Today, I'm super excited to share a new Into YA post with you! I get to feature spectacular debut author Liz Lawson today to chat about her new book, The Lucky Ones. If you haven't gotten a chance to read about the book, you can check out my review here. We chat about handling sensitive topics with care, articulating very internal experiences on the page, her day job as a music supervisor, and more.
If you enjoy the interview, Liz is a great person to follow on Twitter (@LzLwson). She's been doing her part to raise awareness about the importance of social distancing and always has something relatable to say about the realities of self isolation. Also, please consider supporting the book in whatever way you can. Ordering from bookstores, requesting from libraries, and talking about it on social media all contribute to helping authors and the book industry.
1. The Lucky Ones revolves around the aftermath of the aftermath of a school shooting. I’ve participated in lockdown drills since kindergarten, and my friends and I all go to school with a very real fear that we might have an experience like May’s. Did the fact that most readers have grown up with this being a very scary reality influence how you handled or approached the topic?
Absolutely. I know this is a real thing that teens deal with and fear on a daily basis, so it was incredibly important to me that I handle it as sensitively as possible. I went into the book with the intent of not sensationalizing anything about the shooting itself, the shooter himself, or the aftermath of it. I wanted to make sure it felt like a respectful and nuanced take on the aftermath of an event like this, so readers would get a sense of hope and find the read cathartic, rather than exploitative.
2. Many books I’ve read that discuss school shootings are set in the direct aftermath of the tragedy. What made you interested in telling May and Zach’s story after the initial press disappeared?
Like you said, there are many books and media about the direct aftermath of tragedy, but not as many about the long-term effects those tragedies have on the people involved. Shining a light on those individuals felt really important to me, because they really aren’t talked about much, except on anniversaries of the event, or in retrospectives that feel a little sensational to me, and there are so many survivors out there, who are just left behind after the media descends and departs, who are still struggling. Who deserve to have their stories told. So I set out to do just that.
3. Throughout the book, we get glimpses at May’s struggle with PTSD and anxiety. It can be difficult to portray those very internal experiences in writing, but you did an amazing job. Do you have any tips for writers who struggle to write about a character’s anxiety or complex emotional experiences?
Thank you so much. Interior moment are so hard, because describing someone else’s emotional responses is tricky—it’s hard to even describe your own a lot of the time! That said, I thought a lot about what I would think and feel in the moments that May goes through in the book and would really try to concentrate on how my own body and mind would react, in both tiny ways and bigger ones. Those scenes definitely took the longest time to write, because they require such attention to minute details and I wanted to get them right.
4. One element that I really enjoyed in the book was Connor and Lucy’s band and how central music was to the details of the story as a means of memory and healing. Was there any particular reason it was such a big part of the story?
Like you note in your next question, I’m actually a music supervisor of film & TV in my day-job life, and so much is a huge part of my life generally speaking. It seemed only natural that it would be a big part of my character’s lives too. I also played in the band in HS and was able to really understand into that part of May’s character from a lived point of view.
5. I noticed in your bio that you’re a music supervisor as well as a writer. I’m always interested in how creative disciplines mix and inform one another. Can you share a little bit about what a music supervisor does? Have you learned anything through your day job that has influenced your writing or vice versa?
I am! As a music supervisor, I basically handle all the creative and business end of sourced (i.e. non-composed) music in the projects I’m working on. Everything from pitching ideas for scenes, to clearance in terms of making sure song rights and fees are all agreed upon with various parties, and licensing on the back end to make sure everyone gets paid. It’s a nice balance for the creative and business sides of my brain. Working in music on multiple projects at once has definitely forced me to focus my brain, and that’s really helped with writing! It’s taught me how to use my time wisely.
6. I know that your debut is only just coming into the world, but I’m wondering if you have any upcoming projects you can talk about for us to look forward to?
I do! I just turned in my first draft of my second book to my editor! It’s due out 2021 (although what with everything going on right now, I assume there’s a chance that it might be delayed) and is entitled IN SILENT SEAS WE DROWN. It’s YA Contemporary again!
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