Interview with a YA debut author and bookseller
A debut author and a bookseller are friends—and both obsessed with YA literature—so here is their conversation about writing, book selling and what’s hot right now in YA.
Abbie is the debut author of THE LAST FIRST DAUGHTER.
Scarlet is a manager at Barnes & Noble (the resident YA expert), a musician and writer.
Scarlet: Tell us about your book! Pretend we’re on an elevator and instead of us all looking around nervously, you tell us all about what you wrote! Go!
Abbie: Wait… how many floors?
THE LAST FIRST DAUGHTER is a Young Adult adventure that will appeal to fans of LEGEND by Marie Lu or other YA Dystopian novels with a dose of romance. The main character, Lindy, is a contemporary version of a princess—the First Daughter—if princesses don’t like the spotlight but do like building radios. When the White House is attacked by terrorists, Lindy and her security officer Henry are the only ones to escape. They go into hiding and take on fake identities because the terrorists are hunting the missing First Daughter. Adventure ensues when Lindy and Henry must decide what risks are worth it to make her family proud—and take back the White House.
Scarlet: How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always been into?
Abbie: I don’t think I’ve told anyone outside my immediate family this before, but I did write two “complete manuscripts” when I around 12 years old. They are lost now, but I could still tell you a decent amount about these tales (I won’t. Okay, there may have been magical parallel worlds and mermaids). So yes, I’ve always been a storyteller.
But after those first two novels, I got really passionate about theatre. Theatre was my storytelling outlet through middle and high school, college, post-college internships… and, well, I still direct theatre productions! Around 2013, when I had recently decided not to pursue theatre full-time, I decided to try writing as a way to be creative between directing projects. I was becoming obsessed with Young Adult fiction and felt I had a fresh story to tell in the genre. THE LAST FIRST DAUGHTER is the manuscript I started drafting in 2013!
Scarlet: What inspired THE LAST FIRST DAUGHTER?
Abbie: The kernel of the idea of TLFD also came from way back in childhood. I was fascinated by the Anastasia story, but I thought it would be cooler if the girl knew she was a princess, but didn’t tell anyone. That little idea stuck with me, and when I met my other inspirations for TLFD—all the amazing YA fiction I was reading—I knew where I wanted to start.
I quickly realized that the theme from my childhood idea was closely related to a theme in my favorite Shakespeare play, AS YOU LIKE IT. I’m a Shakespeare nerd! I love AYLI because of the main character, Rosalind—hence, Rosalind “Lindy” Edwards was born.
Scarlet: If you like [fill in the blank], you’ll like THE LAST FIRST DAUGHTER….??
Abbie: If you like
A modern take on a badass princess
Engineer girls (STEM!)
Big questions about technology + society
Or when girls save the day with their brains, not violence!
… you’ll like THE LAST FIRST DAUGHTER!
Scarlet: Just for fun questions. What do you do in your non-writing time?
Abbie: I spend most of my hours working for a library system! In my free time, I direct plays and go to see theatre, read (of course), teach management at a University, and spend as much time with family and friends as possible, preferably while in coffee shops, cool bars or traveling.
Scarlet: Who is your favorite bookseller? (JK...and you better say me.)
Abbie: Scarlet!! I also like the gang at One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia—they are also big YA fans over there.
Scarlet: What have been your top three books you’ve read this year?
Abbie: 3) THE LAST MAGICIAN by Lisa Maxwell – super rich world, intriguing characters, and lots of twists and turns!
2) THE VALIANT by Lesley Livingston – strong females (they’re gladiators!) in a classic setting, this hits the same spot as my favorite movie of the year: WONDER WOMAN!
1) STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor – This. Book. The language, the world, the surprises. I just couldn’t put it down for the surprises. It’s a must read!
Scarlet: What do you have planned for 2018?
Abbie: Hmm… besides writing and reading as much as I can? I’m going to become a Mom in 2018! Baby Fine arrives in April <3
Abbie: What YA upcoming releases are you most excited about? We know you get your hands on some amazing ARCs!
Scarlet: Ooooh! I am really looking forward to Susan Dennard's SIGHTWITCH and BLOODWITCH in the next two years. Following her on Instagram and being able to see more of her writing process has made me love her books even more. Also, THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert (which I do have the ARC for, but haven't read yet!), THESE REBEL WAVES by Sara Raasch, LEGENDARY by Stephanie Garber, REIGN OF THE FALLEN by Sarah Glenn Marsh, and then about a million authors I will buy anything they write: Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, Alwyn Hamilton, Roshani Chokshi...okay, I could keep going for quite a while. Be sure to check out #scarletsrec on Instagram for all of my recommendations! Since I do get to read a lot of ARCS, sometimes my rec is up on release day.
Abbie: What are Barnes & Noble customers asking for in the teen section these days?
Scarlet: Mysteries! And funny books. Both of which are really difficult to find. I can recommend fantasy books all day long, but once a teen asks for a light-hearted mystery that will make them laugh, I'm out of options fairly quickly. And that's not to say adventure, fantasy, dark contemporary, etc. aren't popular, they are...but for some reason, mysteries just aren't getting on the shelves like I think they need to be.
Otherwise, I see a lot of teens coming in for THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas as well as teen classics such as THE HUNGER GAMES and LEGEND. I'm also always pleased when teens come in for the next installment of a series. I love being able to gush over favorite characters with a customer. It's so much fun to be deep in a series and all waiting for the next book to come out together.
Abbie: Do you judge a book by its cover? Do you think the B&N customers do? What are some favorite YA covers (either yours or the customers')?
Scarlet: I always joke at work that the books need to stop having beautiful covers because I have NO will power when it comes to buying beautiful books. Some recent favorites are THE GOBLINS OF BELLWATER by Molly Ringle, THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake, THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING by E.K. Johnston, and every book Leigh Bardugo has ever published.
I think B&N customers definitely pick up a book based on the cover, but it's not why they buy it. I think staff recommendations, blurbs from authors they know, and general buzz is what gets a book into a shopper's hands. We play a game at work sometimes where we see a really beautiful book and I'll read the first line or two out loud and ask, "Would you keep going?" It can be very interesting to see what would keep us reading.
Abbie: How can authors become more connected with their local Barnes & Noble? Tweet at you? Send you a postcard? Drop by the store with cookies and wine?
Scarlet: I will never say no to cookies and wine! But in all seriousness, we LOVE when authors stop by and sign stock! We will even tweet out a photo saying they're signed and I can't speak for anyone else, but I am always willing to help a kind author. There's an author who came by over five years ago and she was so sweet that I still make sure her book gets a face out in the section when I can. Twitter makes it easier for us all to connect and booksellers get a thrill out of having their staff recommendations or tweets recognized.