YA bestselling author Rainbow Rowell visited the Toronto Public Library this past Thursday to answer questions from Elaine Lui, creator of LaineyGossip, author of The Squawking Chicken and overall Rainbow Rowell fangirl. They spoke in a crowded room of fans about Rowell’s life, her books, the upcoming Eleanor and Park movie and the importance of diversity.
A former newspaper columnist, Rowell discussed the difference between writing articles for the public, and writing books, which are more about writing for yourself. When asked whether there would be an Eleanor and Park sequel, Rowell replied that she would love to write one, perhaps after her fan base got a bit older, and that she would want to set it when her teen protagonists were in their 30s. Lui asked Rowell about the screenplay of the Eleanor and Park film she’s writing (hasn’t started yet) and how much creative control she has over the film (only consultation rights which means she can comment on things but they don’t necessarily have to listen). She did share her reader’s concerns over maintaining the authenticity and look of her characters in the film (Park to be played by a Korean actor and Eleanor NOT played by a “skinny” actress) but added that DreamWorks are fans of the book as well.
Lui mentioned Park’s position as a sex symbol among fans and how it was the first time she had seen an Asian boy depicted as such. Rowell responded that Park and Eleanor are characters who are normally the sidekicks in other people’s stories and she wanted to write about “protagonists that don’t get to be the protagonists.” Lui moved the conversation to book censorship since Eleanor and Park was challenged last fall for “course language and sexuality.” Rowell said that it was all within context. The world that her character, Eleanor, lives in has poverty, abuse, and rough language, and those who have challenged the book and its language and topics are concerned about exposing children to the kind of horrors Eleanor lives with. “Eleanor did nothing wrong,” she said.
Finally, Liu discussed the themes of identity and focus on unusual or inexperienced heroes which Rowell tackles in her books. The interview concluded with a few minutes of questions from fans and a book signing of both Rowell’s books and Lui’s debut, Listen to the Squawking Chicken.
Rainbow Rowell’s new book Landline comes out in July 2014.