This month, FYA Book Clubs around the world are meeting to discuss the hilarious and heartwarming Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. To celebrate the occasion, we're pleased as punch to be joined by Becky Albertalli at the FYA lockers!
THE ACTUAL BOOK RELATED QUESTIONS
Simon has received tons of well-earned accolades, and it's even spawned a real-life creeksecrets Tumblr. Why do you think your novel has been resonating with readers of all ages?
This is such a complimentary question – thank you! I’ve been really thrilled with reaction to Simon, and I feel lucky that it’s resonated with so many readers. It’s hard to pinpoint what made this story work for a lot of readers, but I think it might be because the book is, for better or for worse, painfully, cringingly honest.
Aside from the blackmail situation and not feeling 100% comfortable being out in Georgia, Simon comes out in a pretty safe environment with a strong support system. Was it important to show that there's no 'easy' way for anyone to come out? (And also that the whole concept of coming out is a bit of a farce.)
That’s a really good question! To be honest, I didn’t write this story with the intention of sending any particular message about coming out. I just tried to remain faithful to Simon’s story. There’s no universal gay experience, and there’s no universal coming out experience. So much depends on environment and context. In Simon’s case, he comes from a liberal family in a conservative suburb of a liberal city in a conservative region of the country. So, I tried to capture the complexity of that dynamic – but, of course, Simon’s experience can’t be 100% generalized.
You've said that you create thorough backstories for all of your characters beyond what ends up in the book. Could you share something about a character from Simon that you've never revealed anywhere else before?
I’m such a blabbermouth that I may have revealed parts of this elsewhere, but here are a few things (some of which you’ll learn more about in my second and third books):
- Leah had a pretty major crush on Simon in middle school.
- Garrett plays piano.
- Simon used to be really short.
- Abby is super close with her cousins on her dad’s side.
- Bram moved to Shady Creek right before 9th grade.
- Leah’s parents were teenagers when they had her.
- Taylor has an older brother.
- Simon thinks basically all of his friends are straight. They’re not.
Oooh, intrigue! In the words of the Pink Ladies, TELL ME MORE, TELL ME MORE.
You've also said that you couldn't imagine writing something without a love story, and you once cited Casper as inspiration for every love story you'll ever write. This is not so much a question, but a request for you to talk about your love of Casper (because OMG SAAAAAME).
Oh my goodness. CASPER. Casper turning into Devon Sawa and asking, “Can I keep you?” was my sexual awakening. Devon singlehandedly pressed the on-switch for my puberty. I’ve since discovered that this is a very very common experience among members of my generation. A part of me is still wildly jealous of twelve-year-old Christina Ricci. And I think something about the “can I keep you” moment stuck with me, because I just melt for stories incorporating some kind of romantic revelatory moment. So, if you’ve read Simon, you’ll probably recognize traces of “can I keep you” in the carnival scene.
YAAAAAAAS to every single word.
Does your background in clinical psychology have an influence on your writing? Not as inspiration for characters, as you frequently mention, but in terms of perspective and characterization.
This one’s hard to answer – I actually don’t know! I’m sure it does, on some level. Before writing Simon, I worked in a school, surrounded by teens, and I think their patterns of speech became almost second nature to me. And I do think my experiences working with LGBTQ kids and teens were important, from a research perspective. When I wrote Simon, I was very familiar with many of the issues some modern LGBTQ teens face around coming out and integrating new aspects of their identity. So in a general sense, my psychology background was deeply informative and very helpful.
We're already beyond excited for your next novel, The Upside of Unrequited. Since Upside stars Abby's cousin, Molly, will any of our Shady Creek faves be making an appearance?
Yes! You can expect to see lots of Abby, a few good cameos from Simon and Nick, and some Easter eggs involving other familiar faces. But Abby’s the one you really learn a lot more about. And in my third book, which will be a senior year sequel told from Leah’s point of view, you’ll see MUCH more of everyone!
Speaking of which, Upside is set in Washington, DC, where you went to grad school, just as Simon is set near Atlanta, where you grew up and now live. Will the literary world tour of places you've lived in continue to Connecticut and Scotland in future novels?
That’s an amazing question! Maybe one day? I’m definitely most familiar with Atlanta and DC, since those are the places I’ve lived the longest. That being said, I could also picture myself exploring locations like the NYC area (where most of my extended family is from) and upstate NY (where my in-laws live).
THE YA QUESTIONS
If your real life adolescence was a YA book...
What would you, the main character, be like?
This feels like such a cop-out, but I’d be so much like both Molly and Simon. I’d be sort of embarrassingly earnest and innocent, but with a surprisingly foul mouth. I’d have lots of friends, but I’d get no action whatsoever. It would be a pretty disappointing book.
Who is your secret crush?
Everyone: guy friends, anyone who’s nice to me, anyone who makes eye contact with me, fictional characters, etc.
High School Becky's bedroom wall!
What is your number #1 source of angst?
Feeling unlovable. Feeling like everyone around me is kissing and falling in love with each other, and not me.
At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?
Erm. In the college years sequel.
And who would play you in the film adaptation?
12-year-old Christina Ricci.
Becky's senior year production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat could make room for a precocious child actor, right?
THE SLUMBER PARTY QUESTIONS
What is your secret power?
Predicting (with REALLY impressive accuracy) the order in which contestants on The Bachelor will receive roses.
What is your #1 favorite food?
I’m going to cheat and say a food group. That food group is Oreos.
Tell me about your area of expertise.
Singing "One Day More" from Les Misérables in the voices of every character.
If you could assemble your own Ocean's 11 of fictional characters, who would you pick and why?
Okay, I’m going to pick eleven characters based strictly on badassery and adorableness. Also, I’m picking only girls.
Coco from Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
Starr from The Hate U Give by A.C. Thomas
Denise from On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
Frannie from Frannie and Tru by Karen Hattrup
Lydia from The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Sam from Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Maude from Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi
Minnow from The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Gigi from Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Anna from American Girls by Alison Umminger
Molly from The Upside of Unrequited by me!
What is your best karaoke song?
"Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper
Tell me something scandalous!
I…just sat here for ten minutes trying to think of something scandalous. I’m the least scandalous person ever.
What is your favorite adult beverage?
Really really really sweet white wine (like the kind that doesn’t taste like wine).
What book have you read (or movie you’ve watched) the most number of times?
Does the Hamilton soundtrack count?
Who is your "freebie"?
Young Joe Biden.
Young Joe CAN GET IT.
YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?
I have so many BFFs in the YA community – I’m scared to leave someone out! (This is like trying to write my acknowledgements!) (But you guys probably know the answer to this one, right?)
Could it be a certain aficionado of (inferior) Golden Oreos?
Out of all of the characters you’ve written, which one do you most wish you could be?
Probably Simon – he’s kind of the cool version of me.
If you were invited to the FYA slumber party (and obvs, you ARE), what is the most crucial snack food and/or movie/or anything you'd bring?
I would 100% make Oreo butter to be eaten on top of Bluebell vanilla ice cream.
Becky provided the first three options, and the fourth option was chosen for her. The magic number was 3.
Young Joe Biden
Harry Potter World in Florida
Harry Potter World in California
# OF KIDS
Two (my kids)
Four (my kids and Nic Stone’s kids)
Seven (my kids, Nic Stone’s kids, and Aisha Saeed’s kids)
Nine (Becky's kids, Nic Stone's kids, Aisha Saeed's kids, and Trista Rehn's kids)
Claw machine stuffed animal extractor
Oreo taste tester
12-year-old Christina Ricci
Collector of 12-year-old Rice Krispies
A billion dollars
A trillion dollars
A reasonable amount of dollars paid only in $10 bills signed by Lin-Manuel Miranda
$10 paid only in a reasonable amount of coins signed by Alexander Hamilton
Ottery St. Catchpole
A hundred kittens
A hundred puppies
Fifty kittens and fifty puppies
Filthy kittens and filthy puppies
Flying Ford Anglia
Here's hoping your apartment with LMM has a Room of Requirement, 'cause y'all would definitely need it to fit your many kids and kittens!
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (available now) is the FYA Book Club selection for August 2016!