Emery Lord made a splash in 2014 with her debut novel Open Road Summer. She’s here today to talk about her second novel, The Start of Me and You. My review will be posting tomorrow, but let me tell you I loved The Start of Me and You even more than Open Road Summer and I am beyond thrilled to have Emery here to answer some questions about it!
Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?
Emery Lord (EM): Sure! I majored in English Lit and started writing fiction more seriously after college. (I say “more seriously” but I just mean I was carving out time for it seriously. The actual writing was fun!) I signed with my agent 2 or 3 years into writing for real and sold Open Road Summer in 2012.
MP: What was the inspiration for The Start of Me and You?
EM: Man, this is self-centered, but…largely, my own teen years. I wanted to write about a suburb that is kind of generic but still yours & home, a group of friends that is kind of nebulous- people coming and going/groups overlapping, and I wanted to make the most realistic decisions possible in the story, even if they were cringe-worthy. I wanted to write about boys who aren’t suave or perfect…just human, with good qualities and flaws and a lot of kindness too. Beyond that, when I started writing, I was trying to come back to myself after a really intense grieving experience. It’s so strange- I think I talked myself through it via Paige. Like, I couldn’t figure out how to be okay in my own life, but I could somehow float outside of it and guide this fictional character.
MP: Readers learn early on that Paige is a big reader and TV watcher. Do you have any (current or past) favorite books and TV shows that you can share with us?
EM: Well, I’m obviously deeply entrenched in Arrow right now, haha. I never used to watch much TV at all, but I’ve grown to really love it post-college. I particularly love Friday Night Lights & Parenthood (surprise surprise, shows that are committed to realism). A few favorite books of all time that I get VERY nerdy about: Looking for Alibrandi, Fair & Tender Ladies, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the Alice McKinley series. I’m also a huge fan of many short stories & their writers- Amy Hempel, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jennifer Egan, Lorrie Moore. Like, I will geek out if I find people who want to talk about these stories.
MP: To start her junior year off right, Paige make a plan which includes joining a new club. For Paige that ends up being Quiz Bowl. What clubs were you a part of in high school? If you could do it again, what clubs would you join?
EM: I was in marching band, jazz band, show choir and theater. As an adult, I actually hate doing anything performative, haha! So if I could do it again, I’d found a feminist/social justice club a la Morgan in The Start of Me and You.
MP: Do you have any specialized knowledge that would be useful in a quiz competition?
EM: I can hold my own with the literary canon, state capitals, art and music. I will always win Friends trivia and always lose sports trivia.
MP: Paige is a great narrator and one of my favorite characters. But she also has a great supporting cast in this novel. Is there any character you’re especially excited for readers to meet? Did you have a favorite (or hardest) character to write about?
EM: Thanks! I think the hardest wasn’t a specific character but writing a cast that big/trying to get their individuality and voices across. I really loved exploring Tessa and trying to figure out how to show this girl who is disillusioned and bored but still loving and engaged in other ways.
MP: One of my favorite things about The Start of Me and You is that it’s a really smart book. Paige and Max both have great vocabularies–which they use with each other. Was there any word that you were particularly eager to incorporate into their conversations?
EM: Thank you! I (embarrassingly) keep index cards when I run across a new word in an article or book to quiz myself on them. With Paige and Max, it was less about the specific words and more about the particular…comfort of finding someone who literally speaks your language.
MP: Without getting into spoiler territory, Max and Paige also talk a bit about Pride and Prejudice so I have to ask: Do you see yourself as a Jane or an Elizabeth? Thoughts on Bingley and Darcy?
EM: Ha, you know, I felt like P&P was everywhere when I started working on this book, and I kept wondering why everyone fixates on Elizabeth and Darcy, when Jane and Bingley have this really interesting pas de deux of miscommunication and undertone and longing. That being said, I don’t know which I am, actually! As much as I crush on brooders (Darcy), the truth is I go for the sweet-to-the-core ones.
MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?
EM: It’s called When We Collided, and it’s a summer love story told in dual POV. I tried to tell a story of lives that look like mine and my friends: where there are sometimes mental health struggles and therapists and medication, but also- truly- so much happiness. It is my favorite thing I’ve ever written.
MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
EM: This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I swear I mean it. My advice is: take all writing advice with a grain of salt. Some people may have 2k a day goals, get up early to write, do NaNoWriMo, purge manuscripts of all adverbs, plot extensively, don’t plot at all, repeat “show don’t tell” as if it’s gospel. You don’t have to do any of those things. You can try them; maybe they’ll work and that’s great! But you gotta find the way that works for YOU. Beyond that, to quote Conan: work hard, be kind.
Thanks again to Emery for a great interview.