2015 Debut Authors Bash: Interview with Ingrid Sundberg

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Title: All We Left Behind
Author: Ingrid Sundberg
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publishing Date: December 1st, 2015
Blurb:

For fans of Simone Elkeles and Courtney Summers, this haunting debut novel is about two teenagers battling their inner demons as they fall in love for the first time.

When Marion Taylor, the shy bookworm, meets sexy soccer captain Kurt Medford at a party, what seems like a sure thing quickly turns into a total mess. One moment they’re alone in the middle of a lake, igniting sparks of electricity. The next, they’re on dry land, pretending they’ve never met. But rather than the end, that night is the beginning of something real, terrifying, and completely unforgettable for them both.

As Marion and Kurt struggle to build a relationship from the fractured pieces of their pasts, every kiss they share uncovers memories both would rather keep buried. Marion desperately wants to trust Kurt and share the one secret she’s never told anyone—but some truths aren’t meant to be spoken out loud. Kurt is also still haunted by his mother’s death, by the people he hurt, and by the mistakes he can never take back.

Explosive together and hollow apart, Marion and Kurt seem totally wrong for each other—but could they turn out to be more right than they ever thought possible?

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Interview with Ingrid Sundberg:

What gave you the idea to write ALL WE LEFT BEHIND?

The story came from the characters. Kurt and Marion had these secrets that haunted them, and I couldn’t stop asking what those secrets were and why they wouldn’t talk to each other about them.

I’m also really intrigued by the concept of intimacy and the contrast between physical intimacy and emotional intimacy. They don’t always go hand in hand, which I think is fascinating. Relationships are complicated. They’re fraught with unspoken fears and expectations. Marion and Kurt are two teenagers who hold their secrets close to their chest, yet they’re both desperate to connect. I loved watching them try to navigate such an unclear future together.

How did you come up with the character’s names?

Marion and Lilith are taken from the biblical names of Mary and Lilith. Mary being the virgin, like Marion. And Lilith being the first woman who would not bow down to man, which is how I see Lilith’s brazen attitude.

As for Kurt, in an early early draft of this book he was a throwaway character who dumped Marion. I didn’t put much thought into his name. I needed something that fit a cookie-cutter jock stereotype. Of course, Kurt is anything but a cookie-cutter character now. He turned into a complex and vital part of this book!

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

I always loved writing in Marion’s voice. She sees the world in such a tactile way. She’s very aware of her senses: touch, taste, smell. She has a vulnerable and poetic way of describing her experiences that was a blast to write.

When you have writers block how do you overcome it?

For me, writing is all about inertia. If I’m stuck, I go back to the last place where the story was “cooking.” It’s the last place I was excited when writing and I could feel the energy on the page. I start there and go in a different direction than I did before. If I’m pulling teeth while writing, something is wrong. I have to go back and head down a new rabbit hole.

Besides writing what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love crafting and baking. My hands are always busy making something tasty or beautiful. I love cake decorating, paper flower making, and painting. Just this month I discovered the art of fairy gardens and have fallen in love! My backyard is about to be covered in them.  

When your readers read this book, what do you want them to take away from the reading experience?

I hate the idea of telling readers what they should “take away” from a novel. I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s experience. Reading a novel is intimate and personal, and every reader’s relationship with these characters is going to be different and special.

For me … I wrote this book because I wanted to explore the awkwardness and vulnerability of a real high school relationship, one where the characters have to face the true meaning of intimacy. Romantic relationships tread a complex space that is often unspoken and hard to articulate. I think what each reader “takes away” from that unspoken space can only be articulated by each reader individually. Which is awesome. I guess I hope each reader looks into that unspoken space and asks themselves for meaning.

What is your favorite movie and TV show?

You’re all about to learn what a big sci-fi geek I am! My favorite TV show is the re-boot of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. My favorite movie is a lesser known sci-fi film called SUNSHINE directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland, and starring Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, and Chris Evans. I’m also a huge fan of ALIENS. Clearly I need to write a sci-fi novel!

What are your top five favorite books?

In no particular order … I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Small Damages by Beth Kephart, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, and The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson.

What made you want to write a YA novel?

Eight years ago I attended an SCBWI conference as an illustrator. At the time I was interested in the picture book market, but I decided to attend a keynote speech by a YA author I’d never heard of. Let’s be honest, I’d heard of three YA authors at the time. I was absolutely blown away by this guy’s passion for writing, and specifically writing for teenagers. His enthusiasm was absolutely addicting. He planted a seed in my head that day that I couldn’t shake. What if I wrote YA? That speaker was John Green and he’d just published his second book An Abundance of Katherines. I started reading tons of YA after that, and here we are eight years later with my own published YA novel!

What is your writing process?

1) Find a character I care about with a voice that resonates with me.

2) Ask them what they’re afraid of.

3) Put them in situations where they have to deal with that fear.

4) Write down what happens.

5) Execute eight hundred other “writing” steps like revise, plot, outline, draft, throw it away, start again, draft, revise, polish, yadda yadda yadda. 🙂   

What advice would you give to future writers?

Read. Everything you need to know about writing, you can teach yourself from reading. Don’t just read to enjoy a book. Do that the first time, but then read the book again and dissect what’s working and what’s not working and WHY. Follow your intuition. Study the books you adore, because they’ll help you write books you love. Study books you hate and try to understand why another reader might like that style. Ask yourself why you don’t like that style. Anything you’re struggling with can be answered by studying how others do it well, or do it poorly. But you have to read.

About the Author:

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Ingrid Sundberg holds an MFA in writing for children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman University. She grew up in Maine, but now lives in sunny California, where she misses the colors of autumn. She loves polka dots, baking, and dying her hair every color of the rainbow. All We Left Behind is her first novel.

Author Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

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