Stephanie Perkins Reflects On Her Debut Novel 10 Years Later And The Neflix Adaptation Of Her Recent YA Horror Novel
In a text message Q&A, Stephanie Perkins discusses how she feels about her debut novel 10 years later, how the majority of her books were drafted during NaNoWriMo, and the adaptation of her first horror novel, There's Someone Inside Your House.
Stephanie Perkins' YA debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year by releasing a special collector's edition with a gorgeous new cover. The story follows Anna, who expects to finish her senior year in her Georgia hometown, but everything changes when her parents unexpectedly send her to a boarding school in Paris. It's there Anna meets a group of new friends, including the charming Étienne St. Clair. During a whirlwind year of romantic near-misses, Anna learns a lot about love — and also, about herself.
I had a chance to chat with Stephanie about Anna and the French Kiss, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short), the writing process, and her latest YA horror novel, There's Someone Inside Your House, which has been adapted into a movie for Netflix.
Hi Stephanie! This is Farrah. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.
Hi, Farrah! Thank you for taking time out of your day to chat! You’re in LA, right? How’s the air quality there this week? Has the smoke cleared or are the wildfires still raging? This story has completely dropped from the national news, and I’m so curious! I hope you and your loved ones are okay.
Yes, I’m in LA and while the smoke is better than a few weeks ago, the air quality still isn’t the greatest. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading inside! How have you been doing during this quarantine?
I’m relieved to hear the situation is improving. I hope it keeps up! The pictures online were so frightening. I’m sorry that you’ve been dealing with this on top of everything else. I’m lucky to be doing okay. My husband and I both have our jobs and our health, and that’s more than so many Americans. (I keep repeating this to myself to keep the fear at bay, ha.)
I’m glad to hear you both are doing okay. I also feel fortunate to be in the same boat but truly hope things begin to get better soon.
I want to start by congratulating you on the 10-year anniversary of your debut YA novel, Anna and the French Kiss! It’s such a feel-good book with fantastic characters. How are you feeling about this incredibly sweet story 10 years later?
Aww, thank you. When I reflect on this book, mainly I’m filled with gratitude. Some authors may feel differently, but I feel massively fortunate that my debut novel has been my most successful. This book gave me a career. I’ll love it forever.
It’s connected with so many readers who absolutely feel this same love for it! The collector’s edition cover is so gorgeous. We’ve seen Anna get a few cover makeovers over the years. Do you have a personal favorite? And is there anything we can expect to find in this newest edition?
I’ll always love the cover that launched the series’ redesign, but, I mean, this new one is the best, right?? It’s actually the same talented book designer — Lindsey Andrews at Penguin — and the illustrator is Nick Misani, who lives in Paris! It has sprayed edges, gold foil, decorative endpapers, a ribbon bookmark, and an illustrated, annotated map. The whole package is outrageously pretty.
It is SUCH a good cover and I can’t wait to see it in person! It’s also so fun that the same book designer was involved in this edition.
I can’t wait to see it in person too!
So, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up, and I believe I read Anna was a NaNo book. Is this true? If so, how was your experience? And do you have any tips for writers embarking on this journey next month?
Yes, it’s true! Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After all had NaNo drafts. It was an incredibly positive experience, and I’d recommend it to any writer who has trouble meeting a goal or completing a draft. And that’s my best advice, too: Treat it as the roughest of rough drafts. Just get some thoughts and ideas out there. You don’t even have to worry about the plot yet! Your *only* goal is 50,000 words. My final books have looked NOTHING like their NaNo drafts, but those drafts were such helpful springboards and confidence builders.
As a published novelist yourself, have you ever tried NaNo? Do you prefer drafting or revising?
I think that’s such good advice and takes tons of pressure off writers to create a “perfect” book in 30 days. Your first drafts are allowed to be super messy. It’s why revising is so important. For me, drafting a new book is both exciting and scary, but I think I prefer it because it begins as a blank slate for endless possibilities. Do you like one over the other: drafting versus revising?
Oh, I’m envious. Grass is always greener, no doubt, but authors who enjoy drafting seem happier to me, at least in terms of the basic workday. Am I making that up? I’m probably wildly off-base! I’m a slow drafter. I feel anxious and stupid the entire time. Every sentence I write is humiliating. I’m much more comfortable having something already on the page and getting to tinker with it. Tinker, tinker, tinker! I could revise forever.
I 100% understand that feeling of tinkering forever! There is definitely pros to both, I think!
Anna and the French Kiss takes place in Paris. You’ve set this story — as well as your other companion novels — in such beautiful, exciting places. Was this intentional? What draws you to these locations, and how do you feel it enhances the story?
I love setting, and I tend to think of it as another protagonist or antagonist, depending on what story I’m trying to tell. Our landscapes — what currently surrounds us, as well as where we come from — shape us in so many interesting ways. It can bond us, but it can also show how remarkably different we are from each other. I’m endlessly fascinated by it.
That’s such a great way to think about setting. It’s so true!
I know I’m pivoting here a bit, but you published a YA horror novel called There’s Someone Inside Your House in 2017, and it’s currently being adapted into a movie. Even though it’s a change from romance, it still feels authentically like a Stephanie Perkins book. What made you want to try writing horror, and is there anything you can share about the upcoming adaptation?
Thank you. I always joke that There’s Someone Inside Your House is like Anna — but with murder. It’s definitely still my voice, and it even contains a love story. The Netflix movie has been thrilling. I’m so far removed from the process of making it, which means that I get to just enjoy it as an audience member. Bliss. I’m a little bit in love with everybody who worked it — and I was already in love with the work of the director, Patrick Brice, before this even began! — but I think viewers will be especially taken with Sydney Park, who plays the lead, Makani. She’s so fierce and absolutely luminous. A star.
I am so excited to watch when it comes out! Do you have any upcoming books we can look out for in the near future?
My next novel is another horror/thriller called The Woods Are Always Watching, and it’ll be out in 2021.
I am pumped for another horror/thriller from you! It’s been such a pleasure chatting today. I cannot express how much I love Anna and the French Kiss, and I hope readers check out the new edition. It’s a perfect, swoony escape that so many need right now. Final (fun) question before I go: If you could describe Anna and the French Kiss in 3 emojis, what would they be?
Thank you, again, for today!
Learn more about the collector's edition of Anna and the French Kiss here. If you'd like to check out Stephanie's upcoming virtual events, be sure to mark your calendars for Oct. 27, when you can find her in conversation with Jeff Zentner via Malaprop’s Bookstore, and Oct. 28, when you can find her in conversation with Gayle Foreman and Nina LaCour via The Ripped Bodice!