I read Lauren Gibaldi’s debut novel, The Night We Said Yes, earlier this year and I couldn’t put it down. A YA novel about young love lost and found and it was exactly what I needed. Lauren’s next YA novel, Autofocus, comes out this summer and I can’t wait to pick it up.
Pulled from Goodreads, the brief synopsis sums it up without giving too much away:
It’s always been a loaded word for Maude. And when she is given a senior photography assignment—to create a portfolio that shows the meaning of family—she doesn’t quite know where to begin. But she knows one thing: without the story of her birth mother, who died when Maude was born, her project will be incomplete.
So Maude decides to visit her best friend, Treena, at college in Tallahassee, Florida, where Maude’s birth mother once lived. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena has changed. With a new boyfriend and a packed social calendar, Treena doesn’t seem to have time for Maude—or helping Maude in her search.
Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude in her search, she starts to find that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.
Lauren was kind enough to answer a few questions about her new book, her life as an author, and what’s next:
What inspired you to start writing?
Lauren Gibaldi: I’ve kept a journal since I was in 4th grade, so I kind of always wrote. (Obviously it wasn’t very interesting back then; I mostly wrote about how annoying my younger brother was.) I’d write short stories as a kid, mostly putting myself in Grave Danger where I’d have to leave the haunted forest or something. They lasted for about two paragraphs. I stopped writing for fun, and more for school, and ended up majoring in English in college. I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines and eventually wanted to try fiction again. And quickly I learned, for me at least, that fiction is way more fun!
Tell us a little bit about your next book, Autofocus.
LG: When Maude is given a school photography assignment to capture what it means to be “family,” she decides to search for information on her deceased birth mother, whom she’s never known. She goes to Tallahassee, Florida, where she was born, and stays with her best friend Treena. While there, she learns more about her mom (and her best friend’s new social life) and wonders if who we are is determined at birth, or if we can change as we grow.
Do you write characters based on anyone you know?
LG: Nope, everyone is fictional, though there are bits and pieces of my real life I thrown in. For instance, I went to college in Tallahassee, so many of the landmarks are places I enjoyed. In my first book, The Night We Said Yes, the guys in the band The Pepperpots are fictional, but I stole the name from my friends’ high school band. It’s a little shout out to them. They came to my release party to celebrate, too!
Have any of them been based on you? Would you base a character on yourself?
LG: Nope, but I think there’s part of me in the characters. Ella in The Night We Said Yes is very much like me, but she’s not based on me. We have some similar perceptions on friendship; on standing out. In Autofocus, Maude and I are different, but I can still find pieces of myself in her.
Would you ever write a series?
LG: I don’t know about a series, but I’d be happy doing a related story. After The Night We Said Yes came out, I wrote Matt’s Story, a novella told from the main guy’s point of view. I loved re-visiting the characters in a new way. Honestly, if I could write an entire book about Jake, I would. That said, I wouldn’t want to do a sequel to TNWSY. Ella’s story is done there. So I’ll never say never! But right now I like doing stand-alone books.
Who is your favorite author? Or multiple if you can’t choose?
LG: Aside from being a writer, I’m a librarian, so this is a very hard question! Let’s go by categories. In picture books, I (and my daughter) love Mo Willems, Dan Santat, and Tammi Sauer. In middle grade, I adore Rebecca Stead (her newest book is fantastic), Lois Lowry (my childhood favorite!), and of course JK Rowling. In adult fiction, I enjoy Nick Hornby, Nicole Krauss, Lauren Groff, Curtis Sittenfeld, and J Courtney Sullivan. Also David Sedaris. In classics, F Scott Fitzgerald and Charlotte Bronte. And in YA, EVERYONE. I can’t choose favorites. They’re all fantastic. (My writer heroes are Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and Stephen Chbosky.)
What was the last book you were really obsessed with and couldn’t put down?
LG: I have a toddler, so I don’t read much (sad!). I read The Rosie Project for my library’s book club, and really enjoyed it. And Outrun the Moon, a YA novel about the San Francisco earthquake and a girl left in the wake, is tremendously good.
Follow Lauren on Twitter and make sure to check out The Night We Said Yes and pick up Autofocus when it hits shelves June 14th.