Welcome to MarieClaire.com's Q&A author series—the spot where we ask the #ReadWithMC author-of-the-month five burning questions about her latest book. In May, we're reading The Sun Is Also a Star by #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicola Yoon. If you're interested in the novel and looking for some friends to talk about it with, find out how to participate in MarieClaire.com's interactive monthly book club here.
Nicola Yoon believes in fate. Quite frankly, if she wasn't a self-proclaimed math geek in high school who majored in electrical engineering at Cornell University, she may not be the accomplished author she is today. "We talk about art and science as if they're opposed to each other, but I don't think they actually are," she says. "They're both trying to get to a truth—the approach is just different. I don't know if I would have gotten into writing if I didn't major in electrical engineering and worked in finance. One thing leads to another, and you can never guess how. You don't know where your life is going to take you."
Indeed, Yoon never imagined both of her young adult novels, Everything, Everything (2015) and The Sun Is Also a Star (2016), would end up on the New York Times bestseller list and turn into major motion pictures. The latter, out next month, stars your faves Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton in a story about two teens, Natasha and Daniel, who meet and fall in love right before Natasha's family is scheduled to be deported. Of course, their fate lies entirely in the hands of the universe.
Though Yoon admits the book and movie are a bit different, she's a firm believer that "the more art in the world we can get, the better." Here, she discusses the inspiration behind her novel, and what it was like to watch her books come to life on screen.
Marie Claire: What inspired you to write The Sun Is Also a Star?
Nicola Yoon: I really wanted to tell a love story through all of the things it takes to make a love story—all of the other people besides the people who are in love. When two people meet at a moment in time there's all of the stuff that got them to that specific place—the random events with other people they have interacted with that day, their families, their ancestors. There's a huge chain of reaction of things that happen that get you to this point in time. I love Carl Sagan because he had this great way of making science super human. One of my favorite quotes from him was, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." He would say everything's connected, and that was part of the spark. I was trying to show that everything's connected in the world.
Kids are naturally philosophical. A 17-year-old is a philosophical creature simply because they're 17—they're questioning the world and the meaning of life and existence, asking all of those big questions. Those big questions are important to ask even when you're 40 and 50, too. I'm philosophical, so I think we're a natural fit.
MC: What was it like to find out your book was going to be turned into a movie?
NY: Well, for my first book, Everything, Everything, I just didn't really believe anyone when they said it was going to be optioned until I saw the call sheet, which is a sheet of paper that says where everyone has to be at one time—the camera man, the talent, etc. Then I was like, Oh, we are going to make this because there's a schedule for other people. It was mostly disbelief until it actually happened.
Everything, Everything was optioned before the book came out in 2015. Because it did so well, the person who runs Warner Bros. and who had read The Sun Is Also a Star, called me the weekend Everything, Everything came out and was like, "We're going to make The Sun Is Also a Star." I was like, "What? No. Okay, that's good!" It was crazy.
MC: Aside from the fact that the book is becoming a film (out May 17), why should people read it now?
NY: It's a love story. People normally "poo poo" love stories and I don't know why because love is actually the most important thing there is. I don't just mean the romantic stuff—I mean all of it: love of your work and your friends and your family. But sometimes we talk about it like it's not important. Also, with some of the immigration issues I talk about in the book, it's really important for me to say to the world that America is a better place for having immigrants in it and that there is no difference between someone who comes to America and someone who was born in America, in terms of how patriotic they are and how much they love this country and how hardworking they are. Right now, with the administration the way it is, I think we need to say that loudly.
I can't say enough how important it was to cast people of color [in the movie]. The people in my books look the way they do on purpose. The Sun Is Also a Star was directed by Ry Russo-Young, who came to me with her favorites when she had casting ideas and I was just like, "Perfect." Me, my husband, and my little girl got to go on set, so we spent a lot of time there over the summer. We filmed a cameo, which I'm pretty sure we got cut from [laughs], but I think we may have another little cameo in there. I haven't seen the final edits, so we'll see. We met Charles and Yara. Yara was so great with my little girl, and Charles is so insanely attractive. It was a really good time.
MC: If you could be any character in the book, who you would be?
NY: Nobody has ever asked me this question before! I don't know what happens to the girl playing the violin towards the end of the book. I'm curious about her and where she goes. I will say that I'm the girl at Starbucks that's listening to you fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend. I am a total eavesdropper.
MC: What's currently on your nightstand?
NY: I always have my Norton Anthology on my nightstand. A book I recently read is called In Paris With You by Clémentine Beauvais. It's really, really great. That's the last thing I read that I super loved.
The Sun Is Also a Star premieres in theaters May 17, 2019.
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