Book Nerd Interview
Though I grew up on a sail boat and loved traveling the world as a kid, I'm still afraid of the ocean. I much prefer other modes of transportation these days--plane, train, or car. Walking is best.
I love books with multi-faceted, intriguing characters. The best one make me laugh, cry, and turn the pages long past my bed time.
When I'm not reading or writing, I spend time with family and friends, talking about everything under the sun. Add in some good food to the mix, top it off with chocolate, and I'm truly happy.
For my elementary school years, I lived on a sailboat with my family. Sometimes my dad would ask me to write a story instead of doing my regular lessons. I always considered it a treat! That was the first sign! Plus, I got in a lot of trouble for daydreaming. My junior year of high school, I read Jack London’s autobiographical novel, Martin Eden, where he transforms himself from an uneducated sailor to a famous author through sheer force of will. After finishing the book, I wanted to be Jack London.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Someone has written a masters thesis on this topic, for sure. Stories thrill us, entertain us, make us laugh and cry, take us to places we could not travel to on our own, and put us in situations we hope never to experience first hand. We can live on another planet, be in a car wreck, join the mob, or hang out with vampire cheerleaders.
There’s more to it, though. When I’m going through a tough time, a novel is a safe place to explore my feelings and hurts. Stories remind that I have a lot in common with other people. They make me feel less alone. I’ve been known to burst into tears when an after school special hits just the right nerve.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
If I told you, it would only be a lie, because my favorite keeps changing. (See question about lying below)
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
From John Nichols of The Milagro Beanfield War: It’s all about the writing. When one book isn’t coming together, work on a different one. If you love writing, don’t let others dissuade you from it. Keep going. And going. And going.
In your new book; Miss Fortune Cookie, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
It’s the story of Erin, an Irish girl with a Chinese heart living in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Erin expresses her Chinese nature through her secret blog, Miss Fortune Cookie, offering advice to her classmates that write in with problems.
Erin and her two Chinese-American friends, Mei and Linny are seniors in high school. Their biggest worries are getting into a good university, their difficult families, and, of course, boys. The three girls have a complicated relationship. Erin and Mei were BFF's before an incident in middle school wrecked their friendship. In high school, their mutual friend, Linny, brought them back together, but Erin still feels like a third wheel.
When Erin offers Mei advice that might be a huge mistake, she does everything she can do undo it. This leads her on a whirlwind adventure through Chinatown, SF, and Oakland—on a school night (!)—with a cute college boy as her driver. The adventures give her confidence to take bigger risks in her own life.
What part of Mei did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing the parts where Mei is insensitive and self-centered. When she makes a racist comment without realizing that Erin might be offended, it makes me laugh. Writing oblivious people is fun for me. Maybe it’s because I know people like that, and you have to laugh at what they say in order to survive in their presence. I like to laugh at my own obliviousness, too.
For those who are unfamiliar with Erin, how would you introduce her?
Erin doesn’t like to try new things. She rarely tells her friends her real opinions because she’s afraid to hurt their feelings. She’s also smart (to the point of nerdiness), funny, and considerate. She has everyone's best interest at heart. As Miss Fortune Cookie she can act wise, but in real life can be clueless about solving her own problems.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m working on a contemporary YA about a girl whose mom is accused of stealing corporate secrets about a new technology, a soon-to-be-released device will make life easier for people suffering from anxiety and depression. Unable to trust her stepfather, she seeks help from an old friend of her mother’s where she learns secrets from her past. Though she’s far from home, the danger she thinks she left behind pursues her.
If you could introduce Linny to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Linny wants romance, but she needs a smart and talented boy, one that won’t be overshadowed by her strong personality. I’d introduce her to Liam in K.L. Going’s King of the Screw Ups. He starts out with a low self-esteem from trying and failing to meet his father’s expectations. In fact, he’s a talented guy, great at making people laugh, and a snazzy dresser. By the end of the book, he would be the perfect complement for Linny and all her crazy ideas and high energy.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
What is your favorite book? I can’t pick one without being disloyal to all the others that I love.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
My husband. He’s a great listener.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
All of them were awful. One summer, I worked at the local bakery, slicing bread and filling boxes with donuts. I had permission to eat anything from behind the counter during my break. So far so good. But the owner, who was three times my age, demanded a kiss each morning. It was just a peck, but it still felt wrong. Luckily, the women working behind the counter caught on, and kept him away from me. Still, yuck. And after three weeks, I couldn’t eat donuts anymore.
Who was your first boyfriend?
When I lived in Argentina, we stayed in a harbor south of Buenos Aires, and I became friends with the children of families that worked on boats. One of them, a tall and handsome boy named Jose Maria, kept asking me to be his girlfriend. As I was only eleven, the idea terrified me. He was older. Twelve, I think. Scary. My Spanish wasn’t good enough for long explanations, so I kept saying, “Yo no se (I don’t know).” He refused to listen. Using my older sister as a go-between, he finally convinced me to accept his proposal. We never went beyond holding hands and dancing to the radio, but it was all very sweet.
Tell me about your first kiss
My girlfriend invited me on double date with her boyfriend AND her ex-boyfriend from another school. The four of us went to a play together. When they dropped off in front of my house, my date got out too, put his arms around me, and kissed me sweetly. It felt nice. A few seconds later, my friend got out of the car and kissed him (my date, her ex-boyfriend) in front of everyone.
Worst. Date. Ever.
When was the last time you cried?
Yesterday. I cry all the time during sad parts of movies, books, etc. I was watching a documentary called Happy. The segment on bullying in middle school just killed me.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
Will my choice affect how old I am now? Just kidding. I like the clothes and music of the 20’s. It would’ve been a heady time with women getting the vote. Could I skip the Great Depression and WWII afterwards? The 50’s were way too repressive, the 60’s too wild, and the 70’s had ugly fashions. Hmmm. Maybe the 90’s. (I’m a very indecisive person).
What is the one, single food that you would never give up?
I live for chocolate. I can go crazy for lots of things—blueberries, jelly bellies, French fries—but the desire comes and goes. Chocolate is my constant love.
Where can readers stalk you?
It all begins when her ex-best friend sends a letter to her blog—and then acts on her advice. Erin’s efforts to undo the mess will plunge her into adventure, minor felonies, and possibly her very first romance.
What’s a likely fortune for someone no longer completely in control of her fate? Hopefully nothing like: You will become a crispy noodle in the salad of life.
The one aspect that readers will enjoy about this endearing story is how it is far from your normal YA selections of the supernatural and paranormal. The theme of friendship makes the story very realistic as the three girls' relationship is tested and they realize that they are important to one another. Although the friendship is strong, the three still see conflicts. Erin often tries to patch it up but is torn between the truth or sparing their feelings.
Instead of a standard tale of senior year shenanigans, the cultural aspect adds a lot of intrigue and interest. I like the approach of having Erin as the narrator as she presents her world to readers from the viewpoint of an outsider looking in. She is Caucasian and even though the Chinese culture has always been around her life, she never quite feels as though she belongs. For Erin, she has always embraced the Asian culture, but her two friends who are Chinese, are doing everything that goes against tradition.
The Chinese culture described in this book was a nice touch. I am always intrigued with other cultures and author Lauren manages to deliver a strong presentation. Not only was I entertained by its storyline, I was also educated in the Chinese culture which is always a plus for me. Miss Fortune Cookie is a powerful story about friendship and family. There's plenty of whim to keep readers intrigued and interested. The down-to-earth writing style and bubbly humor in this story are relatable. The issues of family expectation, friendship and desire and how the characters react to them spark interest and warm sensation to readers’ hearts and minds.