If there’s one thing I love about authors, it’s their ability to make the characters they create feel so incredibly real and vivid. In I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson amazed me with the two very different point-of-views of Jude and Noah. As readers, multiple point-of-view stories can be tricky to follow along, as sometimes one character feels more realistic than the other. Even still, it’s even harder to imagine the supporting cast being just as fleshed out as the main characters. Yet, Nelson accomplishes all these things.
Have you ever wondered how she manages to pull this off? Do her characters feel just as real to her as they do to us? We are delighted to kick off this blog tour and welcome Jandy Nelson to Cuddlebuggery as she gives us a glimpse into her process for I’ll Give You the Sun!
Who’s that Knocking at the Door?
Writing is a socially accepted form of schizophrenia.—E.L. Doctorow
Some people say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.—Logan Pearsall Smith
It is essential when writing fiction to enter the world of your characters.
But what if they begin to enter yours?
The first time this happened was with Guillermo Garcia, Jude’s sculpture teacher in I’ll Give You the Sun. Guillermo is a tall, imposing man with over-sized features that all clutter together in a wildly expressive face. He has a booming voice with a strong accent (he’s Colombian), a big heart and bigger personality. He carves abstract giants out of granite, and really, at least in my mind, he’s kind of a giant himself. He was one of the first characters in the story to arrive and he did so fully formed and ready to go.
One day, about two years into the writing of the novel, I was having a desperate moment. I felt uncertain about the direction the story was heading and the themes at play just didn’t feel like the right ones. So I lay down to think (much easier for me to think when I’m horizontal—no idea why). The next thing I knew, there was Guillermo towering before me: hands in the air like he was conducting a symphony, hair in his eyes, sweat dripping down his neck (it was that real). “Jandy! You are an idiot!” he said in his big bang of a voice. “You are thinking about this wrong. This is a book about second chances! Second chances. Understand?” I bolted upright. Because I did understand. He was right. It was the exact revelation I needed in that moment except for the fact that it had come out of the seemingly real mouth of an imaginary person! (Even if I fell asleep—indeed possible—it’s still bizarre to see and hear someone in a dream in such detail, someone you’ve never laid eyes on, someone who does not exist.)
Next, months later, I went by myself to see a Richard Diebenkorn exhibit. I walked in and my heart immediately exploded at the beauty. Like Jude says in Sun, there are paintings that color-flood out of two dimensions into three. These were those kind of paintings and my first thought was: “It’s such a shame Noah couldn’t come with me today.” In that split-second, he was real, probably at home at his desk sketching away.
I also remember a strange moment while in the middle of writing The Sky Is Everywhere. I was driving to work and reached for my phone because I was feeling an over-powering urge to call my novel. Then I realized what I’d just thought (!!!) and put the phone down.
I’ve had experiences like this as a reader and filmgoer too, with other people’s characters and stories. And maybe it’s a little nuts, but I don’t care. I love that as writers and readers, as story-lovers and fans, we, at times, immerse ourselves so completely in imaginary worlds that characters from those imaginary worlds come knocking on our very real wooden front doors. I love that the mind is that boundless and mysterious and strange, that the bridge between the real and the imagined is so well-travelled, and in both directions. I’d love to hear about your “real life” experiences with fictional characters too in the comments below. Anyone?
Got a question for Jandy? Penguin Teen is hosting a Twitter chat with Jandy Nelson, Stephanie Perkins, and Gayle Forman on September 5th at 7:00 PM EST.
Follow along using #PenguinTeenChat!
Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour, featuring guest posts, interviews, giveaways, and more!
Sept. 1 – Cuddlebuggery
Sept. 2 – Novel Sounds
Sept. 3 – Perpetual Page Turner
Sept. 4 – Forever Young Adult
Sept. 8 – The Young Folks
Sept. 9 – The Book Hookup
Sept. 10 – Grown Up Fangirl
Sept. 11 – Bewitched Bookworms
Sept. 15 – Candace’s Book Blog
Sept. 16 – Novel Novice
Sept. 17 – Alice Marvels
Sept. 18 – Icey Books
Sept. 22 – The Midnight Garden
Sept. 23 – The Starry-Eyed Revue
Sept. 24 – Tales of a Ravenous Reader
Sept. 25 – Katie’s Book Blog
Sept. 29 –GReads!
Sept. 30 –Anna Reads
PenguinTeen is giving away the new paperback edition of The Sky is Everywhere!
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