It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident-prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be.")
But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.
Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.
Hi, Lauren! Welcome to the Lucky13s! Tell us a little bit about your road to publication. Is MEANT TO BE the first book you wrote? The first book you queried?
I have a couple of half-finished novels hanging around on my hard drive, but Meant to Be was the the first novel I ever finished. So when people say the best writing advice is just to finish, I have to agree! I've since written my second novel and am working on my third. Looks like I just needed to break the seal on the whole finishing thing.
London is described with amazing specificity throughout the story, from the departments at Harrod's to the layout of the grounds at Stratford-upon-Avon. Have you spent time living in England? Or did you take a research trip specifically for this book?
Believe it or not, I've never been to England! Meant to Be is the result of A LOT of research and time spent on Google Maps Street View. I actually created a really detailed Google Map to keep track of the various locations where I set scenes, which helped for writing those transition scenes where the characters go from one place to another. After reading the first draft, my editor said she wanted to see more description of what the countryside looked like on the ride from the airport to the hotel, so I literally mapped it, then clicked frame-by-frame on Street View. Between maps and image searching, I really should have thanked Google in the acknowledgements of Meant to Be.
I did spend ten days traveling around Scotland for my honeymoon, so I had sense of the UK as a whole, which helped. My husband and I had planned to take a train down to London while we were there, but a terrorist attack on our honeymoon stalled those travel plans. I'm hoping to finally visit London once the book comes out!
Her first night in London, Julia goes to a party where she knows no one and makes up a completely different backstory for herself. If you were to do the same, who would you try to convince people you were? (Extra points if you have actually DONE this.)
I think I'd be myself, but some incredible uber-version of me. I'd play up my mad roller derby skills (I'm good, but I'm no all-star!) I'd talk up my novels like I was Meg Cabot, and in general I'd just sashay around like the baddest chick at the party. I'd probably give myself some awesomely vintage name, though, like Penelope or Georgina. Those girls sound interesting, huh?
Do you believe that certain people are meant to be together?
I actually don't. I know, that's horribly unromantic of me, and as a married lady you'd think I'd say yes. My guy and I make an excellent team and I love him to bits, but we definitely work hard to make that "forever and ever amen" thing work!
I hear you play roller derby (which is completely badass, by the way.) Tell us one way in which roller derby and writing are similar.
Roller derby has done wonders for my confidence and my ability to take hits (both literal and metaphorical!). And since publishing a novel is all about opening yourself to criticism, I'm incredibly thankful for that. And whenever I'd get stuck on a scene, going to a practice and knocking someone over usually helped get the juices flowing!
Can you tell us what you're working on next?
My second book is in the hands of my editor right now. I can't say too much, but I can tell you it's another contemporary comedy. I'm pitching it as The Cutting Edge meets The Parent Trap, and it's called Being Sloane Jacobs. Let your imaginations run wild! I've just started a draft of a new book that I'm having a lot of fun with. My recent move from Boston to Macon, GA is serving as a bit of an inspiration for, yes, another YA contemporary romantic comedy!
The Lucky13s are a superstitious bunch. Do you have any superstitions or lucky rituals, particularly ones that relate to writing?
I'd say my only ritual is to read lots and lots of YA. I'm not one of those authors who avoids the genre when I'm writing, I revel in it! Reading incredible authors like Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and Libba Bray keep me motivated to do my best work and attempt to keep up with those ladies. Have you read The Diviners? Holy cow, that book is incredible. I'd love to write something even and eighth as good as that! Oh, and I drink a lot of Coke when I'm writing. Between the sugar and the caffeine, it keeps me going when I'm in first draft hell!
Thanks so much for talking to us, Lauren, and congratulations on your beautiful new book!
LAUREN MORRILL grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, 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 on the track playing roller derby. Meant to Be is her first novel.
This interview was conducted by Lucky13s member Alison Cherry as part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies—YA, MG, and children's book authors debuting in 2012.