What is the draw for writing books in verse? Is this form becoming more or less popular?
For the author, writing in verse is a challenge. Every word must count, and poetic devices such as imagery, alliteration, metaphor, etc. are vital, and must be done well. Verse novels appeal to a variety of readers, however, especially reluctant or hard-to-reach readers, and have become a necessary kidlit format. They are absolutely more popular now than when I began writing them.
Do you think poetry distances the reader from the difficult action bits, or draws them closer?
Poetry draws the reader inside the characters, so it’s more like living the story than being told the story. This is exactly what appeals to readers who love verse novels.
Do concrete poems affect readers differently than “free verse” poems? Is there an added emotional layer?
Concrete poems add visual interest to the page, and for younger generations who grow up on a smorgasbord of visual elements (think screens), this adds appeal.
Why is the plot element of a teen taking drugs important for you to write about?
I think most people know that my first YA novel, Crank, plus its sequels, Glass and Fallout, were inspired by my beautiful daughter’s fall into meth addiction. Watch the downward spiral from straight-A kid to prisoner made me want to change teen lives for the better by showing how easily addiction can happen to even the best and brightest kids.
What feedback have you gotten from teen readers on the Crank trilogy?
Everything from “I was headed that way, but your books made me change my mind” to “thank you for the insight into my parents’ (or sibling’s or friend’s) addiction.” The books have done much good over the years and continue to do so today. Crank not only remains in print after fourteen years but is regularly replaced in classrooms and school libraries.
Have you been stigmatized at all by parents or teachers or librarians for your raw coverage of some of these difficult topics?
Of course. However, the pushback was much stronger in the past. I think today people understand the power of novels like those I write to do good.
Come back Thursday for more of Ellen Hopkins' interview, particularly for those who've signed up for her novel intensive. (You'll want to get a head start because pssst! There's homework, y'all!)
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