Interview with Ellen Hopkins, Author of Crank and Burned

Comments: 16

Recently, I interviewed published author Ellen Hopkins. She has a unique writing style, writing novels in verse. She has targeted her novel to young adults. Critics and young people both have told her they love her style and the books she writes.

For more information about her, read my interview with her at:
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About Paul West

Paul West is a freelance writer and novelist. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paul claims to be a "Prune Picker," though he now makes his home in Taylorsville, Utah.

You can follower him on Twitter: @PaulWWest

Published: Wednesday, July 05, 2006

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  1. I attended a conference where Ellen Hopkins was a presenter. She gave a class on YA plotting, at least it was supposed to be a class. She spent the entire time talking about her life and reading from her book. She picked the most explicit sections and read them out loud. She never taught us a thing about plotting and made me feel so uncomfortable as she read passages that I considered leaving the class. I was so disappointed in the class that I told the conference organizers my feelings. I was embarrassed by her writing and felt I'd been cheated because I expected a class on plotting and that's not what I got. I didn't care for her writing style, either. I would never purchase nor recommend her books to anyone.

  2. Hi anonymous,

    I'm saddened to hear that. Maybe I need to screen my recommendations a little better. I've read some of Ms. Hopkin's work, but I have to admit I haven't read any of her books from cover to cover. I'm sorry to hear she gets so explicit.

    In conversations I've had with her, she has told me that her writing is almost non-fiction, based on true experiences she's had with her own children. I think she wanted to make the novels sound and feel as realistic as possible, showing how her own daughter got so low there seemed to be little hope. Then, she wanted to show how her daughter was rescued from her fall. I think the plot you missed was how her daughter fell and rose back up with the help of family, friends, and God.

    I'm not sure she wrote it the way you or I would have written it, but she is a Christian, and feels she is a warning voice to teenagers.

    I too am trying to reach out to teens with my writing, but I would never get explicit.

    I'm sorry you had a bad experience with Ms. Hopkins. My apologies.

  3. I really want to read the interview you had with Ellen Hopkins. I have VERY much enjoyed her first book, Crank and I am currently in the process of reading her second novel. I think she is a great author. when I clicked on the link to read the interview, it did not work. I am not sure what's wrong with the site or why it did not come up for me, but I am very much hoping it can be fixed. Please fix it so that I may have the pleasure of reading the interview. thanks.

  4. her books are very deep books, if you can not handle her writing then mabey you sould have left i have found her to be quite an amazing writer and she has influenced so much of my writing i would advise any reader who likes almost true storys about hard lives and true feelings to read her books they are very cherishable and will leave a true impact

  5. I have read her work, and personally as a teenager I feel she gets as real as possible and I enjoy those kind of books. I loved her writing style, I never wanted to put a book of her's down. I can't wait for future books.
    I guess you just have to be at a certain level of comfort to enjoy those books, but if your not then don't read them simple as that.

  6. Ellen Hopkins was at my daughter's high school this week and we were terribly disappointed. As for being a Christian? Ms. Hopkins was cussing and dropping F-bombs and laughing at the teachers who told her not too. Also, like the other person's comment, she spoke more about how great her life was now with the money from publishing. She made the comment that her books weren't happy ending books. My question is if an author exploits social tragedy, shouldn't they have social responsibility to go with it? Why not donate proceeds from a book to a drug rehab? She didn't teach my daughter anything and was so obnoxious they we are filing a complaint with the principal for even having her on campus.

  7. I have to admit, since I first posted my opinion of Ms Hopkins, she has disappointed me greatly. Her first best-selling book, "Crank" was pretty edgy, but not what I would call graphic, though she did use the "F" word a couple of times and I think she could have done without that. However, from what I've heard about her subsequent books, I'm afraid I can no longer recommend them. Being edgy does not automatically translate into sleazy in my book. I've tried to display a realistic look at life in the 1960s in my book "Sweet Revenge," but no where have I described graphic sex or foul language - well maybe a cuss word or two, but nothing like the "F" bomb or anything close to it.

