Ask the Author: Laura Sibson
What would you like readers to know about you?
For a long time, I worked as a career counselor in colleges and universities around Philadelphia. I loved connecting students to potential jobs and internships. Helping them identify fulfilling experiences guided me toward following my own dream of writing a novel. I started writing about ten years ago and have never stopped. Though I’ve completed two previous novels, The Art of Breaking Things is the first to be published. It’s also the most personal. I write full time now and volunteer in my community. I love being in nature. Taking long walks in the woods with my dog almost always helps me unlock issues in my story. And now, the midst of this pandemic, getting outside each day for a walk and fresh air feels even more important for my mental health. In fact, one of the small joys amidst this crisis is seeing so many people out with their children and their dogs.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My debut young adult novel, The Art of Breaking Things, follows 17-year old Skye Murray who can’t wait to graduate and head off to art school. But when her mother’s ex-boyfriend re-enters their lives, Skye is forced to face a secret she’s kept for years: that he crossed her boundaries in a terrible way. And now, Skye’s little sister is the same age that Skye was when it happened.
The book is about secrets and the healing power of art. It’s about the fierce loyalty of sisters and the complicated love between teen girls and their mothers. Mostly, it’s about letting go of shame. Skye might be a party girl and the school slut, but there’s more to her than those labels. Sure, she makes questionable choices, but she helps us remember that we’re not bad girls or good girls. We’re all just girls.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
I began writing this book so that I could process something that had happened in my past. Then – as truth became fiction — I wondered what might occur in a small family if the abuser returned into their lives. At the same time, I wanted to focus on the girl who is often the secondary character in YA novels: the party girl who hooks up with guys. I was curious about her story and wanted to hear what she might have to say and watch what she might do. Last, I wanted to write a sister story, particularly one in which the older sister believes that she’s responsible for the younger one’s safety.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
There are some scenes in the second half of the book when Skye is starting to think big in terms of her art and considering how she can use her art to make a statement. At this point in the story, she is moving away from self-destructive behaviors and toward new ways to help her navigate the path forward. Writing Skye and her best friend Luisa in these scenes felt fulfilling to me and I think that readers enjoy them too. But I also loved writing all of the scenes between Ben and Skye – particularly the ones when the reader might wonder: will they or won’t they?
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Young adult authors whose books I love include Holly Black, Libba Bray, Jandy Nelson, Laini Taylor, Sarah Dessen, and Markus Zusak. But the encouragement to write my first book came from Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight saga. I read that she wrote much of the first book while sitting at the side of the pool while her boys were in swim lessons. At that time in my life, I was about the same age with boys who were also in swim lessons. Reading Meyer’s experience made me feel that maybe I could carve out time in my life for writing even though I was juggling a job with raising children.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
My advice isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s important. Read a ton and never stop writing. Collect writing friends who will support your efforts, who will read your work and provide real feedback. Don’t self-reject. In other words, don’t stop writing in reaction to discouraging responses. I queried nearly fifty agents before I received an offer of representation for The Art of Breaking Things. You never know what could happen, so you might as well go for it!