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Interview: January 2010

January 2010

Carolyn Mackler's fifth and most recent novel, TANGLED, follows four teens whose lives interconnect and are irrevocably changed when they meet on vacation at a Caribbean resort.

In this interview with founder Carol Fitzgerald, Mackler explains the challenges of writing in this format and discusses the unlikely source of inspiration for the book's plot. She also names her favorite character, describes how she can so easily get inside the heads of young adults, and shares details on her next book in the works. What was your inspiration for TANGLED?

Carolyn Mackler: TANGLED came to me as I was walking around the Reservoir in Central Park: four teens who meet on vacation and set off a chain of events that profoundly impacts all of their lives. I’m sure bits of inspiration came from everywhere: a vacation my husband and I went on, a newspaper article I read, some melodrama from my teen years. Also, I once passed a bench in the park and I thought to myself, What if I found a suicide note on it? What would I do? Those are the random things I think about as I stroll on a lovely sunny day.

TRC: Did you always plan to have TANGLED told in four separate voices, or was the story originally conceptualized another way?

CM: I always envisioned TANGLED from four separate points of view, and I knew that all four stories would be interwoven. The challenge was figuring out exactly who those characters were. I knew early on that I would have Jena, Skye and Dakota. For a while, I had a friend of Dakota’s in Paradise with them and he would be number 4. But then I realized that Owen was my missing link --- and that’s when the story really started to click. Owen is my sweetheart. I want to have him over for dinner and cook him a delicious meal.

TRC: Was there one character who was the easiest for you to write? Is there any one of them who you missed when you stopped writing?

CM: Strangely, Dakota was the easiest character for me to write. Weird, right? I mean, I’m so not a guy, and not a guy who works out and wrestles and hooks up with as many girls as possible and drinks while trespassing. But for some reason, I identified with Dakota and I got his voice from the first line of his story. It was never a struggle to write from his point of view. I definitely missed Dakota when I finished his section, but the best thing about TANGLED was that I always knew I would revisit my characters again later, even just for a quick glimpse.

TRC: In TANGLED, Jena keeps a book of quotes. Reading that, I found myself thinking back on the days when I did the same thing and made me wonder if I still have those books around. Did you do this? And do you still do it?

CM: Yes, I DID have a book of quotes! I don’t anymore, but I kept a quote book in college and would scribble for excerpts from novels I was reading or quotes I saw on greeting cards or even words I liked, such as “perfunctory” and “conundrum.” Also, I’ve always been a total snoop, just can’t get enough of everyone else’s business. So, like Jena, I pick up discarded notes or other people’s shopping lists. And to-do lists --- those are the best! You can learn a lot about someone by reading their to-do list.

TRC: Through all your books, you have done such a terrific job of getting into the heads of teens. How do you keep in touch with what’s going on in their worlds?

CM: Honestly, I’m still a teenager myself. In my head, that is. Sometimes I’m shocked when I look up and realize I’m married and have two kids. How did this happen? I’m still 17 and scouring stores for a flattering prom dress. Also, I love talking to teenagers and asking what their lives are like, how they communicate, and whether I can see their texts and figure out what’s so darn exciting about that incoming message.

TRC: What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to see it?

CM: I have a six-week-old baby, so I’m taking a little break for a few months. But I’m also halfway through a new novel about a really smart girl in a really depressing town. She meets an amazing guy and he may or may not betray her. Honestly, I can’t wait to get back to work on it. I’m not sure when it’ll come out --- it all depends on when I can finish it!