Lili Wilkinson is the award-winning author of Scatterheart, Angel Fish and The Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend. When she’s not reading, writing, or working on her PhD, she can usually be found watching something awesome on DVD, riding her bicycle or making monsters out of wool. Pink is her first US release. You can find her at http://liliwilkinson.com.au or @twitofalili.
Q. In your latest American release, Pink, teen Ava trades in her super-cool persona, girlfriend, and black clothes for conformity, a boyfriend, and a pink sweater–the typical high school experience at a private school. What do you hope teen readers will take away from Ava’s search for an identity?
A. That it’s okay to want to figure out who you are, but it’s also okay if you never figure it out. You don’t ever have to put yourself in a box, but you REALLY don’t have to when you’re 16.
Q. Did you try on different personas in high school like Ava?
A. I tried grunge, preppy, and even flirted with goth for about three minutes, but I always reverted back to slightly-quirky-nerd-in-jeans-and-a-t-shirt. Can’t deny my true nature.
Q. Who is your favorite non-main character in Pink?
A. I love all the Screws. They’re based on real people–with the same names. I was in stage crew with them in high school and then we formed our own theatre company at Uni and put on a show every year for the Fringe Festival. Of course the real-life Screws are nothing at all like the ones in Pink–I just took their names and a basic essence and then changed them completely. We had a reunion a few weeks ago–I gave a copy of the book to real-life Sam, and told him not to read too much into the fact that I made him a possible love interest.
Q. In your Mind-Rain essay, “All That Glitters is Not Hovery: Slang, Language, and Identity,” you discuss slang as a form of self-expression and an outlet for invention for teens. When you’re writing dialogue for teen characters, do you find it difficult to write convincing slang?
A. I try not to write convincing slang at all–I just write the way my friends talk. So then even if it dates quickly, at least it was convincing once.
Q. What slang word do you currently use the most?
A. “Fail,” probably. Or LOL–I’m guilty of saying LOL quite a bit because I think it fills a gap in the English language–when you want to acknowledge that something is funny, but it’s not actually funny enough to laugh out loud. Which is ironic, really.
Q. The teen propensity for giving people nicknames also came up in your Mind-Rain essay. Did you have any especially good nicknames growing up?
A. I’m well known among my friends for being un-nicknameable. Many have tried, but all have failed. I do like to bestow them, though. I don’t think I call any of my friends by their real names.
Q. Can you tell us about your essay for the upcoming Smart Pop Hunger Games anthology, The Girl Who Was on Fire?
A. It’s looking at the idea of surveillance and power. It’s easy to assume that whoever is behind the camera is totally in control, but The Hunger Games does a great job of showing us how the people being watched have power, as well as the people at home doing the watching. It’s all perfectly balanced, and when that balance gets thrown out of whack, everything goes horribly, horribly wrong.
Q. Since you wrote an essay for The Girl Who Was on Fire, it seems safe to assume that you’re a fan of the Hunger Games series. But which book did you most enjoy?
A. Definitely the first one. Such page-turning excitement! Such brain-twisting new ideas!
Q. What are you working on now?
A. My next book will be out in Australia in May. It’s called A Pocketful of Eyes, and it’s a rom-crime–romantic comedy murder mystery–set in the taxidermy department of a Natural History Museum. There is a steamy makeout scene on the back of a stuffed tiger, and more trivia about snails, platypuses, toads, and crabs than you ever thought you needed to know.
Q. If you could tell us to read one book this year (besides your own, of course!) what would it be?
A. Only one!? The best books I read last year were Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Read them all.