In honour of Banned Books Week, Hypable speaks to Eleanor & Park author Rainbow Rowell about challenges to her work, and her new novel Fangirl.
Rainbow Rowell is the bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Attachments, and her new novel Fangirl was recently released. But that isn’t what has had Rowell in the headlines recently, instead it is the challenge to Eleanor & Park, and the canceling of her planned speaking appearance in a Minnesota county.
Banned Books Week runs this week, from September 22 through September 28. The week long celebration is run by the American Library Association, and encourages the freedom to read. The latest episode of Hypable’s Book Hype podcast featured a discussion on banned books, and specifically about the challenge to Rowell’s novel.
Fangirl is a fantastic novel about fandom and about life. Cath is a big deal in the Simon Snow fandom, she is the author of the definitive fanfiction that she plans to finish before the final novel is published.
But Cath has just started college, and between her twin sister Wren going off the rails, her sulky roommate’s bizarrely nice boyfriend, and worrying about her dad – she doesn’t have a lot of time for fanfiction.
Author interview: Rainbow Rowell
Hypable: What was your inspiration for ‘Fangirl’?
Rainbow Rowell: I think it started with the last Harry Potter movie. I’d been okay when the books ended because there were still movies to look forward to. But after the last Deathly Hallows movie came out, the Harry Potter ride was finally over, and I wasn’t ready for it. I went on a fandom bender, reading as much as fanfiction as I could.
And I started thinking about how different it is to be a fan of something now than it was when I was younger. I was writing fanfiction when I was a teenager, but I didn’t know to call it that, and I didn’t have anyone to share it with. I think if I’d had access to the Internet and the community of fandom, it would have changed my life. In good ways and bad. (The Internet really plays to my strengths and weaknesses.)
So that’s where Cath came from. She’s a writer who grew up inside fandom, and now she has to figure out how fandom fits in her life — or how everything else fits around it.
What are your own personal experiences with fandom?
Oh, I’ve always been someone who has extreme feelings about pop culture. If I like something, I probably love it — and if I love it, I can’t get enough. I’ve always used the things I love to identify myself. Like, “I love The Beatles. This is an important part of who I am.”
The first thing I was obsessively fannish about was Star Wars. I lived inside the Star Wars universe during grade school. My friend and I used to make up adventures. She’d get to be Princess Leia — because she had dark hair and her own toy lightsaber. And I’d be her cousin — the lesser Princess Leah.
As I got older it was the X-Men, Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland, Wham!, Star Wars again, Dawson’s Creek, Harry Potter…
I sort of missed the beginning of Internet fandom because it happened when I was having my kids. I feel like I’m making up for lost time now.
How does it feel knowing that there is a Rainbow Rowell fandom?
Wow. I don’t think that’s a real thing.
But it’s incredible to know that people are connecting to my books — and connecting in a way that’s inspiring them to make their own art and tell their own stories. The most wonderful thing that’s happened to me as an author is fan art. It blows my mind completely.