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Q&A With Rainbow Rowell!

April 3, 2012 - Amy Phelps
I'd like to welcome "Attachments" author Rainbow Rowell!

Q: What made you decide to set your book in 1999?

ROWELL: When I started writing Attachments I knew that it couldn’t be set in the present. I’m not even sure that something like this could happen today; the way we think about the internet and email, just 13 years later, is already so different.

Attachments is about a guy (Lincoln) who gets hired to monitor the email at a newspaper in Omaha, Nebraska. Much the like the newspaper I was working at in the late ‘90s …

We all know now that the internet rocked print journalism to its core. But in 1999, newspapers weren’t worried about being displaced; we were worried about being hacked. What if somebody busted into the front page? Or stole all of our secret secrets? My newspaper was extremely cautious. We were slow to get email and internet access, and once we did, all our activity was monitored by guys in the IT department.

Also, setting the book in the '90s let me take liberties with the email sections/ Today our e-mail reads almost like shorthand, very terse and quick -- and not great for storytelling. But in the '90s, when we all first started e-mailing, we treated it much more like writing letters. Much better for storytelling.

Q: Who was your favorite character to write for?

ROWELL: Hmmm ... probably Lincoln. I wrote the email sections of the book first. And a lot of that was just an exercise in making myself laugh, trying to blow off steam. It didn't feel like I was really writing a book until I climbed into Lincoln's head. He's the character who made me finish the story. I wanted to take care of him.

The character whom I enjoyed writing the most was Lincoln's friend Justin. Justin is the character least like me -- he's shallow, kind of crass, he hangs out in bars -- but I would just laugh out loud when I was writing him. I don't even know where his lines came from. Whenever I put Justin in a scene, the scene would get twice as long as I meant it to.

Q: If we were to check in on Lincoln and Beth and Jennifer now, what would they be doing?

ROWELL: Oh, what a fun question! I've never thought that far ahead. SPOILER ALERT. Let's see, they'd be . . .41! Wow! Okay, I think that Jennifer had the baby, a boy, named him Mitch, and decided to stay home with him. As conflicted as she was about starting a family, once the baby's here, I think she'd throw herself into it. And they'd have at least one more kid, I think. Maybe two more. Even if they really had to work for it. 

Mitch is still playing the tuba. He's a rock.

And Beth and Lincoln . . . I think that they had a tough first year. It would be strange to fall in love with someone without really knowing them. It's almost like they love pieces of each other -- the only pieces they've been allowed to see so far.

So they had to spend a year or two getting to know each other, seeing each other completely, and shaking free of some of their baggage from Chris and Sam. 

But they're both such good people -- and they both believe in true love. I think people have to believe in their own love stories. (That's an idea I'm exploring in a book I'm writing now.)

SO ... they got married. At 31 maybe. I think they have two kids. Beth is still at the paper. (No way she's giving up that movie reviewing job.) Lincoln is still in school -- and also teaching classes. I see Lincoln ending up as a college professor. Teaching some sort of course on the cultural impact of technology, maybe.

And I think Beth and Jennifer are still friends. The kind of friends who have their own secret group on Facebook.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring young writers?

ROWELL: Write! A lot! Seriously!

In journalism school, they teach you that writing is more of a craft -- like plumbing -- than an art. The only way to learn how to do it is to do it as much as possible.

Also -- and this can be hard -- try to find editors or writing partners or readers who push you to be better. I write better stuff if I know that my agent is going to be reading it. I know that he has high expectations and standards.

Q: Who or what inspires you when you have writer's block?

ROWELL: I don't really get writer's block. Maybe because I've worked at a newspaper for so long, and at a newspaper, writer's block is a luxury you can't afford. You have deadlines, and you meet them. 

That said, there are plenty of days when everything I write feels flat. If I feel blocked or flat, I just keep writing. I tell myself that I'll get through it. I always have so far.


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