New York Times bestselling YA author Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star) has been nominated for a National Book Award, has had two books optioned for film—and here at BookCon she will be on two panels, as well as autographing. She discusses how she crafts stories featuring strong female protagonists and what it is like to see a novel adapted for the big screen.
How do you approach writing strong female protagonists?
I approach it like women are people. We have the same strengths and foibles and weaknesses and desires as anybody else. People are multidimensional and well-rounded. Women have qualities that make them strong and qualities that make them vulnerable. The way to create a strong female character is to create a real one and lean away from female stereotypes, trying for truth. The vapid vixen is not really true or it is not the only thing that is true about a character. The problem is, that is a stereotype, which is only one layer of something, and it is not complete.
Do you ever fall into a trap of writing stereotypes?
Definitely. When I catch that, I usually try to press the other way and go against the trope or to go deeper into it, like she is sassy and she is something else. Characters, as I conceive them, are usually big talkers and big thinkers. I tend to write those girls who question the meaning of life, and that makes them seem strong because they trust their own brains. They trust the way they see the world, and they are open to asking questions.
What do you hope readers learn from these characters?
I really want everyone to get a sense of themselves. Young women especially get fit into boxes and told what to like, and then they are told the things they like are trivial. Obviously, I think all of that is nonsense. I want people to fall a little bit in love with themselves and trust the way they see the world. I want them to feel like they are valid, equal people in the world.
What is it like to have your books adapted into film?
It is thrilling and surreal. It gets nerve wracking when I know the script is coming in, because I know it is going to be a different thing. But I hope it is still a true thing. After you know the script is great, then you have to worry about the actors, because writers have no say, despite what the internet thinks. You are hoping for your luck to hold.
How was script development?
MGM and Warner Bros. have been very kind to me. They give me the scripts and let me make notes. In lots of cases that just doesn't happen, because they don't have to ask for your opinion on anything. I've been pretty lucky in that I could give notes on the script. But I have also been really lucky that the scripts have been coming in strong, because that is not always the case with an adaptation.
What was the production like?
It is a miracle that any movie gets made. A movie involves thousands of people, and all of their schedules and personalities have to mesh, and the actors have to have chemistry. It's ridiculous. I didn't believe it was really going to be made until I saw the call sheets, and that cameraman one has to be on set at 8 a.m. at this location. Then I knew they really are going to make this thing.
Today, 2–3:30 p.m. Nicola Yoon will be signing in the Autographing Area. Today, 1–1:45 p.m. Yoon will be on the panel "Fierce and Fabulous: Find Your Inner Beyoncé," in Room 1E14.
Today, 4–4:45 p.m. Yoon will also participate in the panel "Book-to-Film," in Room 1E14.