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Meg Rosoff
Did you conceive the novel for young adults? If so, what made you want to write for this age group?
The time in my own life during which I read most avidly, with most intensityand passion, was my teens. So yes, I did sit down to write a book for young adults, but I didn't worry too much about what writing for that "target" group entailed. For a writer, teenagers are an ideal subject because they can display the most extreme human foibles without everyone saying "but s/he's mad!" It's a very extreme time of life, and that makes for intense transformations, intense possibilities for growth.
If you had read this novel when you were 15, what effect do you think it might have had on you?
Hmmm. Am I objective? I wrote it for my 47-year-old self before anyone else, so I hope my younger self would have loved it. The values in the book -- the importance of courage, and passion, and love, and the horrific nature of war -- are values I hope people of all ages will feel touched by.
Although the rural idyll that the family live isn't obviously contrasted with New York, Daisy's growth and development there do imply a criticism of city life. Does that reflect your own feelings about the country vs. the city?
I don't think it's quite that simple. I've always considered myself a city person, but a city person who has a great romantic attachment to the country. As a child I spent summers on an island off the coast of Cape Cod, which, in the sixties and early seventies, really was idyllic. We used to hitch hike everywhere, not wear shoes for weeks, and spend hours and hours in the ocean. There's an incomparable kind of peace to be had in a field,or by the sea, but I also love the buzz and the sophistication of cities. I guess my ideal life would combine the two.
The 'voice' of Daisy is very convincing - is she based on someone you know?
There's a lot of me in Daisy, but that's true of most characters a writer invents. You collect bits of people in your head and sometimes they just jump onto the page as real people.
There are shocking and uncompromising images of violence in the novel. Did you feel they were an essential part of the narrative?
Yes. All you have to do is read the newspaper to realize what agony so many adults and children experience because of wars fought where they live; wars they never asked for or wanted to be part of. I'm terrified of the consequences of war waged by government leaders who believe that killing people can solve complex ethnic and political conflicts. With very few exceptions, war just leads to more war.
Many young adults feel that war is an increasing possibility. Were you concerned about creating unnecessary anxiety in them?
It's never to early to start taking responsibility for the world we live in. Most of the people reading this book will have been lucky enough never to have lived through a war. If we all imagined a little more vividly what it would be like to have our lives and our families torn apart by war, we might be more vocal in our opposition to violence as a political solution.
The ending of HOW I LIVE NOW is equivocal. How do you see the future for Daisy and Edmond?
The books stops for the writer in the same place it does for the reader. What happens after the ending is anyone's guess.
Finally, do you have plans for another novel?
Yes, I'm writing one now about a boy who becomes obsessed that fate is out to get him.
Meg Rosoff

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