We adore Rainbow Rowell’s quirky, funny novels, Eleanor & Park and Carry On so we were delighted when she dropped by for a chat to talk about her magical festive love story Landline.
Landline is the story of one women’s mission to save Christmas, and her marriage, with a little help from a magic telephone.
We chatted to Rainbow about her dream job, fan fiction and time travel.
Landline is out in paperback, ebook and audio. Read a taster here.
How did you come up with the concept for Landline?
I came up with the concept in a couple hours. It was when I was in the editing phase of Eleanor & Park, and around the same time that I started planning Fangirl. At first, my idea was about a woman who loses her cell phone, and then her life falls apart. But then I thought of the phone-that-calls-into-the-past idea. I’ve always really liked time travel stories – especially romances. And also, I wasn’t sure I could pull this idea off. That always make a concept more attractive to me.
When you’re writing do you picture actors who can play the role of your characters?
I do sometimes. Usually not the main character. You don’t describe the main character as much in a book; you end up describing all the other characters through that person’s eyes. But I sometimes have a difficult time picturing faces, so I’ll choose an actor to use as a model for the love interest. For Levi in Fangirl, I used Tom Felton. And for Neal, the husband in my new book, Landline, I used Iwan Rheon, specifically photos of him from when he was on the TV show Misfits.
If Landline was made into a movie, who would you want to see cast in it?
Oh, interesting question! A book blogger, jennadoesbooks, just suggested Drew Barrymore as Georgie and Mark Ruffalo as Neal, and I thought those were great picks. She also suggested Bradley Cooper as Seth. Again, perfect. I always imagine Mark Ruffalo as Cath’s dad in Fangirl.
Do any of your characters have autobiographical bits? Which of your characters do you think are the most like you?
I end up in all of my characters. Even the unpleasant ones. I always find myself defending Sam, the ex-girlfriend in Attachments, because she’s a lot like me. Probably Georgie, the main character of Landline, is the most like I am now. She’s a working mother with two kids. She’s always worried that she’s messing everything up – or that she has messed everything up. She’s got a job that takes a lot of creativity and energy. She’s good in a room.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be?
Well, I worked as a newspaper columnist and a creative director at an ad agency, and I liked both those jobs.
If I could be anything, I’d like to be an imagineer for the Walt Disney theme parks. They’re the people who take Disney stories and bring them to life. I’m a Disney theme park geek.
I like to go to Walt Disney World and take photos of signs and trashcans.
Do you pick out the names for your books? Or is it a collaborative effort with your editor?
I’ve named the last three. Attachments was a collaborative effort with my first editor. I had named that book Re: Lincoln because it’s about a guy named Lincoln who reads people’s email. But my editor – and everyone else – was worried that readers would think the book was about Abraham Lincoln. She suggested Love and Other Attachments, and I said, “How about just Attachments?”
I get very anxious about my titles. I’m always worried that another author is going to nab my title before my book is announced. I tell my title to as few people as possible.
Do you like writing YA or Adult books better?
Hmmm, I don’t have a preference. The writing process doesn’t feel different to me. I probably enjoy the YA community a bit more. YA readers and bloggers and booksellers and librarians are so engaged and passionate. Also, I like teenagers. And writing young adult books has made it so that I get to talk young people all the time.
Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you handle it?
Working in journalism really armed me against writer’s block. When you write three columns a week, you can’t afford to get blocked. You have to turn something in.
I don’t get blocked very often, but when I do, it’s usually because I’m scared or insecure. I wrote my first real short story for the My True Love Gave to Me anthology, and I was terrified. (And very, very blocked.)
The way I deal with writer’s block is to keep writing. And if I’m exhausted, to give myself a day off. If I’m really blocked, to try to work on something else that needs to be done. Another project or task.
Your fans use your work for lots of fan art and fan fiction. Did you write fan fiction as a young writer? And if so, which characters were your muses?
I did. But I never would have called it that. We didn’t have “fandom” as a community or “fanfiction” as a concept. (I know that there were people writing and sharing fanfiction in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, but the Internet is what made fandom so accessible.)
When I was writing fanfiction, I was just making up stories about Wham! and how many of the X-Men would fall in love with me – and then not telling anybody about it, because it all seemed weird.
In Landline Georgie reaches her husband in the past. If you could use a telephone to contact someone in the past, who would it be and why?
I would call my friend, Sue, who died last year. She helped me work through some really serious problems and always encouraged me to take risks and grow. And she was so much a part of my life, that I never thought about losing her. If I had a phone that could call into the past, I’d call and tell her how much she meant to me.
You’ve created playlists for your other books that you’ve written. What music did you listen to while writing Landline?
I created playlists for Landline, too! You can listen to all my writing playlists on Spotify. One fun thing about writing this book is that Georgie is about my age, so she could make all the pop culture references I would make. Her character is very into ‘70s sitcoms, like Barney Miller and M*A*S*H, so I found myself listening to ‘70s music, too. Joni Mitchell. Carole King. Stevie Nicks.
I structured my Landline playlists in three acts, to coincide with the three acts of the book.
Georgie has a collaborative writing partner in Landline. Are there any authors that you workshop with?
No, but I’ve worked collaboratively before. I had a creative partner when I worked in advertising, and I really loved that part of it. That’s something I miss. Writing a novel is incredibly lonely. I’m fortunate to have an agent and editor I trust, and friends who read and talk to me about my books-in-progress. But I’m mostly on my own, making all of these decisions by myself.