Ever since I was a kid, the one thing I knew was that more than movies, more than celebrities – authors intrigued me. The way their mind worked, the way that they could string together words to make something poetic.
It was all beautiful to me.
Nicola Yoon is one of those minds that intrigues me. An author who wrote the most beautiful book – Everything, Everything.
What’s the book about?
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
I had a chance to sit and talk with Nicola. I was nervous, I was scared – because I love her writing and was afraid that I would make an ass of myself. But she was kind and sweet. She’s really taking all of this in stride.
What were your initial thoughts when you found out the movie was green lit?
Nicola: So we never actually got an official green-light. We never got the official call, “you’re green lit” or whatever that is. I knew it my heart that it was moving along when I saw the call sheet. Because you know it tells you who is going to be there and where is the set and that people are hired and that’s when I knew it was really happening.
What are your thoughts on the casting?
N: The casting is amazing. They fit. Amandla is so innocent, vulnerable, and smart. But with a real bravery, which is perfect for Maddy. Nick Robinson has got that self deprecating charm thing going on. And also he’s super cute. They have such good chemistry.
You just recently attended a screening of your movie in LA and a lot of your author friends were there with you. What were their initial thoughts on the movie? Did they give you any advice on going through the rest the process?
N: Everyone was just like, “make sure you enjoy yourself.” This is insane that this is happening. It’s a once in a lifetime, completely magical experience.
Did you always grow up wanting to be a writer?
N: I think so. Maybe like 4 or 5 years ago now, I found my old diaries. I was 8 and it said, I want to be a writer when I grow up. But I forgot. So I went to high school and I was good at math. I went to college and I majored in electrical engineering. I programmed computers and did financial analysis for 20 years. It took me a long time to remember that I wanted to be a writer.
N: I have been lucky.
Did you spend a lot of time on set?
N: We got to visit the Vancouver set and the Mexico set and we got to film a cameo. We’re actually in the movie, on the beach. It goes by like that. Amandla and Nick are splashing in the waves, it’s an overhead shot, and we go by. We’re in the corner, swinging our daughter in the water. That was us. Me, my little girl, and my hubby.
What was it like to have your husband work not only on the illustrations on the movie, but also in the books. Was that a challenge for you or was that a great process?
N: The thing about my husband and I is we get along really, really well so it was really easy. I can’t draw at all. The first drawing we ever did was the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the Hawaiian state fish. I drew that child fish, which is the ridiculous fish that all kids draw. I woke him up at 4:30 in the morning and was like “Honey can you draw me a fish.” He got up and drew me this fish. He did not complain. He kissed me, he made coffee. He was just awesome. He would get it when I would say, “This is what I am thinking” and he would say, “I think you really want this.” I would draw stick figures and he would draw something beautiful was basically how that worked.
Can you describe meeting Amandla and Nick for the first time? What were your initial thoughts?
N: I visited the Vancouver set. I walked in and they were right there. I hadn’t put my game face on. My first thought was, oh my God, you guys are so attractive. They are overwhelmingly good looking. When you see them you are like, how is your face even doing that? If I am being honest, that’s the first thing I thought. But I got to talk to them and they are nice, sweet kids.
Maddy’s mom is messed up, that’s the best way we can describe it. But every character has redeeming qualities. What would you say hers are?
N: She loves her daughter. She’s vigilant. She’s smart. She’s broken. I wrote this book when my daughter was four months old and I worried about taking care of her, protecting her. I worried about how much I loved her. Love is awesome, but if you lose it, it can be devastating. Is it worth being vulnerable for that? Is it worth opening yourself up, when you lose it, you may not recover? Part of what I was thinking about with this book is that. Is it possible to recover from love’s loss? I think it is and I think that sometime people do and sometimes people don’t. When I met my husband and we fell in love I was like this is the best thing. After that, if he wasn’t home I would be like, oh he got hit by a truck. The worry was overwhelming. The same thing with my little girl. I always say that my heart exists outside my body. My little girl goes to preschool and David goes to work, well he used to, because we work from home together now. But, you can’t control it. Your heart just goes away and I don’t know that I would recover if anything happened to them.
Was there a scene from the book that made it into the film?
N: They are two different art forms. I wish there were more drawings and maybe some of the more nontraditional aspects. I miss the recipes, but I don’t know how you would translate that. Stella (the director) does such a good job of maintaining the “quirkiness” of the book in the movie; the spirit of it. I love the way she did the text messages and the astronaut. Basically I just want more.
What’s your favorite scene in the movie?
N: The scene where Maddy and Olly meet for the first time and she says, “You’re different than I thought you would be,” and he says, “I know, sexier right?” I love how awkward they are in that, but obviously they are so into each other. There is another scene where they are sort of being intimate and Amandla’s skin feels the screen and you can see the goosebumps on her back. That made me cry.
Everything, Everything is in theaters now.