This past week, I had the opportunity to interview Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything and Ana de la Guera who plays Carla in the film that opens nationwide this weekend. While I thought I would be nervous being in the same room as a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People, Nicola and Ana were friendly, down-to-earth and very normal.
I’m delighted to share some of my interview with them here. I think you will LOVE the book and the film.
On the creation of Everything, Everything
Everything, Everything has only been out for a couple of years, which seems really fast to me that there’s already a movie. Were you shopping the movie while you were writing the book at the same time, or how did that come to be?
Nicola: When I wrote [the book], I wrote the first act, so seventy pages. It sold at auction, there were eleven publishers interested, [and] the movie people were there at the same time. So, I think that’s why the process has been so fast, because people were interested before I was done writing the book.
What was it like working with your husband on the illustrations? How did that come to be?
Nicola: The story is Maddy’s been trapped in her house her whole life, and I thought she would want to draw the world as a way to try to bring it closer to her. But, I can’t draw at all, so I got my husband to do it. I woke him up one morning at 4:30 AM, and I said, “Will you please draw me the Hawaiian state fish?” He got up, made coffee, gave me a kiss, asked me no questions, and drew the fish. We had a really good time working on it, because I can’t draw at all, but I would draw something terrible, and he would make me something beautiful, and we just did it.
Talk to me a little bit about the really heavy issues in Everything, Everything. I think if you judge a book by its cover, it’s really pretty and you might not expect the issues you include. So, what do you hope that readers get from reading a book like this? What are the conversations you hope will happen? What drew you to writing about such heavy topics in this book?
Nicola: The impetus was just motherhood for me. You know, I was a very nervous mom, and I worried about all the things. I worried about the level to which I wanted to protect my little girl. Love is wonderful, and it’s beautiful, but there’s a dark side to it, or there can be, right? The one thing that love does for everyone is it changes things. So, it can change it for the better, or for the worse, but it is an agent of change. So, yeah, I think I really just wanted to talk about all the different kinds of love, and all the different sides of it.
When I met my husband, I was like, “This is my boy. Everything’s great.” But, after I met him, I started worrying about him all the time. If he wasn’t there, I would worry that something bad happened to him, and when we had our little girl, it was worse. We would both now worry. I would always say it was just like your heart walks outside of your body. So, when my little girl is at preschool, my heart is at preschool, and when my husband’s not around, my heart is with him. Like, I can feel I’m not with them right now, and so that’s wonderful, but if I lost them, I’m not sure I’d survive that, and that’s what I was thinking about when I was writing the book. How do you recover from loss? Is it worth being vulnerable when you could be so devastated? I mean, ultimately, I think so, but that’s what I was thinking about when I was writing it.
What is your message for somebody who’s maybe facing those issues? Whether it’s loss, or domestic violence, or fear?
Nicola: Risk things for change. Try to make your life better. That sounds very simple, because it’s not, it’s very hard to make your life different sometimes. But, it’s also easy to feel trapped. Not making a choice is a choice, right? Remaining the same is a choice too. If you can do something, take a risk in order to make your life better.
On Making the Movie
What a special project to see all this come together. Nicola, what has it been like seeing your book turned into a movie?
Nicola: I mean, it’s been magical, and totally surreal. So, one of my favorite scenes is with Ana as Carla, because you [Ana] are so warm. You just feel that you love Maddie so much, which is really how I wanted Carla to be. She’s kind of her mom, kind of her best friend. The scene where you kind of make fun of her for the *inaudible*, I laugh every time. I’ve seen it a hundred times now. So, yeah, it just been…you know, the actors are all, all so wonderful, and really capture the spirit. I’m a lucky girl is what I can say.
And what was it like for you, Ana, bringing Carla to life?
Ana: You feel some pressure because there’s only four characters. When it’s a novel, you already know people are fans of the novel, and they probably imagine the characters a certain way, so you don’t want to disappoint them. It was easy, but it was easy because Amandla is so good, and most of my scenes were with her. I think also Anika is such a great actress that, [and I wanted to] contrast Anika’s character a lot, so it would be more interesting on screen. For Amandla’s world, that she has these two kind of different moms and [role] models. So, that’s how I just tried to portray Carla…being more warm, and sweet, and fun so she can have that in her life. And, her mom loves her very much, but she’s more tight, worried, and more strict.
Nicola: I feel like I could feel that Carla is sort of holding…she’s about to burst, but she’s not doing it right at this second.
Nicola: You were so good…you were so good…
Ana, how long was the filming?
Two months. It was Vancouver most of the time, [about] a month and a half. And then Mexico.
On the Importance of Diverse Books
It was an honor to chat with Nicola for a bit about the importance of our kids’ bookshelves having books that reflect a diverse world. Nicola’s books have characters that represent a variety of ethnicities and she is a member of the We Need Diverse Books team. I also gave her a copy of When God Made You for her little girl. If your bookshelves are not diverse, I hope this will prompt you to evaluate the books you are buying and reading.
Would you talk a bit about the importance of seeing diverse characters, reading about diversity and diverse issues in books?
Nicola: When I was a kid, I didn’t really see myself in books, right? So, the reason Maddy looks the way she does is because my little girl looks like that. So, I wrote the book for her. I wanted her to see herself in a book when she grew up.
— Nicola Yoon (@NicolaYoon) May 1, 2014
It’s one of those things we always talk about in these big political terms, but it’s not. I mean, it is politics, but it’s really personal, right? Everyone should see themselves as a hero of a story. Because books are the way we know ourselves, and it’s the way we know other people, and what’s possible for ourselves, and what’s possible for other people.
What if Harry Potter had been gay? He’s still The One, and he’s still saving the world, but, he’s gay. What changes? Does the story change that much? Books can save lives, metaphysically, to see yourself represented, and to know these things are possible for you. It is my mission in life to write more books with more brown girls, and black girls, and people who don’t get represented. My life is like this, do you know? We live in a diverse world, and our job as artists is to tell the truth, and the truth is that the world is diverse, and it’s better because of the diversity.
Today I am thrilled to give away an autographed bundle of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner. To enter to win the autographed books, use the Rafflecopter below. Only available for residents of the continental United States.