We recently sat down with Emmy Laybourne to discuss her newest YA novel. Read our interview below and scroll further for a chance to win a copy of Sweet.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Emmy!
I’m honored to be here today on The Young Folks. This is a terrific website – not only is it a great resource, but it’s just plain fun to read.
Sweet definitely stands out among other newly released YA books this season, so I have to ask, what exactly inspired this? The degree of Hollywood’s corrupt, or maybe society striving to reinforce body positivity?
Believe it or not, the kernel of the idea that turned into Sweet came from my lifelong sugar addiction. I spent so many days obsessing about when I could eat more candy or cookies – and when I wasn’t eating them, I was shaming myself for wanting them so bad. I really wanted to write about addiction. That’s what gave me the idea for Solu, the diet sweetener that makes people lose weight.
Putting the reveal of this new product on a luxury cruise was the next part of the concept that came together for me. I wanted the, ahem, victims of the new drug to be in close quarters. And from there came the realization that if it was going to be a product launch for a new sweetener on a luxury cruise it would, of course, be filled with B-list celebrities and Reality TV stars!
Suddenly I had the perfect set-up to explore issues of celebrity and our national obsession with weight right at my fingertips. And, of course, it wouldn’t be one of my novels without a lot of good scares and blood, so I felt free to let the book escalate slowly from romance and glamour, to troubling addiction, to downright mayhem!
The male lead in this story is a sort of celebrity – was he based off of a real-life Hollywood inhabitant?
If the cute pudgy kid from Two and a Half Men grew up into a super-hunk who was giving Ryan Seacrest a run for his money – that would be Tom Fiorelli. Tom was the child star of the fictional smash network show, The Magnificent Andersons from age 4-12. All of America watched him grow up and everyone thinks they know who he is. But he’s not at all like his on-screen persona, and it takes meeting Laurel, the other main character of the book, for him to let his true self come forward.
Have you ever partaken in a get-thin-quick fix, or know someone who has, and if so, was there a comedic turnout that maybe helped to pave way to the style of Sweet?
I myself tried juicing for a week – and ended up with my face in a cake less than twenty-four hours later. I still cringe at the thought.
I read that you once performed comedy, how did that humorous side of yourself transfer into the novel?
I use my training as a comedy improviser all the time in my work. The most important thing when you are doing improv is to remain in the moment! If you get stuck in your head, or start trying to think of where you want the scene to go — if you stop listening for one second, you become lost and behind the scene. When I’m writing, I try to minimize outside distractions and stay absolutely focused in the moment so that the words come out of me and go right to the page.
As for the humor, I like to think that Laurel’s pretty funny. There are some nice little comic exchanges in the book. It was really fun, after writing in the world of the Monument 14 trilogy for 4 years, to write something lighter. Okay, it’s quite dark by the end – but it starts light!
I’m totally picturing you writing this book while listening to a soundtrack solely composed of Vampire Weekend, The Police, and Bob Marley. Am I even remotely close? Is there an awesome playlist that helped mold this baby?
Oh man, you’re close! I listened to a lot of Daft Punk, Janelle Monae and… don’t judge me… One Direction. It was really fun to write the lighter scenes to pure pop music. I love using music to set the mood!
Is there a specific message you want readers to take from your new book?
Oooh, this is a hard question. I think I have two, but you have to keep in mind that Sweet is not an issue book – or if it is, it’s the most fun issue book I could have written.
#1. Our obsession with weight is holding us back. Love and accept your body. Treat it really well. And then get to work doing what you’re here on earth to do.
#2. The foods that we are surrounded with are addictive. If you have an addiction, think about getting help for it. It feels really good to be free from one. I tell you this from experience.
(To read more about my experience with sugar addiction and my feelings about body image, check out this open letter I wrote on my website: http://www.emmylaybourne.com/new-page)
Will we be seeing more YA from you in the future, or will you be diving into a new genre? Tell us what’s next!
YA is my genre. I’m not going anywhere! My next project is called Berserker. Set in the 1880’s Dakota territories, it tells the story of a farm boy who falls in love with the daughter of a family of Norwegian immigrants who have ancient Viking superpowers. It’s my “Little Paranormal Romance on the Prairie” series! It will be out in Fall 2016, so we have a bit of a wait in front of us!
Thanks again for having me and for these excellent questions! I’m @EmmyLaybourne on Twitter and Instagram if you want to keep in touch. I can’t wait to hear what all the Young Folks community thinks about Sweet!
To win a copy of Sweet, leave a comment below letting us know your thoughts. Contest ends 5/30 and is US/Canada only.