Today we welcome Nancy Werlin to the Penguin Teen Author Spotlight! Nancy has given us Impossible, Extraordinary, and now Unthinkable, and all three are as incredible as they sound. Filled with magic, wonder, and extraordinarily, impossibly wonderful writing, you won’t want to put them down once you pick them up! Naturally, someone who can come up with such unthinkably amazing stories is a ton of fun to chat with, so we suggest you stick around and do just that before heading to your favorite bookstore!
Name: Nancy Werlin
Who’s your favorite author, living or dead? Charlotte Bronte
What’s your favorite thing about your book? The scene where Fenella throws herself at Walker. I loved writing a love scene where the girl is assertive about her desire. It was especially poignant because—as a result of Fenella’s past—she has had no choice for so long, and she also believes this is her last and only chance at being with someone she herself chooses. Fenella is so damaged, but you can see her beginning to heal and become whole again. You can also see how she skirts the edge of too-forceful with Walker. She’s not really okay yet, and maybe she’s even a little bit insane at this point in the story—I’ll stop there. I love my fierce and tattered heroine. She’s like a bird of prey with a broken wing, pecking bloodily at the hand that tries to help.
If you could spend one year on a deserted island with one character from literature, who would you choose? Once upon a time, I’d have picked some hot guy who was deeply complex. But now I am more of the Anne Bronte opinion (see the comic “Dude Watching with the Brontes”). So I’d pick Levin from Anna Karenina—the kind of smart, kind, good guy who’d help us survive that desert island rather than lurking around brooding darkly on the past and the mistakes that got us in that predicament.
Where do you write? Mostly at a Panera Bread café.
Who is your favorite hero or heroine of history? I have a long-term crush on Talleyrand (1754–1838). From Wikipedia: “Some regard him as one of the most versatile, skilled and influential diplomats in European history, and some believe that he was a traitor.” He was also notoriously attracted to smart women, and was the lover of Madame de Staël.
Do you tweet? What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever tweeted? I tweet at @nancywerlin. I send out comics that are part of “draft 0” of a graphic memoir project I will be working on for the next decade at least.
What is your favorite season? Autumn. I love October.
If you could teleport anywhere in the known universe right now, where would you go? The Galapagos Islands. I yearn to see the mating dance of the Blue Footed Booby.
Do you have any writing rituals? I say, “I’m scared” three times before I begin.
What is your idea of earthly happiness? Loving and being loved, for who you truly are.
What is the best concert you’ve ever been to? I was living in Munich, Germany, when Paul Simon toured for “Graceland” with the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They were so amazing. I caught myself thinking how brave it was of Paul Simon to have brought them, because they overshadowed him. Then I understood that was exactly why he did it. He put music first, ego last.
I’d always loved his music—in writing Impossible and Unthinkable, I was inspired by the Simon and Garfunkel version of “Scarborough Fair.” But during that concert, I began to love him—for his artistic courage and integrity.
At the end of the concert Simon took the stage all alone with an acoustic guitar and sang “The Boxer.”
In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the remainders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains.
Paul Simon inspires me to take risks, to stretch, to grow. To make art, to take the blows that come in the process, and “still remain.”
What are you currently working on? A YA suspense thriller about some teens who discover that their parents have banded together to kill them. Just a little light and frivolous thing.