Ask the Author: Liz Lawson
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m an author whose debut, THE LUCKY ONES, is coming out in April 2020 from Delacorte Press/Random House. When I was growing up, authors always seemed like these mythical creatures that didn’t actually exist in reality. It seemed incredible to me that the books I read and loved came from the minds of other human beings. My biggest influences from my younger days are THE WESTING GAME, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, HITCHIKERS’ GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and all of LMM Montgomery’s books! Particularly THE BLUE CASTLE which I found super swoon-worthy when I was in middle (and high) school. I also adored THE BABYSITTERS CLUB and SWEET VALLEY HIGH/UNIVERSITY! I recently found a totally amazing (ha) piece of BABYSITTERS CLUB fan fiction that I wrote when I was in middle school, where the babysitters went to high school. (Side note: I’m available to write it if anyone wants to hire me. Hint hint.)
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
THE LUCKY ONES tells the story of May, the sole survivor of a school shooting that took the life of her twin brother, and Zach, whose mother is the lawyer defending the shooter. Both have been through hell, lost friends, and are struggling to find their place in the world. But one night, Zach goes to band practice with his best friend. The same night that Zach shows up with his. Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
Unfortunately, my inspiration was all the kids who have had their lives ripped apart by school shootings. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, 228,000 students have experienced gun violence at school in some manner. School-related violence has increased by 19% in the 21st century. Those facts are just horrifying. I wanted to write something that might give all those kids hope again. Something that might help them recover and move on from experiencing something so horrible. And, something that might help kids who have never been affected firsthand, but who are just plain terrified to go to school sometimes, because they don’t know what might happen. May’s story is one of pain and fear and loss, but also one of hope. I hope my book gives hope to people who need it most.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
Oh man – this would be super spoile-y if I put my REAL favorite scene here, so I’ll just generally say that I really loved writing from dual POV’s! I’d never tried it before this book and was a little terrified by it at first because I had heard that it can be tough to get the two voices to be different enough to be distinguishable. I kept in mind something I read once that said to think about a reader opening your book to a random page and reading, and make sure that they would know whose chapter they were in just from that. Hopefully, I did a good job!
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Oh man, so many over the years. But, it wasn’t until around 2012 that I started reading the new generation of YA, which really inspired me to start writing in the genre. Authors like Courtney Summers, Jennifer Niven, Laurie Halse Anderson, Stephanie Perkins, and so many others opened my eyes to the fact that YA had changed in really beautiful and remarkable ways, and I started writing my first book soon after.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Keep going!!! It sounds a little cliche probably, but honestly, if you don’t keep going, you’ll never get to where you want to be. Rejection is just part of the game (a fact that I wish I’d realized early on; when I got my first-ever query rejection, I definitely started hysterically crying because I had very unrealistic expectations about the whole thing. Also, THE LUCKY ONES isn’t the first book I wrote! It’s the THIRD!! It’s rare that authors get an agent (nevertheless a book deal) on the first thing that they write, so remember that. It’s NORMAL!! It’s okay! You just get better as you go, I promise. And look to other people for help — I took a bunch of writing classes over the years. I actually found short story classes to be almost MORE helpful than novel writing ones, because you can actually workshop an entire piece at a time, and you get a sense of story structure from them that translates well to longer forms. But, really, the biggest thing is perseverance (and luck, and timing, but those are unfortunately out of your control).