Author Chat with Meg Elison (Find Layla) Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Meg Elison author of
Read on for more about Meg and her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Meg Elison!
Meg Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Her debut novel, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, won the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award. It was followed by The Book of Etta and The Book of Flora in Meg’s Road to Nowhere trilogy. The author lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes like she’s running out of time. For more information, visit www.megelison.com.
Meet Find Layla!
A neglected girl’s chaotic coming-of-age becomes a trending new hashtag in a novel about growing up and getting away by an award-winning author.
Underprivileged and keenly self-aware, SoCal fourteen-year-old Layla Bailey isn’t used to being noticed. Except by mean girls who tweet about her ragged appearance. All she wants to do is indulge in her love of science, protect her vulnerable younger brother, and steer clear of her unstable mother.
Then a school competition calls for a biome. Layla chooses her own home, a hostile ecosystem of indoor fungi and secret shame. With a borrowed video camera, she captures it all. The mushrooms growing in her brother’s dresser. The black mold blooming up the apartment walls. The unmentionable things living in the dead fridge. All the inevitable exotic toxins that are Layla’s life. Then the video goes viral.
When Child Protective Services comes to call, Layla loses her family and her home. Defiant, she must face her bullies and friends alike, on her own. Unafraid at last of being seen, Layla accepts the mortifying reality of visibility. Now she has to figure out how to stay whole and stand behind the truth she has shown the world.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
"Find Layla" is based largely on my own adolescence. I grew up really poor, in and out of homelessness, stealing food and electricity and water, always waiting for an eviction notice to be pinned to my door. I wanted to write for and about kids like me, who didn't have a solid sense of where they might sleep or whether there are really any trustworthy adults. I think it’s a story that needs telling, but my friends who grew up with parents who cared for them are not always the right ones to hear it. I hope this book finds the people who need it.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
It’s tough to say any character but Layla is my favorite. She’s tough, smart, and resourceful. She’s adaptive to her environment and finds ways out that a lot of kids wouldn’t. Plus she loves science and swears a lot. She’s easy to like.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel definitely came first-- this story was busting to get out of me. When it came to the title, the idea of a character watching a search for herself trending on Twitter seemed both natural and very strange. And I had to name her after something my mother and I shared. The song “Layla” by Eric Clapton gave us an uncharacteristic moment to bond. I liked the acoustic version I heard on the radio; she played me the original on vinyl because she thought the recording I knew was so strange. The song always makes me think of her, so that had to be the name. It placed me in time where I could still reach her.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
There’s a scene where Layla’s on the run and she sneaks into the home of a friend of hers. She’s there for survival reasons; to bathe and wash her clothes and eat something. But she understands herself as a parasite, eating not only the cold leftovers from the fridge but also the peace, order, and safety of a life that will never be her own. That’s a difficult feeling to have and very hard to convey. It came to me all at once, and I am quite happy with it.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
The most important thing I’ve learned is that accepting careful and skilled critique feels like a handful of toothpicks jammed in my throat, but it will help me be a better writer if I listen to it, incorporate it, and strive to be better. It’s the toughest lesson to learn, and it hurts every time. But it’s the only thing that works.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The cover art for “Find Layla” was created by an artist named Kimberly Glyder, and I adore it. The best thing about it is the background art that’s on the jacket of the hardback and reproduced in different colors on the cover itself-- images of strange life forms. Mold and coral and protists crawl all over it, giving the reader the idea that it’s about science, but also about things that are kind of gross. That’s spot-on for this book, and I couldn’t love it more.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2020?
I’m really looking forward to “Surrender Your Sons,” by Adam Sass. I love queer rebellion novels and that one promises to be great. I also can’t wait to read “Court of Lions” by Somaiya Daud. It’s the second in her Mirage series, which is deeply concerned with facets of identity and how we fit in with ourselves and our societies. She’s an intoxicating writer and I can’t wait to get more of it.
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2019?
In 2019, I loved Fran Wilde's "Riverland." It has this inimitable mix of portal fantasy and the way that abusive households have their own complex set of rules and laws, as daunting and as dangerous as any faerie court. It swept me away and reminded me of things I haven't thought of in years. That book is a barnacle on my heart.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I have a thriller I can’t wait to see out in the world. I have a novella about a mad scientist shrinking the homeless in my town: Oakland. I’ve got short stories coming out, too. I’m always working.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The most difficult scenes in writing “Find Layla” were the direct interactions between Layla and her mother. There were early readers of the book who were terribly skeptical, telling me that I was overplaying the villain and needed to rein it in. That was tough to hear, since I was writing from an experience of having a terrible mother. But I learned to use the essence of painful memories while still suspending the disbelief of the reader. That’s two kinds of hard.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
It’s hard to write bullies. A lot of authors write them as kids who use anger to mask their own insecurities and hurt. I didn’t want to go that route, because when I was bullied I didn’t care that the kids who were awful to me had a reason to be. I just wanted it to stop. So I wrote them as privileged and careless and ultimately unknowable. I never had a reckoning with the people who bullied me; never observed them struggling with their parents or their self-image. So I wrote that unknowability.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
I love drafting. I can just sprint forward, not looking back. Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t all come together, doesn’t matter if it’s shaped right yet. I get to make the world, and that’s exuberant and exciting Revising is its own kind of joy; it’s mending rather than making. It’s satisfying, but in a slower, more measured way. I love the all-out sprint of just getting the first draft down.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
I read fast and I write fast. Both of these abilities serve me as a writer, but also in every other part of life. In college, it made it possible to get enough sleep. Oh, that’s my other superpower: I fall asleep in seconds and I very rarely wake before morning. I sleep like a god.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Planned Parenthood, forever and ever amen.
By: Meg Elison
Release Date: September 1st, 2020
Five winners will receive a copy of Find Layla (Meg Elison) ~ (US Only)
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