Lauren Morrill grew up in Maryville, TN, where she was a short-term Girl Scout, a (not so) proud member of the marching band, and a trouble-making editor for the school newspaper. She graduated from Indiana University with a major in history and a minor in rock & roll, and now lives in Macon, GA with her husband and their dog, Lucy. When she’s not writing, she spends a lot of hours getting knocked around playing roller derby.And now for the interview!
Lauren Morrill is the author of Meant to Be, a romance novel set on a school trip to London, and Being Sloane Jacobs, a Parent Trap-esque story about two girls named Sloane Jacobs who trade places for a summer. She also has two upcoming books: My Unscripted Life and The Trouble with Destiny.
Forever Literary: Why do you write contemporary YA?
Lauren Morrill: Honestly, I think it's a way for me to relive those teenage years, but have all the adventures that I never had growing up in a boring suburban town! I'll also bow down to my sci fi and fantasy and paranormal friends and say that I think it takes a very special kind of brain to come up with that stuff, and my brain just doesn't work that way. Instead, I focus on "world-building" in the real world, which is something I can handle.
Forever Literary: Would you ever consider writing a book of another genre?
Lauren Morrill: I have an idea for a super hero book, but it'll be a HUGE experiment for me. I don't know if it'll ever see the light of day, but it'll be fun to try! But even then, it'll take place in a contemporary world.
Forever Literary: "Contemporary" is another word for "realistic fiction," but I sometimes get the sense that the genre isn't 100% realistic. (For example, YA boyfriends always seem superior to real-life romances.) Do you think YA contemporary as a whole is too enhanced? If so, is it okay to stretch reality for the sake of entertainment?
Lauren Morrill: Even under the umbrella of "contemporary," fiction is still fiction. Contemporary novels aren't true stories. They can often seem just as fantastic as a dystopian. But in any genre, it's the author's job to convince the reader that this world is real, whether it is or not. My books tend to take place in a real world with people you might actually know, but in slightly heightened scenarios. I've heard a lot that Being Sloane Jacobs, which involves two girls with the same name switching places at summer camp, requires a bit of a suspension of disbelief. And that's definitely true, but it's my job as an author to convince you that even though this probably hasn't happen ... it could (and hopefully I did that!). There's also the fact that real life is 100% completely bonkers. Just look at the news! If some of that stuff got pitched to an editor, she might say "yeah, I don't think readers will buy that."
Forever Literary: Contemporary YA deals with real issues teenagers face, and it can therefore help young adults find their place in the world or overcome problems. Did you read the genre as a teenager? If so, did any of the books affect you in this way?
Lauren Morrill: When I was a teenager, YA was mostly The BabySitters Club, Sweet Valley High, and Judy Blume, all of which I read voraciously. But these don't really reflect the kind of YA that we see today, which is representative of a wide variety of teen experiences. Today it's much easier to find your experience in the pages of a YA novel (though we still have an entire mountain to climb ... which is why the We Need Diverse Books campaign is so important). I think if I would have come of age in today's YA world, I wouldn't have felt so influenced by the what-to-wear, who-to-date themes that were present in Sweet Valley High and The BabySitters Club.
I will say, the Regina Morrow storyline in Sweet Valley High definitely had me "scared straight." I didn't drink at all when I was in high school, and it never even occurred to me to try drugs. Are you kidding? I might have an undiagnosed heart condition that would kill me the moment I put an illicit substance anywhere near my body! And this is why I laugh when grown ups get in such a snit about "mature themes" in YA books. Reading SVH #40: "On The Edge" didn't give me any ideas. That was a cautionary tale!
Forever Literary: What are your top five favorite contemporaries?
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn