I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for Emily Henry’s debut novel, The Love That Split The World. It’s been described as Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife and I can assure you that, if you like romance and time travel, you will love The Love That Split The World. My mind was blown over and over again as I read because the story is so complex and captivating.
Check out our interview with Emily below and make sure to keep an eye out for The Love That Split The World – in stores January 26, 2016!
- This is such a unique story. Where did you get the idea for The Love That Split The World?First of all, thank you so much! I’m glad it felt unique to you! Partly, I think that’s because there wasn’t one idea behind it but a few, and we’re more used to pitchable one-line hooks–which, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of. A lot of times those are the sign of a strong story! But The Love That Split the World is more like a list of strange and magical things, whose connection is at the heart of its mystery.That’s made describing the book at parties and holidays REALLY fun (read: torturous), but I’ve gotten a lot better at it than I was when I sent my agent the initial email, which basically read, “I wrote a book I didn’t tell you about but now here it is!!! I’m attaching it to this email!!! Right now!!!” Followed by like, six paragraphs of explanation.The driving force behind the story is the main character Natalie’s hypnopompic hallucinations, which are a kind of dream where your body’s awake but your brain’s still sleeping so you get a weird mash-up of dream and reality. I’ve had these throughout my own life and I’ve always wanted to write a book that explored a fantastical or scientific explanation for them.That was the seed of TLTSTW plot-wise, but the heart of the book grew really organically from everything I was thinking about at the time: It was summer and summer always makes me nostalgic, so I was spending a lot of time missing the past, thinking about growing up, asking what it means to love and be loved, and wondering about the nature of time.The main character, Natalie, has just graduated from high school and she’s existing in that unprecedented “in between” period of life, where you’re both clinging to the past and looking toward the future, figuring out who and what you want to hold onto versus what you want to shed. I wanted to capture the magic, confusion, and nostalgia of that time. And obviously the book is also about the many types of love. So the checklist is like: hallucinations, summer, nostalgia, growing up, time, love.
- I can’t imagine coming up with a complex story like this and being able to get all of the details right (the time travel, the parallel worlds) but you absolutely did. What was your strategy while writing? i.e. Are you a pantser or a plotter?I’m a pantser to my core. Every time I’ve tried to plot a book I get bored as soon as I start the actual writing process. For me, the joy of writing is really similar to the joy of reading. I like making those discoveries. I like being surprised, being caught off guard by twists, and writing a book I’ve already plotted feels like rereading something I just finished reading.That said, this book was bit of an exception to my usual process in that I had a rough idea of the ending before I ever started writing. There are so many moving parts to the story that I doubt I could’ve gotten through it without knowing where it was going, but it was still exciting to write because I had no idea out it would get there. The story took more than a few turns I wasn’t expecting along the way and I’m really happy with how they fit with, and even strengthened, the ending.The process felt a lot like laying out all the pieces of a puzzle but leaving space between them until the very end, when they all finally snap together. I’m a huge fan of authors who do this (A.S. King and Nova Ren Suma come to mind), and I wanted to see if I could pull it off. I’m really glad you think I did! That was a huge goal for TLTSTW, so it means a lot!
- What was your favorite part of writing The Love That Split The World? What was most challenging? Hmm… this is tough. I think the Megan/Natalie scenes were my favorite to write. A lot of them, frankly, aren’t integral to the main plot, but I doubt anything helped me know and understand Nat better than seeing her interact with her best friend. I just wanted to live in those scenes. No matter how crazy Nat’s situation gets, being around Megan instantly grounds her. When I’m writing, I tend to put myself so thoroughly into my characters’ situations that it can be exhausting and painful, but whenever Megan appeared on the page, I would feel so much more at peace, so comforted, on Nat’s behalf.On the flip side, the scientific aspects were super challenging because time itself is a slippery concept to nail down. Sometimes, when I think about time as just one more dimension–like height, width, depth–I’m so mind-boggled I actually get dizzy. Anytime you’re slicing up and rearranging time, I think you’re bound to get completely lost and have to start over, run through everything a thousand times. It was a challenge, but a fun one, for sure.And writing Beau was a challenge simply because he’s not that talkative! It’s hard to nail down what exactly forms an emotional bond between two people when one of them doesn’t do most of his communication through speaking. Beau’s presence is what Nat falls for, and their understanding of each other is a strangely metaphysical thing, so I had to spend a lot of time thinking about how I could make that relationship believable when dialogue isn’t its core, like it is with Nat and Meg.I thought a lot about contact improvisation, a form of dance where you use physical communication and a shared movement vocabulary to move with one another. There’s a lot of picking up, flipping over, and weight sharing—it’s playful and intimate (And you if you’re interested there’s a TedTalk about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi-OaiQvnTU) but most interestingly to me, you can do this with people you don’t know at all and it can form a semi-intimate bond between people who’ve never verbally spoken. Communication is at the heart of every relationship but that isn’t always dialogue, and it was interesting and difficult to create interplay between a girl who talks a lot and a boy who doesn’t.
- I really liked the role that Natalie’s heritage played in the story. What inspired that part of her?Thank you! I come from a family where cross-cultural adoption has played a major role, so it felt natural to write a family like Nat’s. Because she’s about to make a huge life change, she’s especially spending a lot of time thinking about identity, so even though there’s a fantastical, genre-bending love story unfolding around her, she’s still dealing with complex family stuff, friend stuff, ex-boyfriend stuff, and small-town stuff. I wanted those inner worlds and outer worlds to be inextricably linked, and for the contemporary aspects of the book to have the same weight as the speculative aspects.
- If you could have lunch with a character from The Love That Split The World, who would it be and why?I think I’d choose Rachel. Megan would be my top choice, but she’s actually based on my childhood (and still) best friend, who lives right up the street from me, so I get to do that anyway! But Rachel might be my favorite character. There were a few scenes with her that didn’t make the final cut so I know a lot more about her than is actually presented, and I just admire her a lot. I think we’d have a lot of fun together, but also I would probably give her an annoying motivational speech.
- What was your favorite book when you were the prime age for reading YA? Did that influence your own writing at all?It almost seems unnecessary to say Harry Potter, but obviously Harry Potter. I was also a huge fan of the Animorphs series, The Giver, and A Wrinkle in Time. I can definitely see the influence of the writers I love on my own work. Now, every time I read something I love, I seem to uncover one more element of what makes me love a story, and that affects the type of book I want to write. I think the books I loved as a kid and teen played a more subconscious role. They shaped me as a person, and that affects both what I’m interested in and capable of writing.
- Can you tell us what is next for you?I’m working on another genre-bending, romance-heavy YA standalone! This new book really builds on all the concepts I was exploring with TLTSTW. Whereas that was largely about love and identity, I’d say this book is more about grief and purpose but it also explores time from a completely different vantage point than TLTSTW. It takes a bit more of a surreal turn, so I’m really hoping those who loved my first book will be willing to follow me into new territory.
- And just for fun: what books have you read and loved recently that we should be on the lookout for?The last 2015 release I read was Six of Crows, which was incredible, and I’m mad I read it before the second book was out! The 2016 contemporary releases I’ve fallen in love with are A Study in Charlotte, The Serpent King, The First Time She Drowned, and Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here. In fantasy and sci-fi, I’m super excited about Where Futures End, The Girl from Everywhere, The Star-Touched Queen, Ever the Hunted, and Rebel of the Sands.
Thank you so much to Emily Henry and Penguin Teen for this wonderful interview! Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour for more about Emily and The Love That Split The World: