Nicola Yoon talks about having her first book be made into a movie
It’s not every day your novel becomes a highly-anticipated movie, but in the case of YA author Nicola Yoon, that’s happening twice, with both Everything, Everything and the just-as-acclaimed The Sun Is Also a Star heading to the big screen.
In the case of the former, fans don’t just have a movie to look forward to, but they’ll also soon be able to purchase a movie tie-in cover — which we can exclusively reveal below — that features the film’s stars, Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson. The pair play teen couple, Maddy and Olly, who are at the center of Yoon’s debut about a girl with no immune system and the boy she dares to fall in love with.
With a new cover set to hit bookshelves and a movie on arriving in theaters on May 19, EW caught up with Yoon to talk about her experience on the set, her upcoming cameo, and what she’s learned writing about young love. But first, that cover:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you get a chance to visit the set?
NICOLA YOON: Yeah. Filming wrapped up a while ago, so I did get to visit the set. It was two sets, in Vancouver and in Mexico. So I did get a chance to visit both of them. My husband, daughter, and I have a cameo in the movie. It’s kind of crazy. We’re going to be “Family on Beach,” so keep an out! It took 45 minutes to film a maybe three or five-second scene. It’s crazy because we were on the beach in Mexico, my daughter was between my husband and I and we were holding her hand and splashing her in the waves. So that was supposed to be the scene. But they were filming it with a drone, so the drone kept flying by, and my little girl kept pointing at it because there’s a flying camera in the sky. And so they were like, “Do not point at the camera. Do not point at the camera.” But I have seen the movie, and we are totally in it, so that’s awesome.
What was it like to actually be there after having seen it in your head for so long?
It was really surreal. The first time I actually made it to set, I was with my husband and daughter and I went to the director’s tent, and this director lent me headphones so I could hear what the actors were saying…. They just started saying the words from the book, and I just started bawling my eyes out. And my little girl is 4, and she was there and like, “Mama Mama. Why is Mama crying?” And then my husband said, “It’s tears of joy, honey.” It was just one of those moments that it was insane that this is happening. But it’s been great.
Was it like you pictured in your mind?
I got to give notes on the script, and fortunately the director and I just sort of fell in love. We had a Vulcan mind meld. So her vision for the movie really met up with mine. And I was just really lucky in that regard. I will say that there is one scene on the set of Maddy’s green room, and it was unreal. They had succulents everywhere, it was this bright beautiful space, and her architecture drawings, and they built everything. They built the outside, and that blew me away. Set design is crazy. It was sort of insane to walk into the room that I had pictured in my head.
Did you talk to Amandla and Nick about playing their characters? Did they ask for any notes?
They did not ask for notes. I was on set a couple of times and sort of chatted with them about it. But they got this! They knew what they were doing.
Was there anything they added in their performances that you hadn’t considered about their characters before?
Yeah. Maddy’s pretty funny but I think Amandla plays her a little bit funnier, which I really love. I think one of the things that was surprising was when I read some versions of the script, and there were parts in there when I would go, “Oh my God. That’s way better than in the book!” Which is kind of a weird thing to think. But I was excited at the thought of that. So at first, it’s weird, but really, it’s nice because it’s a different piece of art. That’s really nice.
How does it feel to have Amandla play Maddy?
She’s so perfect. She’s totally who I wanted the whole time. And as I say, I’ve been very lucky. She’s a rockstar. She does Maddie so well. She’s innocent and quirky, brave and smart. Amandla just manages to portray all of that. I couldn’t do it. I would be the worst!
Have you had a chance to see the new cover yet?
I have! It’s beautiful! I couldn’t be happier. It’s so strange to see a different cover, but it’s like the book lives on. A new piece of art.
What is the most exciting thing about seeing this movie actually happen?
When I wrote this book, Maddy looks the way she does because my little girl looks like that. Maddy the character is half Japanese, half African-American and my little girl is Jamaican like me and Korean American like my husband. And one of the things I really wanted to do was have my little girl be able to see herself in a book when she grew up. Because I didn’t see myself that much in books. And when we first got to the set, my little girl was with us, and she met Amandla and the first thing she said was, “She looks just like me!” And that really just killed me. I was like, “Okay. This is good.” It was really one of those moments.
Having written two contemporary romances now, is there something you feel like you’ve learned about being young and in love that you wish you’d known?
I was really insecure when I was younger, and I didn’t think I was going to find the love of my life. I was sort of impatient for it. But I did find him in grad school. And I just went through all these boys that weren’t so nice to me. I wish I’d known I was worth it. Like I shouldn’t deal with boys who didn’t think I was the awesomest. You’ve got to know that you’re worth it and wait for this other person who knows that you’re worth it too.
Do you feel like there’s anything you learned about the genre as you keep writing within it?
I don’t really think about it that way. I’m just such a romantic goober. And I love love. I will talk about love all day, every day. I love the idea of people falling in love with each other’s brains, or ideas of the world, or the way that person looks at the world, and learning from each other. So I could always, always write about that.
The Everything, Everything movie tie-in cover is currently available for preorder.