with the sisters. I have a sister. I also really like the environment. It’s one of my favorite settings I’ve ever wrote.

Best book you read in 2014?

It’s impossible to say!

I really loved the book ANATOMY OF A MISFIT which I’m really shilling for because it’s lesser known. It’s a YA book and it’s amazing. You should read it!

Would you rather live in a world where love doesn’t exist, face your worst fears and things you didn’t even know you feared in a short period of time, relive the day you died over and over, or haunt your former home for all of eternity?

Oh my god, these are all horrible! I’m gonna stop writing my books now! *laughs* No. Well, how good is the day I die? Do I get to do some fun stuff?

I guess!

Okay, then the last day I die.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a teen book called BROKEN THINGS and I’m also working on an adult book which will take me years to scramble together.

Can you give us a really, really vague idea about what BROKEN THINGS is about?

BROKEN THINGS is about three friends who– when they were 12, they were accused of a really horrible, horrible crime: Murdering their other best friend. It’s about the aftermath of that. It’s about a lot of things.


VANISHING GIRLS goes on sale Tuesday.

Vanishing Girls tour

Lauren also recently introduced her upcoming middle grade series with H.C. Chester, CURIOSITY HOUSE.


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