Jandy Nelson is the type of author who writes stories that evoke all of her readers' emotions. When I started reading I'll Give You the Sun, I knew I'd just discovered my new favorite contemporary novel...and the book elevated Jandy into favorite author status, as well. I'll Give You the Sun is honest and full of heart and a book that you just have to experience for yourself to fully understand it. You can read more of my thoughts on the novel here. Today, though, I have the utmost pleasure in interviewing the author, who has gracefully provided us with more insight into the characters in her new novel.
I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN
By Jandy Nelson
In stores now!!!
Here's the blurb:
A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.
I’ll Give You the Sun Blog Tour
A Q&A with Jandy Nelson
I'm curious as to how your writing process for this book went. Rather than using flashbacks, you've written a dual perspective, but one perspective is told from a character in the past and one is told from a different character in the present. What made you decide to write the story in this manner? Did you write one character's "chapters" and then the other's? Or did you write it as the reader reads it? Was there an outline you worked from...as in, did you know how each characters' arc would come to fruition as you wrote the book?
I knew from the beginning that I wanted the novel to be told in alternating point of views and also from different timeframes because I really wanted the reader’s perspective on events to shift with the shifting narrators. Also, because there’s a mystery element to the story, I hoped this structure would add tension and propulsion. And, I hoped the reader would get immersed in both twins’ worlds equally and so their allegiances might change in different parts of the story. In terms of the process, I realized pretty early on the best way to write the novel would be to first write Noah’s story start to finish. Then Jude’s start to finish. It was kind of crazy—I’d lock one twin’s file when I was working on the other’s so I wouldn’t cheat because I really wanted each of their voices/their worlds to be distinct from the other’s. Then, after I had drafts of both stories—this was about 2 1⁄2 years into the process—I began braiding the narratives together (which was like writing a whole new novel—I think I cut 50K words) and praying a ton that it would work. And no, I didn’t work from an outline but always kept the trajectory of one twin in mind when writing the other’s—so yes, I had an idea of each of their trajectories from the beginning. Phew! That was a mouthful!
Oh, wow, that's pretty intense...though, knowing myself, I'd likely have to lock the files, too. I loved how you intertwined the twins' stories, and knowing the process makes me love it that much more.
Jude considers herself quite the Bible thumper, but not in the way you'd imagine. Where did you get the idea for Grandma Sweetwine's "Bible" and the passages within?
I grew up in a superstitious family where there were lots of nutty beliefs bandied about regularly. So, when making Grandma Sweetwine’s “bible,” I absolutely drew from my own family lore. I also did a lot of research—such fun research—on superstitions around the globe. There’s one two-volume book that was terrific called Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World edited by Cora Linn Daniels and C.M. Stevens. So occasionally I mixed and matched entries from that book. But mostly I made up the “bible entries” which was a lot of fun. On an emotional level, I felt like “the bible” was kind of a life-line for Jude, that she’d draw on it, both as a way to connect to her dead grandmother whom she loved dearly but also as a way to feel more in control (however illogical) of her life and less afraid in the world.
I definitely go that impression of Jude with her "bible"...that it was the one thing in her life that she could control, so she clung to it for that reason.
Great question. Well considering it took so many years to write this novel, I think it would be something like: (Portrait: Author and Her Characters Jump off Cliff). It would be of me holding hands with Noah and Jude and all of us jumping together off a cliff over the ocean on a really sunny day, and stopping mid-air, mid-fall, so we’re suspended in the blue sky.
That is perfect! I can really envision that after reading the book.
At one point, Jude and Noah are discussing how much their roles have changed over the last few years. Jude even says, "So can you believe how weird I've gotten and how normal you've gotten?" Did you plan this role reversal? Which perspective was harder to write, Noah's or Jude's? And which was your favorite to write?
I did have an idea that there would be a role reversal because of how each twin would respond to certain events. Also, there’s lots of mirroring going on in the book in general. No one will probably notice this but there are key scenes in each of the twin’s story that mirror each other. I really loved this mirroring idea when I was writing, both thematically and structurally, because the identities of the twins are so very much wrapped up in each other. Jude’s perspective was perhaps a little harder to write but not because of who she was, more because she’s carrying the weight of the three years between the stories on her shoulders. And I can’t pick a favorite! That’d be like asking a mother which child she likes more! But in all honesty, I loved spending time with both twins equally. They’re so different that it was really wonderful getting to go back and forth.
Okay, okay...that makes sense...Noah and Jude kind of are like your children in the way that you cultivated them into the individuals they are in the story. Forget I asked. :)
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Jandy!
About the author:
Jandy Nelson, like her characters in I’ll Give You the Sun, comes from a superstitious lot. She was tutored from a young age in the art of the four-leaf clover hunt; she knocks wood, throws salt, and carries charms in her pockets. Her debut novel, The Sky Is Everywhere, was on multiple Best Books of the Year lists, was a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, earned numerous starred reviews, has been translated widely, and continues to enjoy great international success. Currently a full-time writer, Jandy lives and writes in San Francisco, California—not far from the settings of The Sky Is Everywhere and I’ll Give You the Sun.
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Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour, featuring guest posts, interviews, giveaways, and more!
Sept. 1 – Cuddlebuggery
Sept. 2 – Novel Sounds
Sept. 3 – Perpetual Page Turner
Sept. 4 – Forever Young Adult
Sept. 8 – The Young Folks
Sept. 9 – The Book Hookup
Sept. 10 – Grown Up Fangirl
Sept. 11 – Bewitched Bookworms
Sept. 15 – Candace’s Book Blog
Sept. 16 – Novel Novice
Sept. 17 – Alice Marvels
Sept. 18 – Icey Books
Sept. 22 – The Midnight Garden
Sept. 23 – The Starry-Eyed Revue
Sept. 24 – Tales of a Ravenous Reader
Sept. 25 – Katie’s Book Blog
Sept. 29 – GReads!
Sept. 30 – Anna Reads
Thanks for checking out this Q&A with author Jandy Nelson! I hope your interest in I'll Give You the Sun has been piqued and that you give both her novels a try!