On Monday night, I found myself surrounded by NYC students, all buzzing with excitement. They were waiting to meet a big-deal celeb and get her autograph — and also get some answers about character, plot, and writing process.
That’s because the celeb of the night wasn’t a famous actress or singer, but instead a rock star of the literary world: R.J. Palacio, the author of Wonder. She made an appearance at a NY Barnes & Noble store to talk about her inspiration for the book, answer questions from the audience, and sign copies of her book.
I’ve read some interviews with R.J. Palacio in the past, so I thought I was already clued in to the behind-the-scenes story of how Wonder came to be. Well, I was wrong. Totally, completely wrong. Because I learned SO MUCH MORE at the event! And obviously, I will now share my newfound wisdom with you!
- Wonder was inspired by a real-life experience that Palacio had at an ice cream shop. She was sitting next to a girl with a craniofacial difference (the scientific term for the kind of deformed face that Auggie has in the book). When her 3-year-old son noticed the girl and started crying, Palacio didn’t know what to do and she got up in a big hurry and tried to rush both of her sons out of there — spilling milkshakes everywhere and causing a huge scene in the process. All the rest of that day, she kept obsessing over her behavior and how she should have just talked to the girl and her family instead. That night, she was inspired to start writing Auggie’s story… on Post-its!
- Palacio was also inspired by her 11-year-old son’s experiences starting middle school. She was surprised to see lots of mean behavior among his classmates, so Wonder became a book about being kind just as much as about Auggie in particular.
- Since Palacio had a full-time job and a family while writing Wonder, she did all of her writing from midnight to 3:00 a.m. every night! Good for her! I’m pretty sure I would fall asleep in my own drool during the day if I tried that…
- Palacio got the name Jack Will from twin boys who were friends of her son’s. Their names were Jack and Will and whenever their mom came to pick them up, she would call out, “Jack, Will!” (Maybe someday, we’ll come across a book character named Nancy Karen!)
- Palacio called Via a “much hipper, cooler, prettier” version of herself at the age of 15.
- But the character Palacio most relates to is Charlotte, who was never mean to Auggie but also never reached out like Summer did. To Palacio, the difference between the two girls is that Charlotte stands for “being nice” and Summer stands for “choosing kind.” But Palacio does think that the next school year after the book’s end, Charlotte will probably “stop being a bystander and she’ll be an upstander.”
I also found out that Wonder has been optioned for a movie! That doesn’t necessarily mean that the movie will get made, but everyone in the audience — including yours truly — definitely gasped in delight at that news! But, as Palacio pointed out, casting Auggie will be very tricky. She posed a question to all of us in the audience, and now I’m putting the question to you guys. Vote in the poll below!
Personally, I’d love to see a movie based on this book. But I really really really hope that if it happens, it’s actually a good film — because this story is really really really good!
What do you think? Have you read Wonder yourself? Leave a comment with YOUR thoughts or send in a full review!
While waiting for the event to start, Karen had to stop herself from jumping into conversations with everyone about their favorite books. Hello, weirdo stranger alert! But geez, it was so hard! Karen really loves talking about books!
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