I’ll try to answer this without spoiling anything. I think I had the hardest time writing the parts of the book where Simon was upset, frustrated, and vulnerable, and I hated writing people being cruel to him. I tend to get weirdly protective of my characters, and I don’t like putting them through anything difficult (though I know challenging my characters is literally the point of storytelling). I definitely needed my agent and editor to help me sit with those scenes and deepen their emotional content. I’m proud of how they turned out, but I think I’m prouder of the resolution. I really want this to be a joyful book, and that’s where I think I succeeded the most.
What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?
The funny thing is, while I learned a lot about myself writing SIMON, I’ve learned even more now that I’m working on my second book. I find it so illuminating to see which themes and conflicts appear in both books. Without consciously realizing it, I’ve been using my writing to explore my own feelings about identity, secrecy, race, sex, and anonymity. That being said, I think Simon in particular gave me the opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on different shades of diversity and privilege.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
Lately, my five-month-old son has been my sidekick while writing, which means my ritual is a complete mess. I tend to work on the bed, surrounded by baby gear, and it kind of follows this sequence:
1. Nurse baby and miraculously get him to sleep in my lap.
2. Hunch over baby to type while waiting for him to pass out extra hard.
3. Look down to find him grinning up at me, bright-eyed.
4. Jiggle him again for a few minutes until he’s sleeping again.
5. Carefully move him off my lap and onto the bed next to me.
6. Frantically start typing.
7. Fall asleep at my keyboard.
8. Wake up to find baby grinning up at me again.
9. Shut the laptop and snuggle with him.
10. Spend the rest of the day freaking out about how I didn’t get any words written.
ABOUT THE BOOKSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
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