Nudge Q&A with Bonnie Pipkin
(Questions by Gill Chedgey)
1. Firstly, may I say I really enjoyed Aftercare Instructions and read it in nearly one go! The first thing I wondered was when did you start writing and where did you get the inspiration for the book?
Thank you so much! Reading it in nearly one go is something I hear quite often from readers, which is definitely a compliment for a writer, but it’s also ironic how LONG it can take to make a novel read FAST. I started writing the book in my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012. This program was a deep exploration of craft, so the novel went many directions before it found the right path, however, the inciting incident always remained the same: a girl named Genesis would have an abortion then walk into an empty waiting room. That scenario came to me first as the flash of inspiration. Then I had to get to know exactly who Genesis was and what she wanted most.
2. I know it’s only one part of the story, but many might feel that abortion is a contentious subject for a book aimed at a younger audience. Did this bother you during the writing? Did you ever have any reservations?
Never! I’ve always been drawn to edgier subject matter and content. I suppose that may be part of my personality, but I also whole-heartedly believe that the tough stuff needs to be talked about; it needs to be normalized and discussed without shame. It actually excites me to write stuff like this because I know I’m pushing the boundaries that need to be pushed. Young people don’t get enough credit for what they can handle. It doesn’t matter what we adults think: they’re going through it with or without us, and I’d rather be with them.
3. Gen is a great character and there’s plenty for kids to identify with when they read about her. Is she based on someone you know?
It’s hard for me to remove myself from Genesis. At some point before, during, or after, she really became me. So much of how she reacts to situations is how teenaged (and grown up) Bonnie would act. The events of the story aren’t events that happened to me, but I definitely draw from life and what I know when I write, so I’m deeply woven into the character. Which is why I have to laugh when I read people talking about how selfish she is and how she makes some really terrible choices. I just want to ask: “Have you never made a mistake?”
4. When we first meet Gen, she’s been through a hell of a lot, including being abandoned at the Planned Parenthood Clinic. You write so convincingly that I was really worried that you might also have been through some of these challenging and emotional events?
I’m no stranger to the challenging and emotional. While I myself wasn’t abandoned at a Planned Parenthood Clinic after having an abortion, I know first-hand what loss feels like. I know what it feels like to be disappointed by someone and have to take the reins and figure it out for myself. I have been very close to addiction, depression, and all the other darker themes in the novel. On the flip side, self-discovery through art has always been a huge part of my life, just as Genesis has to rediscover her passion for theater. And support from awesome girlfriends has also always been crucial in my life, just like Gen’s.
5. I really enjoyed the play script sections of the novel and I thought that was a clever device. It also got me thinking that this story would translate well to stage or screen. Might this be likely in the future?
I would love that! As for its likeliness, there have been some conversations that I hope translate into reality at some point! But that it exists as a novel people can hold in their hands is enough for me at this very moment.
6. How do you write? By that, I mean do you have any strict routines, superstitions or rituals that you adhere to?
Oh man, it could be stricter! I pretty much start each week re-defining my process and trying out new ways to trick myself out of procrastination. I had a conversation recently with another writer about how much of writing time is spent *not* writing. The stories are always swimming around in my head. I could use some better rituals though. I have to mix things up in my process or I get stagnant. Sometimes private dance parties help get things going, and sometimes twenty-minute sprints of writing do the trick, but mostly it’s about getting to the page. This is more successful for me when I schedule my writing time for the morning, but it almost always falls naturally to the afternoon. So, if you live below me and hear stomping around in the afternoon hours, it’s for a good cause. I promise.
7. You seem to have an ability to get into the minds of young people. Do you see yourself concentrating on the Young Adult readership?
Thank you again! Writing young adult is my main concentration now. I can’t say for sure if this is where I will stay forever, but for now it is the most exciting and raw place for me to work from. As for readership? Anyone, any age can read YA!
8. I know that being an avid reader is almost compulsory for a writer, so a question I always ask is whether you can remember the first book you read that moved you to tears (if any have)?
I am a big crier, seriously. Even cooking shows make me cry. And there is one part in my novel that always makes me cry as well, from the writing stage through each edit. The first novel where I remember bawling my eyes out was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. SPOILER ALERT: It was the first time I’d experienced a young person dying in a book and it was something I was lucky enough not to have faced myself yet. Books are beautiful, safe spaces to explore these situations and emotions.
9. And finally, having enjoyed this novel so much, something else I am always bound to ask is when we can expect another one!?
There’s one in the works now! It’s slowly pouring out of me, so it will probably be a little while before it’s in your hands. I hope sooner rather than later though! The next book will also hover on the edge and push boundaries, I assure you!