Hey everyone! It’s me, Julie Anne, back for another interview! Today we are joined by the New York Times bestselling author, Alyssa Sheinmel! Today, we’re chatting about her captivating masterpiece, R.I.P Eliza Hart. It is a story that kept me yearning to turn each page! Don't miss out on this great book! You can also read her other books, Faceless and Second Star. You can find all of her books on Barnes & Noble. With that, let's get started!
Hello! Thank you so much for giving me a chance to interview you! R.I.P Eliza Hart was a real page-turner! Could you give our readers a little summary of what your book is about?
I’m so glad you liked R.I.P. Eliza Hart! The story begins when Eliza Hart, the most popular girl at the Ventana Ranch boarding school, is found dead on the cliffs outside her dormitory. Ellie Sokoloff—Eliza’s former best friend—is determined to figure out what happened to Eliza. Never mind that ever since Ellie arrived at school Eliza has spread terrible rumors about Ellie, calling her a liar and a stalker, when all Ellie wanted to do was rekindle their old friendship. Or that Ellie’s claustrophobia limits where she can go and what she can do. Or that Ellie’s suitemate, Sam, is the only one who will help her . . . because to everyone else, Ellie looks like a top suspect.
Ellie Sokoloff is such a unique character. Where did you get the inspiration for her?
From the start, I knew I wanted to write about two former best friends, one of whom had died under mysterious circumstances, and I knew the surviving girl would struggle with claustrophobia. Some of my inspiration for Ellie came from my own life—like Ellie, I moved from California to New York when my parents got divorced when I was young. And like Ellie, I had to leave behind my childhood best friend whose name was almost identical to mine—I’m Alyssa, she was Alisa. I always wondered whether Alisa and I would have stayed friends if I hadn’t moved to New York.
Ellie's claustrophobia creates some real struggles throughout the book. Do you have any experience with claustrophobia?
Actually, I’m the type of person who finds small spaces comforting rather than threatening, so I did a lot of research on claustrophobia to help me write about Ellie’s phobia.
When Ellie sees Eliza at their new high school, Eliza is incredibly mean to her. Despite this, Ellie still has a warm heart toward her, even going to her funeral. Can you talk a little bit about their complicated relationship?
One of my favorite things about Ellie is that instead of hating Eliza for the way Eliza treated her, Ellie is curious to find out why Eliza treated her that way. And in the end—despite Eliza’s unkindness—Ellie is able to have enormous sympathy for her former best friend, and to understand her in a way few people could.
I love the setting! A school by the beach seems like a dream! Was their school based on an actual campus?
I love the setting, too! Big Sur is my very favorite place and it always felt like the perfect setting for this story—beautiful and inspirational, but still isolated and occasionally endangered by natural disasters like earthquakes and forest fires (and the incredibly unnatural disaster of redwood-burl poaching). The school isn’t based on a real place, but the layout of the campus was actually partly inspired by a hotel I stayed at when I visited Big Sur.
Eliza's a very mysterious character. What are some mysterious characters from other books that have kept you mesmerized while you're reading?
I love characters who keep me guessing—whether it’s discovering why Professor Snape disliked Harry Potter so much, or finding out the truth about Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, or finding out what (or rather, who) Mr. Rochester’s hiding in the attic in Jane Eyre—I think imperfect characters are the most interesting ones to read about (and to write about!).
There's a lot of talk about mental illness in your book. What advice would you give to real-life teenagers dealing with mental illness?
I think my number one piece of advice is not to be ashamed to ask for help. Mental illness is just that—an illness—when we’re sick, we often need help from the experts.
Do you have any projects planned for the future?
My next book is called A Danger to Herself and Others and it will be publishing in February 2019. I can’t wait for readers to pick it up! Like R.I.P. Eliza Hart, this story takes place in Big Sur—like I said, it’s my favorite place, so I love writing about it. It’s my way of visiting even when I’m home in New York.
That’s it for today’s interview with Alyssa, but don’t leave just yet. We’re giving away a signed copy of R.I.P., Eliza Hart, and you definitely don’t want to miss out. Just click on the image below to enter. And be sure to come back again next week, when Amira will be chatting with Jennifer Nielsen about her book, The Traitor’s Game.