Tilt, Ellen Hopkins’ much-anticipated companion novel to 2011’s Triangles, hit shelves earlier this week. In a point-of-view switch, Tilt follows Mikayla, Harley, and Shane, three teens of the mothers in Triangles. Staying true to her style, Hopkins addresses controversial topics like HIV, teen pregnancy, and suicide in her narrative verse. Here, Hopkins discusses some of her upcoming projects and shares how Tilt came about.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What inspired you to write a companion book to Triangles?
ELLEN HOPKINS: Teen characters talk to me. I was writing [Triangles] and the teens were going, “Hello! Look at me. I got a story here, too.” And it just became an interesting concept for me to try to write. It’s not exactly the same story, but it’s sort of the same scenes from the two different points of view: teen to adult. So then it just became a fun project.
So you didn’t actually plan Tilt from the beginning?
I never actually plan sequels. They demand to be done. I just finished the sequel to my second book, Burned, for 2013. That was also sequel I never thought I would write, but there was just so much reader demand for the rest of the story that I felt like I needed to keep going with it.
For people who haven’t read Triangles, Tilt really stands up on its own. You don’t have to read both to know what’s going on.
I don’t expect all my teen readers will read Triangles. It’s a lot more adult in content than the YA. But many of them have anyway, and teen readers are reading adult books all the time. I really think [Tilt] will be interesting for my adult readers. Especially on that mom/daughter level to really be looking at how they might be looking at their kids, and how their kids might be looking at them.
Anything else you want to add about Tilt?
Just that I think the subject matter I cover in it, which is teen pregnancy, HIV, especially HIV, are really important to look at to remember that those statistics are actually growing in the U.S. We’re not shrinking cases of HIV in the U.S. Teen pregnancy is, in fact, on the rise again. So I think it’s important to keep that subject matter in front of our teens so they keep an eye on themselves and their friends and kind of what they’re doing and understanding. We haven’t fixed all these problems yet, and it’s kind of up to them to take responsibility to keep themselves safe and happy.
Will there be more adult books in your future?
There are a few YA authors who have gone into the adult side, and I think it’s just freeing in a way. It’s also interesting to write kind of a different age level for your characters. I’ll absolutely being doing both. If I had to pick one, I’d stay YA because I love that audience. But I also like stretching.
What book projects do you have coming up next?
In November I have Collateral which is my second adult book. It’s about deployment and kind of what that means to the people left behind. So it’s about a couple trying to build relationship for deployment. That will be a real crossover place because those characters are in their early 20s. Teens and adults will want to read that book. And then I just finished Smoke [the sequel to Burned]. Then I’ll be starting the 2014 YA, Rumble, in which I’m looking at atheism as a teen concept.
This is actually the first book of yours that I’ve read, so the narrative verse concept was new to me. It’s not at all jarring like I thought it might be. What kind of response do you normally get to your different style?
It took a little getting used to at first, I think, but the readers that came to it have stayed with me for years. I have readers that have followed me for eight years now. They love it. I just took a different kind of narrative verse, which is a different kind of storytelling. In a way, it relies on fewer words on the page, but the storytelling really isn’t that much different. In fact, what it tends to do is by taking away some of that extraneous language, is it allows readers to be on the page, so it’s more like experiencing the story.