Awhile back I reviewed the new YA novel OCD, the Dude, and Me. Today, I’m soooo excited to host an interview with the author Lauren Vaughn! Thank you so much for being willing to answer my questions Lauren!
1. As a teacher, have your experiences in the classroom helped to inspire OCD, the Dude, and Me in any way?
Totally yes. For twenty years, I was a classroom teacher of high school students with learning differences. I wrote about a world I knew. Danielle is not a particular student that I taught, but she embodies qualities familiar to me. She’s bright, unique and creative, but school and life have been difficult for her. Students struggling, are often silent, only understood by a careful eye. It takes courage to come out of hiding and ask for help. Students don’t always want help, but loving adults make sure that help happens anyway—that’s Danielle’s story. I was moved to write about a student who struggled but who also possessed wonderful gifts; those are the teenagers I’ve been blessed to know. There were thrilling moments from my career that influenced the story too. Like Ms. Harrison, I chaperoned students on school trips. Years ago, I took students to England, so I used the itinerary from that particular trip in OCD, the Dude, and Me. I also wrote roasts for each of my students right before they graduated.
I love that you say the struggles of teenagers can be silent. You captured a teenager’s life so perfectly in your novel.
2. With all the emotional and heart wrenching content in OCD, the Dude, and Me, were any scenes ever difficult to write? And what was the hardest part about writing this novel in general?
Some parts were difficult and my heart ached for Danielle. Her unrequited love situation made me sad even though in my adult writer soul, I know that Danielle (and those like her) will find much better dating choices as she gets a little older. The situation in Danielle’s past was also painful to write. I actually wrote half the book before I knew exactly what happened to her. I knew something painful happened, but I wasn’t sure what. One morning, I woke up and knew what happened. I appreciated the help from the writing gods on that one. The hardest parts of writing this story were quieting my inner critic, cutting out things that didn’t need to be there, and keeping the entries numbered and titled properly—oh lordy, that kinda drove me nutty.
I cracked up that you referred to the writing gods, they are amazing aren’t they?
3. Danielle, with all her flaws and strong points is one of my favorite characters in YA to date. Is there anything or anyone who inspired her?
You are most kind. Thank you so much. I think all my students inspired me. I’ve taught hundreds of teenagers: they were all flawed in the best possible ways. They were rebels, outliers, and heroes; they were messy and wild and funny and their own brand of brilliant. Their struggles were compelling to me probably because none of us are without struggle—it’s a unifying human experience. There is no single identifier that denotes a struggling student. That means teachers and service providers need to understand students as a full profile and try to take a strength-based approach to helping them. In the book, Danielle loves to write, so, lucky for Danielle, that skill is reinforced by the adults around her. Ultimately, writing is the thing that helps her transform. Pieces of Danielle’s writing appear young or immature—it reveals parts of herself that need nurturing. Allowing for those moments supported wisdom to come from her, too. We’re all a ball of crazy contradictions. Anyway, I’ve seen miracles happen when students were guided to leverage their strengths; that’s one major notion that inspired Danielle’s character.
Amen, amen. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of her story, that you created such messy, yet brilliant human characters.
4. Danielle has a great support system in terms of family. When writing her story did you think this was important for her to have since there is generally a serious lack of parents in young adult fiction today?
I felt that without a good family, Danielle’s story was going to be completely tragic. Her family members aren’t perfect—they don’t have to be; our family members don’t need to be saints. We just need them to show up for us and to love us. When writing the story I was thinking about what elements needed to be in place in order for Danielle to find a better sense of herself.
I really loved how realistic her family was. Horribly flawed, but so was she, and in the end they were there for each other.
5. If OCD, the Dude, and Me were made into a movie who would you want to play Danielle?
I have no idea! I say that sadly because I think I’m pop culture starved. If by some miracle this story became a movie, I’m sure there’d be tons of talented choices to fit the bill. My dream director would be Stephen Chbosky because I think he did a great job bringing his own story, Perks of Being a Wallflower, to the screen.
I so agree with you there, Stephen Chbosky did an incredible job bringing his novel to the big screen.
6. Your writing is utterly amazing. I love how real and emotional it is. What do you love most about writing? And what’s the biggest thing that you have learned through your experience as a writer?
My goodness, you are the sweetest blogger in all of life. I love writing because it helps me stay centered. I feel lucky anytime I get to sit at my computer and write. What I’ve learned (and what I’ve heard other writers say too) is that the process of writing is the gift itself. I’m writing to answer a call within my own soul. I have to realize that not everyone is going to like what I write and that’s okay. I’m glad that so many people do write so there are plenty of stories for readers to choose from. We all have different tastes, and we all have different literary needs at different times in our lives. I’m grateful to all writers and readers. The world is a better place because we engage in this enterprise.
I so feel you on writing helping you to stay centered. I’m the same with my own writing really.
7. Is there any advice you’d give to young writers?
Write for the love of writing. Be kind to yourself in the process…because the process is rocky and if you are mean to yourself, you make it worse. Breathe. Be patient.
That is seriously such great advice.
I don’t have much more to say, except y’all seriously need a copy of OCD, the Dude, and Me. You can find out more about Lauren Vaughn at her website.