In your opinion, what are the top three reasons why teens (or even adults) should consider buying And Then Things Fall Apart the next time they see it in stores or online?
It is terribly well written, funny and simultaneously heartbreaking!
It is like entering the unique brain of a real life teen girl for 254 pages.
It has poetry and Sylvia Plath recipes- yes recipes- in it!
And Then Things Fall Apart tells the story of Keek so will you tell us a little about her? In addition, if you could offer her any advice, what would you say?
I love Keek and feel like she is my Siamese twin. She’s great and has a brain that never stops thinking. She takes the world very seriously but she also knows how to laugh at herself find absurdity in any situation. What I love most about Keek is that she really seems to know who she is and except for a few major lapses, she acts on her guts in a way that inspires me. She is sofa king awesome. I am going to miss her. Advice for her? I don’t know how well Keek takes advice but I would tell her that sometimes, things don’t get better. But you get stronger and can handle whatever the universe throws at you.
In the book, Keek finds comfort in reading in rereading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (which is actually one of my favorite books as well). What inspired you to have Keek find solace in reading this book in particular? Is it a favorite of yours?
As a teen I was obsessed with Sylvia Plath’s book of poems, Ariel. It was Ariel and Catcher in the Rye. Those two together really had a huge impact on me as a person and as a writer. What I loved about The Bell Jar was that it was a very serious and adult-targeted book about an 18-year-old girl. A smart, fashionable, serious, sexy, writer in NYC who loses it and attempts suicide. In my own way, I think that I was trying to combine Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar. But then Keek took over and that is And Then Things Fall Apart, in a nutshell.
A good portion of Keek’s story takes place at her grandmother’s house while Keek herself has a bad case of chicken pox. What inspired you to set Keek in that setting and condition?
Would you be surprised to learn that when I was 15 I had a severe case of the chicken pox and had to spend most of my illness at my grandma’s house? That was the inspiration for the book. What’s so weird about And Then Things Fall Apart is that it is very much about me and my family and that intense time in my real life. But it is equally entirely and totally made up. Keek is NOT me. The dad is not my dad, The mom not my mom. Matt was so not my boyfriend. Fiction is weird that way.
I really enjoyed examining the virginity aspects of the story, which are all in flashback. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with sex but I was also terrified of it. I wanted to create a character who was comfortable with her sexuality, comfortable enough to know that she wasn’t ready to actually go through with it. And I wanted to talk about it in hot, sexy, compelling ways.
Do you have a favorite scene or line from And Then Things Fall Apart? If so, would you mind sharing it, or a little about it?
I have a favorite scene and a favorite line and they are in very different places in the book.
Just because I don’t want to “lose” my “virginity” doesn’t mean I wouldn’t mind misplacing it for a while. - I just think that it reads like truth and is kind of witty…
Oh- and then this one makes me crack up EVERY TIME I READ IT!! (And when you get a book ready for publication, you read it at least 1,000 times)
“I have heard the story so many times I could make a YouTube video of it using sock puppets and a Barbie doll.”
I think the scene with Keek and her dad at the beach has particular resonance for me. It was a scene I wrote all at once and hardly a word has changed from it coming out of my brain onto paper to the published version. I think it’s the kind of honest and loving conversation I have always wanted to have with my dad about my own parents’ split and haven’t.
I absolutely adore the cover of the book. What was your reaction when you saw it for the first time?
Oh. My. God. This cover! At first I was delighted that it didn’t have any bodies on it. I was afraid it was going to have some stock photo of a random “quirky” teenager on it. And as I sat with it I fell in deeply in love in an unnatural way with the cover. It says everything about the book in one elegant and beautiful image. Jessica Handler was the designer and I want to mention her name at every opportunity because I want her to feel the love. My deep and unnatural love.
With And Then Things Fall Apart’s release day quickly approaching, do you have any plans on how you’ll spend the day?
I have a fabulous launch party to prepare for! I’ll probably dye my hair in the morning and drink cappuccinos from my beloved Nespresso machine all day long until I’m all wired and a little nauseous. I have to pack up my vintage typewriters, pop my contacts in. Get dressed. Charge my iphone. EEEEEEEEP! I can’t WAIT! And everyone is totally invited. Tuesday, July 26th at Books of Wonder. 18 West 18th Street New York, NY. 6-8pm!
Name three things people would be surprised to know about you. In addition, what’s up next for you book wise? Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am addicted to Bikram yoga (the gross hot sweaty yoga: I love it).
I carry a lucky $2 bill in my wallet.
I first got braces when I was 21 years old.
ARE YOU SHOCKED AND SURPRISED?
What’s next? Another book, of course. Can’t share much about it except that it is getting written…
Thanks so much for a lovely interview and all the love for And Things Fall Apart!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Arlaina!
Arlaina Tibensky is the world’s oldest teenager. She lives in NYC where she curates the Pen Parentis Literary Salon at the Libertine Library. Her debut YA novel AND THEN THINGS FALL APART, about how Sylvia Plath and an old typewriter usher a reluctant virgin through the worst summer of her freaking life is out July 26, 2011 with Simon & Schuster. Visit her at arlainatibensky.blogspot.com.