Capable of War: A Q&A with Brenna Yovanoff about PLACES NO ONE KNOWS

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places no one knows brenna yovanoffWe love Brenna Yovanoff’s work. She’s written some of the most fantastical (and sometimes terrifying) stories in the YA world. Her newest novel Places No One Knows just hit shelves and – while maybe not not as creepy as some of her past work – features some incredible characters, emotional intensity, and dream magic.

One night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom in Places No One Knows — and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed.

Places No One Knows is available now. For more on Brenna Yovanoff, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.


Your newest book Places No One Knows just hit shelves! What can you tell us about Waverly and Marshall?
Well, first of all, oh lord, Waverly. Waverly is intense. Waverly is rigid, serrated, tightly-wound, capable of war, and possibly nuclear fission. Marshall … is not. One of the things I was most interested in while writing this book is how bad we often are at recognizing anger in girls and sadness in boys, and how damaging that can be for everyone involved. This is very much a story about people figuring out how to be the parts of themselves that aren’t always acceptable to everyone around them.

Waverly dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom. What kind of dream magic exists in your books? What are its rules?
Okay, bear in mind that I’m speaking as someone who is rather imprecise about time, usually wearing only one sock, always forgets to recharge the Playstation controller, and is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a particular stickler for the rules.

Places is my least fantastical book to date, but it still features a strong undercurrent of magical realism. The dreams definitely have a system, but the rules themselves are almost dreamlike. The rules are, Waverly needs a friend and Marshall needs a friend and for various reasons, neither of them really knows how to do that right, and so the world makes some concessions for them.

The aesthetics on the cover of Places No One Knows are so different than the rest of your books! What was your initial reaction to the cover?
My very first reaction? Piiiiiiink!!! I love pink. It’s pretty much my favorite color and I pick it every chance I get, so to have a pink book—which, let’s be honest, was not something I ever imagined, since most of my stories involve an unnatural number of teeth and something on fire—is just very exciting. (Really, I feel like I’ve been incredibly lucky with all my covers. Most authors have zero control over what the outsides of their books look like and I’ve consistently wound up with beautiful covers that do a great job of representing my stories. I think this particular cover is perfect, because not only is this a kissing book, but it’s my first one where there’s a lot more fiddly internal stuff, and a lot less … something-on-fire.)

You’re known for both your standalone work and for your writing with Tessa Gratton and Maggie Stiefvater. How is your process different when you’re working on projects with them than when you’re working alone?
I probably spent 20% less time on gchat with them? (No, seriously—the amount of time I spend on chat is shameful, regardless of what I’m working on.) Both of our group projects have been anthology-style collections, so while we’ve done a lot of planning and scheming and debating as a group, the majority of the actual books have been written alone and then assembled together. The biggest difference in process has probably just been making sure we’re all on the same page and all the wiggly edges line up.

What else do you want readers to know about Places No One Knows?
I’d say the number one thing that I hope readers take away from this story is that you don’t have to change yourself or become someone else to be lovable, but sometimes you still have to adjust your borderlines to make room for other people. It can be a subtle distinction, but I think it’s a really important one.

What YA books would you recommend to readers to tide them over once they finish Places No One Knows?
Oh, I love this question! So, the answer totally depends on what you’re looking for after reading Places. I’d say my general blanket recommendation is probably Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart. It’s got everything—prickly, analytical heroine, largely-unexplained magical phenomenon, close examination of relationships, emotions, and gendered social expectations. It’s one of my favorite YAs of all time and I want everyone to read it. If you’re specifically after the contemporary feel and the speculative element, then Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is great. And I love The Big Crunch by Pete Hautmen. It’s a wry, largely unsentimental love-story that would have been absolutely perfect for thinky, pragmatic teenage-me.

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Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at @nebrinkley or Tumblr at nebrinkley. Like her work? Leave her a tip.

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