Today I’m welcoming Lauren Strasnick, author of two of my favorite YA books: Nothing Like You and Her and Me and You, and now her third: Then You Were Gone, a noir-ish YA mystery that I am anxious to dive into. Lauren’s style just blows me away (which you will see we discuss below) and she is also serious the coolest, hippest most ‘LA’ girl that I know. Our mutual agent, the fabulous Jen Rofe confirms this. Just wander a thrift shop in Studio City with her and watch how everything looks perfect on her and you will see what I mean. Plus she is brilliant and ironic and made of awesome.
|Me, Jen Rofe and Lauren Strasnick|
So awesome, that at the end of this post, she is giving away a SIGNED COPY OF THEN YOU WERE GONE!! So make sure to enter below!
But first, Lauren and I sat down, laptop to laptop, to discuss her new book, which Amazon describes like this:
Two years ago, Adrienne’s best friend walked out of her life. One week ago, she left Adrienne a desperate, muffled voicemail. Adrienne never called back. Now Dakota is missing. She left behind a string of broken hearts, a flurry of rumors, and a suicide note. Adrienne can’t stop obsessing over what might have happened if she’d answered Dakota’s call. And she’s increasingly convinced that Dakota must still be alive. Maybe finding and saving Dakota is the only way Adrienne can save herself. Or maybe it’s too late for them both.
Joy: THEN YOU WERE GONE is a noir mystery, yes? Tell us what drew you to this story genre.
Lauren: I was definitely inspired by the noir/neo-noir genre -- though I'm not sure I succeeded in writing anything that even remotely resembles it. I pulled inspiration from a few different sources: Twin Peaks, Veronica Mars, the movie Brick (this hard-boiled teen detective story about a dead chick and block of heroin). I'm very into the "missing girl" trope used so often in fiction and film, and I was eager to see what I could do with it.
Joy: Friendship and relationships -- both good, bad, and obsessive/destructive play a big role in your novels. Tell us about Adrienne and her friendship with the missing Dakota.
Lauren: It's true. I've yet to write a novel that doesn’t include a heavy dash of obsession &/or destructive friendship! Well, at the start of this book, Adrienne and Dakota, former friends, have been broken up for nearly two years. In that time, Dakota has sort of skyrocketed to teen idol status -- she's in a band, they're quite popular, and Adrienne is just a regular girl with a reasonable life. Adrienne envies Dakota. And when Dakota goes missing, Adrienne is forced to come to terms with the realities of who she is, who Dakota was, and who they were together.
Joy: The down and dirty: What's your one or two sentence pitch for this novel?
Lauren: THEN YOU WERE GONE is about friends dumping friends! It has mystery, intrigue, sex, love, heartbreak and rock music!
Joy: I know you live in LA so obviously you know it well, but beyond that, what elements attract you to setting stories there?
Lauren: LA is wildly misunderstood. This city is so much more than silicone and sandy beaches. It's mountains & succulents and street food and bougainvillea and cold nights and cheap wine and citrus trees!
Joy: I love this answer so hard!! It is exactly why I love your books, Lauren. Because you define LA in this way.
Joy: One of the things I love most about your writing is your spare, elegant prose. I am in awe of how you let the white space also tell the story. Tell us about your stylistic choices when you write dialogue, description, narration.
Lauren: I actually feel very limited by my style at times -- I don't really feel i'm making choices. It's like -- each sentence has a rhythm, and i have to find the right words to fit the beat. It's annoying & limiting -- frequently i'll feel like, "I have this bit of information i need to convey but i can't figure out how to say it so it sounds right." & then i'll spend half an hour trying to work out the right way to say something so it doesn't offend my sensibilities.
Joy: For the writers out there, what is your general writing process? Do you outline or just see where the story leads you?
Lauren: NOTHING LIKE YOU, my first book, is the only book i didn't outline. Everything else I've outlined. Not to say that the story doesn't change sometimes while writing, but writing a novel is challenging enough -- the least you can do is provide yourself with some sort of road map.
Joy: THEN YOU WERE GONE has been widely compared to Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why. What elements trigger that comparison?
Lauren: I'm not entirely sure -- both are dark, contemporary reads, both touch on suicide, both books center around an MC who's fixated on a girl who's gone -- beyond that though, the stories & themes are quite different.
Joy: What's next for Lauren Strasnick?
Lauren: I've envisioned a very thrilling future for myself! Am currently working on a proposal for a top secret project... Will keep you posted, JP.
1. Chocolate or vanilla?
2. Coffee or tea?
3. Favorite guilty pleasure TV show?
The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad franchise. No guilt!
4. Books you'd take to the proverbial desert island?
The Basic Eight, Wonder Boys, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, My Life in Heavy Metal, The Haunting of Hill House, The Likeness, The Secret History, anything Didion...
5. Last meal?
Morbid! How's about Favorite Meal(s)? Truffle mac & cheese, Kale salad, some sort of rice/beans/fried plantains/chicken mix -- spaghetti squash casserole, apples & peanut butter, steak fries w/ tartar sauce, cabbage salad, fried clams, kimchi, any kind of pickled veg...
Joy’s note: Okay, I am really hungry now. Yum. On all counts. Also, I thought I was the only one who secretly dipped fries in tartar sauce. Guess not.
6. Current favorite LA haunt?
I really love wandering the aisles of health food stores.
AND NOW FOR THE CONTEST/GIVEAWAY!!
To win an autographed copy of THEN YOU WERE GONE, comment on this post, making sure that we know how to contact you. Since Lauren shared her favorite meals and book choices above, tell her your favorite meal or desert island books. Then your name will be put in the contest hat! Contest will last until Monday 1/14 and winner will be announced on Tuesday 1/15.
Start entering!! And read Lauren’s other two books!!
Want more about Lauren?
Go to her website: www.laurenstrasnick.com