    I think our kids today are exposed to enough of that kind of garbage in school. As adults, I feel we need to show a more mature, and better way of living. I mean, after all, we're the adults, here (aren't we?), at least most of us writers are. I think we need to be examples of virtue and goodness, and bring kids up to our level, not lower our standards to theirs.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. I don't believe that Ellen Hopkins' works are explicit at all. I in fact love all of her work. Each portion of her story lets you into the character's mind. When first reading them I was going through a tough time, not loving myself and or anything about me, the beginnings of my bout of depression. She helped me through it. Being an aspiring poet I was very glad to be introduced to her works. Although my style is far from Miss. Hopkins', the way here stories and the feelings within are portrayed greatly changed me and how I write. I believe that everyone should read her books.

  9. Thanks "Anonymous". I guess it depends on your definition of "explicit".

  10. dear paul i am posting this comment to yours that you left in may. I am 17 years old and i find Ellen hopkins novels to be filled with truth, realism and are very well written. Wake up and look at the world we are living in today. The things she writes about, drug addication suicide are all happening to teens all over the world. I myself have gone through depression and sought to her impulse book as a helping hand to tell me i am not alone in this. She is by no way lowering standards just because she writes about the truth of what really happens to teens. So write about all the good virtue crap you want, its not going to stop what is happening in the world and what teens go through today. And when you are going through a rough time or have an addication would you want to read crap about examples of goodness and virtues, no i dont think you would. Neither would any other teen. So you can go hide behind your books and write about a beautiful world while Hopkins writes about the truth that teens like myself can relate to

  11. Dear Paul,

    I've recently read CRANK and GLASS, and both were novels that I could not put down. I see a lot on here about her being "explicit" but I don't think that's the issue. I think the beauty of her novels is the pain that she shows. She doesn't glorify drug use, like so many books and movies do (the electric kool-aid acid test, anyone?). She gives you the raw truth, about how bad drugs can screw you up. I'm 20 years old, and I've been through severe depression and the suicide of a best friend. I am in a much better place now than I was in January, when I attempted my own death. Reading her interview makes me realize that maybe I can begin to accept his suicide by trying to write from his perspective, instead of just my own feelings about loving him and missing him.

    Explicit or not, her stories tell the truth about using drugs, about what can really happen to you. I can't imagine anyone who would read that novel and want to try meth. And THAT is what's really important.

  12. I really feel like everyone who doesn't like Ellen hopkins' books are just hiding from the real world. curse words? please..she's simply writing in a style where she can demonstrate what us teenagers go through everyday. cursing and being explicit are the least of society's problems today, as you can clearly see. I, personally look up to her and she is the inspiration for my own writing. If people can't handle her writing then they shouldn't waste their time bashing her or reading any of her books. I recommend her books 100%. I've read all of them.

  13. In reality some of the things she writes are in fact harsh. However, if she didn't write them someone would. The world needs different types of writing and I'm just excited that someone had enough guts to put real issues down on paper.

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  15. Hi all you Anonymouses (is there a plural for anonymous?). Thank you for your input.

    I think I've indicated that I don't have problems with writing or reading edgy fiction of any kind. The subjects writers of such fiction touch on are good for our young people to read about, so that if they have similar problems, or know someone with similar problems, they can understand and empathize.

    What I have trouble with is when a writers uses explicit and graphic depictions of the sex act, including body parts, arousal, climax, etc., and the use of vulgar, unacceptable, verbiage such as the infamous "F" word, among others, and tries to pass those things off as edgy. I think writers can do better than that. Read "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton as a good example of how to do that.

    Another thing that bothers me, and this is where I got off with Ms. Hopkins, is characterizing a group, such as a religious group like Mormons, in a false manner, making it appear as though all Mormons act like the ones she depicted. Frankly, in my opinion there was no need to mention the family's religion at all. Just indicate they were religious fanatics and leave it at that. Religious fanatics can be found in virtually all religions.

    I also don't appreciate how she has gone on to use vulgar language and depictions of the sex act. Like I said above, these are NEVER appropriate in my opinion. The same effects can be achieved with some creative writing.

  16. I have read every single one of ellen hopkins books and they are amazing. In my opinion if you dont like how they are written then dont read them. they are for a certain type of person and if your not that type than you will not enjoy them. I am a teenager and i think all of her works are brilliant and many have even brought me to tears. I have had family members that have gone through what the characters in her book have and she is very brave to be writing about her DAUGHTER in some of them. You cant criticise a work for it's language because that is part of the atmosphere.