Into YA with Laura Sibson
I am so excited to write the introduction for this interview about Laura Sibson's beautiful book, The Art Of Breaking Things. If you haven't heard anything about the book yet, I would suggest you read my review from earlier in the week to get a better understanding of the book. I am so glad that Laura had the courage to put this book out in the world. It is both an amazing tool to promote empathy and a comfort and representation to survivors looking to see their voices reflected in YA.
1. From the beginning Skye, Ben, Luisa, and Keith all have amazing chemistry (in some cases romantic and in others friendship). How did you build the layers behind their connections from the start? Do you have any advice for writers wondering how to develop realistic relationships between their characters?
This is an excellent question! The relationships between the characters evolved during the revision process. In the first draft, Luisa was sort of cold, Ben was too much of a savior and Keith was a complete jerk. In other words, they were fairly one-dimensional. Through observations from beta readers and through my own reading and re-reading, I began to see not only what Skye needed in supporting characters, but also who those characters were as individuals. One of the themes I wanted to explore was different ways that girls or women can be mistreated by boys and men. That’s pretty heavy! I needed to balance male figures like Dan and Ashton with male characters that could show different ways of being boys and men in the world. Similarly, with the tension that builds between Skye and her mom and eventually between Skye and Emma, I needed Luisa to a be a supportive friend. My advice to writers would be to consider the secondary characters as main characters of their own stories. Find out what drives them, what are they doing when the main character isn’t in the room, where will they go after the story is over? In dialogue, ensure that interchanges aren’t always about your main character. Like real friendships, the exchanges should have a back and forth quality.
2. The power of art is a central theme in the book as Skye and Ben are visual artists (as well as Ben being in a band). While they both use their art to express things they don’t know how to voice, Skye particularly uses it to cope with trauma and better understand herself. What made you put art at the center of the story, and how do you see the power of art?
Initially, Skye was an artist because I am not. I took art classes in high school and I enjoy sketching, but I do not identify as an artist and I wanted Skye to be different from me. At the same time, I believe wholeheartedly that every person has the capacity for creativity, and I believe passionately in the power of art to help people process experiences. Sometimes our experiences are so big that they defy our ability to articulate them in a way that can help us move forward. Drawing, playing music, writing – or creating in other ways with your hands – can help provide an outlet for confusing emotions or uncomfortable thoughts. But please understand that I also believe in therapy and seeking insight and guidance from a trained professional if those feelings and thoughts feel too big to manage.
3. Skye spends most of the book trying to find outlets to better understand herself and cope with the trauma from being molested when she was younger. Some of these are healthy like her passion for art while others, like a strong drug and alcohol habit, are not. These coping mechanisms to contain her guilt and confusion manifest because she’s unable to share what happened to her with her mom for most of book. This highlights a larger societal issue about isolating and stigmatizing survivors. What shifts do you think that culture can make to create a more open dialogue around sexual assault to prevent isolation of survivors and continued traumatization?
I am so glad that you asked this question. I live for the day when survivors do not feel shame. The sociologist Brene Brown says that the two most important words when someone is going through a difficult experience are “me too.” If we are able to bear witness to one another’s experiences and trauma, I believe that we can start the long journey toward destigmatization of sexual assault. The #metoo movement has started dialogue in this direction, but we have a long way to go. Laurie Halse Anderson is an inspiration to me in this area for the way that she speaks loudly and unapologetically about the need for consent and the need to discuss sex in open and healthy ways. She’s also incredibly gracious, providing an ear to the countless individuals who tell her about their own sexual traumas. To the extent that we can do the same for the people around us, we can start to create change on a small scale and hope for it to become a tidal wave.
4. In your acknowledgement section, you speak about your reluctance to write the book because it is very open and vulnerable. What made you ultimately decide to pursue publication? What advice do you have for writers on the fence about sharing their books on personal or difficult topics?
The reason that I pursued publication is that a very close friend was moved by the manuscript and told me that it could speak to young women. But even after I sought publication, it took me a lot of thought and counsel from trusted friends before I decided to note in the acknowledgements that the book is based on abuse that I experienced. I believe that this book speaks to readers because of the emotional authenticity that I was able to convey from my own experience, but writing it was not easy. For writers considering the creation of a personal project, remember that maintaining emotional balance is important. That might mean writing a book to explore experiences that have remained lodged within you. It might also mean keeping the truthful aspects of the story to yourself. Recently, someone raised for me the difference between secrecy versus privacy. Ask yourself: do you need this to be private to protect yourself? If so, that’s valid! Or are you keeping this a secret because you hold shame? If that’s your answer, then maybe work through those feelings with trusted people or professionals.
5. I absolutely love The Art of Breaking Things, and I can’t wait to read more books by you! Are there any projects that you can talk about (or even hint at) now?
Thank you so much for your kind words! I was fortunate to be offered a two-book deal with Viking and I’m thrilled to work with my editor, Maggie Rosenthal, on another book. Though I can’t share much yet, I can tell you that it is very different from my first book. This new book features a girl living on a houseboat with her grandmother and the ghosts of their ancestors, which is not only crowded, but very distracting. She’d like not to be surrounded by the dead all of the time – especially the ghost of her mother, who she misses desperately -- but her grandmother says that it’s just the way of their family. Their dead stay with them.
About The Book...
The Art of Breaking Things: Review Here
Links Of Interest:
Virtually Yours: Review Here
Red White and Royal Blue: Review Here
Graduation, Gap Year, and Fear of Failure: Here
Going Off Script: Review Here
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