Welcome back to the Millennial Writer Series, in which I interview writers who have published work. We discuss the writer’s work, their creative process, and what it is to be a Millennial in publishing. Want to know more? Check out all the interviews here.
Kerry is the author of the YA Contemporary novel Love and Other Alien Experiences. Although it was published with Paper Lantern Lit as an ebook last year, Feiwel and Friends just bought the novel, which will be published in summer 2017. Read on for Kerry’s advice about writing, her take on rom-coms, and what it’s really like to get published by Lauren Oliver.
Tell us about your YA novel Love and Other Alien Experiences. What was your creative process for this novel?
Love and Other Alien Experiences is about Mallory Sullivan, a girl who has a very active online life, an obsession with aliens, and an anxiety disorder that prevents her from leaving her house. When she’s nominated for homecoming court, she decides to seriously go for the crown. Part of her plan involves getting her high school’s dreamboat football star to be her date, but along the way she ends up discovering a lot about herself, her friends, and her family. Oh, and there’s some kissing.
My creative process for working on the book involved a lot of late nights and a lot of junk food. I was on relatively tight deadlines while also maintaining a full-time job, so I basically spent every evening and weekend working on my book. It was sometimes tough and I think I came dangerously close to OD-ing on Skittles more than once, but it was all worth it and I’d do it again!
Paper Lantern Lit was co-founded by Lauren Oliver. Did you get any interaction with her in the publishing process? What was it like to work with their team?
I was able to meet Lauren when she was at a book event and she was every bit as warm and friendly as you would hope. She also basically radiates productivity and ambition. I’ve been lucky to get to know PLL’s other co-founder, Lexa Hillyer, and work closely with my PLL editor, Alexa Wejko. Everyone at PLL is great at their jobs, and it was a dream to work with them on my first book.
You regularly write about YA literature for Hello Giggles. What do you see as current and emerging issues and trends in #YAlit? How do you think the genre has grown in recent years?
It’s hard to say what’s a “trend,” since YA as a genre is so broad and covers so many types of books. Writers and readers are certainly more concerned with making sure that the books we write and read are reflective of diverse experiences, which I think you can see online in hashtags like #weneeddiversebooks and #ownvoices. I wouldn’t call that a trend, however, so much as a welcome reflection of reality. I feel like YA is becoming better and better every year.
You also have two blogs: Welcome To Ladyville and A Year of Romantic Comedies. How did you come up with the idea to watch 52 romantic comedies in 52 weeks?
When I was deep in the trenches of working on LAOAE, I realized I missed the immediate feedback I got from blogging…but I didn’t want to write personal posts about my everyday life, mostly because my everyday life is not all that interesting. I’ve always loved romcoms and I have lots of opinions on them, plus I figured that watching a bunch of them might teach me some things I could use in my own writing. Writing a book can be sort of a lonely process, and this was a great way for me to immediately interact with people.
I’ve heard a lot of chatter online that the romantic comedy is declining or that the best rom coms are from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early 2000s. Do you agree, and how do you think this affects the YA contemporary book trend we’re seeing?
It’s true that there aren’t as many big-budget romcoms as there were in the glory days of the 90s, but I definitely don’t feel that the quality of romantic comedies is declining. To that point, I love this article by Linda Holmes, where she points out that many beloved romantic comedies are more “greatly loved” than “great.” Over the past year, I’ve come across several really wonderful recent romantic comedies that received very little attention, either because they were low-budget, didn’t feature huge stars, or starred people of color. So they’re out there, but they may not be receiving the marketing or attention they deserve.
I love that there are so many great romcoms in YA right now, because they’re my favorite thing to read. YA really lends itself to romance because feelings are naturally so intense when you’re a teenager, and I like that all those feelings are right on the surface.
What do you think makes the character of a Millennial Writer a powerful new force? Do you see significant differences between older and younger Millennials?
Well, I definitely feel like an older Millennial, since I’m nearing 30 and can no longer relate to listicles about twenty-somethings. I do think that writers around my age and younger are much more cognizant of being compensated fairly for their work. While I’m a proponent of writing for free in very specific circumstances, I think it’s good that Millennials seem to understand the worth of their work and time.
What experiences do you see as formative to your fiction?
High school. I had a lot of emotions and I kept a lot of journals, and I’m still pretty in touch with all of those feelings. I also had a lot of crushes, and those are the feelings I rely on most of all when I’m writing.
What is your creative process and how do you harness creativity to make more powerful stories? Do you have a certain writing aesthetic?
I’m a big fan of very boring things like deadlines and word count goals and just sitting down in front of my computer. I also love writing longhand when I’m stuck. Also the aforementioned Skittles are a big part of my creative process. As far as a writing aesthetic, I would say it’s “writing funny things about tough stuff.” LAOAE is a light book that deals with heavy issues, because people facing hard stuff (like anxiety or loss) still deserve jokes and kissing. Humor is my lifeline when dealing with just about everything, and that’s what I like to focus on in my writing.
What creative outlets do you take part in besides writing?
I love sewing and quilting. They use a completely different part of my brain than writing does, and it’s nice to make something tangible instead of cerebral.
Which writers inspire you?
So many! I’m really inspired by Meg Cabot, who writes so much and is so funny. I’m inspired by Lauren Oliver, who writes a ton in many different genres. And Nora Ephron, because she wrote some of the most perfect, funniest, saddest romcoms ever.
What advice do you have for other Millennial writers and creatives trying to get their work published?
Put your work where other people can see it. Yes, of course you should work on things until they’re the best they can be, but you can’t keep everything you do private until it’s “perfect,” because it will never be perfect. At some point you have to put what you’re doing out there. Start your own projects and don’t give up even if it seems like no one’s reading at first. It took me years and years to reach some of my writing goals, and I certainly haven’t reached all of them yet. Time and practice (and reading tons and tons of books) are necessary.
A little more about Kerry…
Kerry grew up in Bellville, Ohio, where she spent most of her time reading inappropriate books at the library. Not much has changed. Kerry writes for HelloGiggles and blogs at welcometoladyville.com. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and their dog, Merlin. You can find her on Twitter @KerryAnn.