Book tour brings YA author to Pittsburgh

Best-selling young adult fiction author Rainbow Rowell arrived at Carnegie Library to excited fans all abuzz about her new novel “Carry On.”

Author Rainbow Rowell discusses her novels and the writing process with Pittsburgh Arts & Lecture executive director Stephanie Flom.
Author Rainbow Rowell discusses her novels and the writing process with Pittsburgh Arts & Lecture executive director Stephanie Flom.

Rowell’s “Carry On” book tour brought her to Pittsburgh on Oct. 8 for a combined lecture and book signing.

Rowell is best known for her YA novels “Eleanor & Park” and “Fangirl.” Her latest novel, “Carry On,” came out Oct. 6 and is Rowell’s first dip into the fantasy genre. “Carry On” is a standalone novel that includes characters from “Fangirl.”

Rowell has also written two adult novels, “Attachments” and “Landline.”

The night began with a conversation between Rowell and the Pittsburgh Arts & Lecture executive director, Stephanie Flom.

Flom asked Rowell if she liked writing YA fiction the most.

“I don’t necessarily write for young people. I write what I want to write, and then I am fortunate that young people read my books. A magazine asked me this–what was it like to cater to young people, and I thought, ‘I don’t feel like I’m catering. I feel like I’m cooking, and I’m sitting it out, and then a bunch of great teenagers are showing up,’” Rowell said.

Rowell said that she did not choose to write. She received a journalism scholarship and studied journalism, advertising, English and fiction writing at college.

Rowell worked at the Omaha World-Herald for over 10 years as a columnist and copywriter.

She eventually got into fiction writing when she went out to dinner with a friend. Her friend asked what Rowell was writing for herself, and she realized she wanted to write something that was purely hers.

Rowell said she spent her 20s “drifting emotionally and mentally” while she worked at the World-Herald. She found a zeal at the beginning of her 30s and feverishly wrote novels while balancing family life with a husband and two sons.

Rowell’s first novel, “Attachments,” is based on this shift in her life. Her novels incorporate many of her real-life experiences.

“It’s almost as if everything that’s ever happened to me or that anyone’s ever told me just goes in [my novels],” Rowell said.

Rowell relates most to her female characters Eleanor (“Eleanor & Park”), Cath (“Fangirl”) and Georgie (“Landline”). These characters range in age from teenagers to adults, and Rowell said she identifies with them at different points in her own life.

“At the moment that you’re writing, you identify with all of [your characters]. And sometimes a character seems nothing like you, but you’re still tapping into a real part of yourself to write that character,” Rowell said.

During the question portion of the lecture, many audience members focused on Rowell’s unconventional teenage love story “Eleanor & Park.”

“That was the most miserable book to write. It’s a sad story, and it gets sadder as it goes along. And I knew what was going to happen,” Rowell said.

One question about Rowell’s choice to use an interpretative ending in “Eleanor & Park” received a heartfelt response from the author.

“Eleanor is so afraid to live because she’s had nothing good…and [Park’s] been good. She is trying to keep him pressed between the pages of the dictionary so that nothing changes because she would rather have that good memory than risk it with life because she knows she’s going to ruin it, and she is. She’s totally going to ruin it with Park, or he’s going to ruin it with her–you know that, right?…We kind of ruin each other, that’s what we do. We don’t ever leave anything perfect and nice. That’s not what love or life is,” Rowell said.

Rowell is working with Dreamworks on a screenplay for “Eleanor & Park.” She is also collaborating on two graphic novels with artist Faith Erin Hicks. For more information on Rowell and her novels, visit rainbowrowell.com.

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