Stephanie Perkins on Creativity, Genre Jumping, and the Long-Awaited End to her YA Romance Trilogy

Stephanie Perkins and Isla

This month marks the release of Isla and the Happily Ever After, the long-awaited final book in contemporary YA romance’s most popular trilogy. I was lucky enough to talk to Stephanie Perkins about all three books (including Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door), the upcoming compilation of holiday stories she’s editing (which features contributions from the likes of David Levithan, Holly Black, Laini Taylor, and Rainbow Rowell), and what comes next.

Now that all three books are out, and we’ve gotten to know all three girls and guys, I feel confident I’m an Anna, married to a Josh. Which girl are you, and which guy would you say most closely resembles yours?

More than one of the girls, I’m probably a Josh. I’m married to a Cricket.

If you were crafting a world tour based on your books, what would your “must” stops be? (Feel free to throw in anywhere you imagine any of the couples heading in the future!)

My characters are tied to Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco, D.C., London, and Paris. An additional stop should be made in Barcelona to admire the works of Antoni Gaudí. Isla and Josh would insist!

You must get some amazing fan art, given your colorful characters and dreamy settings. Any particularly memorable ones? What made them so?

I do. I’m incredibly fortunate. I love the artwork of Simini Blocker, especially her illustration of Cricket Bell, which can be found on Tumblr. She GOT him. Completely. I also love the reader from the Philippines who drew every single one of Lola’s costumes and bound them together like a fashion magazine.

So much imagination goes into writing, but not everything makes it onto the page. What’s something that’s “canon” to you but didn’t make it into a book?

Oh, wow. What a great question! I used to have a scene in which we see Cricket behind the wheel of a van, and we find out that he’s a spectacularly bad driver. I loved that. And as much as my readers will dislike it, Lola’s ex-boyfriend Max does end up having a successful music career. Anna’s almost-boyfriend Toph, however, does not.

How did you choose Isla to be girl #3? Was it always her from the beginning, or did Meredith ever have a shot? (I will forever be looking for more dirt on Meredith. Just putting that out there.)

Yeah. Isla was created specifically for Josh, and he was always going to be the boy in book three. I felt a great deal of kinship toward him. I’m happy you like Meredith! She has such a kind heart. She certainly gets her own happy ending, but I’m keeping it to myself for now. It’s not out of the question for me to write about it someday.

My True Love Gave to Me sounds like an amazing compilation. What details can you share about your contribution, and the book as a whole?

Thank you. It was my first time editing an anthology, and I’m so proud of how it came out. It’s a collection of twelve winter holiday romances, and the stories are phenomenal—smart, swoony, funny, sad, magical. Mine is the first story that I’ve set in my own hometown of Asheville, NC. It features a girl named Marigold, a boy named North, and a beautiful Christmas tree lot.

You’re going totally outside your usual genre with a YA horror for your next solo book. How did that writing experience differ, and how big of a shock will it be to your romance fans?

I’ve been warning my readers about it for the last two years, so hopefully it won’t be a shock. I don’t expect many of my regular readers to follow me with this book, and that’s okay. I understand that horror isn’t for everyone. But it’s definitely still a Stephanie Perkins novel—the types of characters, the dialogue, even a bit of romance in between the killing! But yeah. There’s a lot of blood. I’m still working on it, and it’s been a blast. Refreshing, as creepy as that might sound. I’ve always had a dark side.

Your characters always have such strong passions for their creative pursuits. If you weren’t writing, what would you be throwing yourself into?

Primatology. I always thought it would be cool to be Jane Goodall. I wanted to study bonobos. They’re peaceful, hypersexual, and they live in matriarchal societies. Not too shabby.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is on shelves now!