Pen Friends ~ I’m so pleased to introduce you to a new friend and talented YA author, Laura Taylor Namey talking about her writing journey, her first book, The Library of Lost Things (Inkyard) and her upcoming novel, The Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow (Atheneum) out in October.
SP: Hi Laura! Thanks for joining us! Before we start talking about The Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, can you share a bit about you and your writing journey?
Hi Nova, thanks so much for chatting with me! I’m a San Diego native and I’ve been writing for about six years. Right now I’m loving the world of young adult contemporary with a coming of age bent and plenty of Latinx rep.
SP: First, congrats on your debut, The Library of Lost Things, which came out last October by Inkyard! What was your favorite process about launching your first book?
Thanks so much! I will never forget the feeling of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book, face-out on the shelf. That, as well as getting to meet so many readers, made last fall one of my favorite times.
SP: Now we want to hear all about your upcoming novel, The Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow that will come out with Atheneum October 6, 2020.
Here is a blurb:
For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.
A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
SP: How long did it take you to write The Cuban Girl’s GTT and how did this story come about?
The more books I have in various stages of publishing, the longer it takes me to draft a new project. I finished Cuban Girl shortly before my debut sold, in about six months. I wanted to honor my Cuban heritage and family, and truly do an #ownvoices project that also pulled from some of my own teen experiences. I’m quite similar to the main character, Lila Reyes, and definitely had some “Lila moments” growing up. A few years so, I traveled to England and fell in love with everything. I decided to use this backdrop for my novel to showcase and celebrate the Cuban cultural elements in a new way, and to show a Miami Cuban main character who evolves into a citizen of the world.
SP: You are Cuban-American, right? Is there a snapshot of your own history in this story?
I am a proud Cuban-American. My mother came to the United States from Cienfuegos, Cuba as a teen exchange student just before Castro came to power. She ended up staying, and many of my tíos followed as they were able over the next few years. Many of my family memories, quirks, and traditions are woven into this book and I had so much fun incorporating them.
SP: What was your favorite part about writing this book? Which character surprised you most?
My favorite part was writing about ALL THE FOOD. We Cubans love our food to no end, and this book definitely pays tribute to our favorite sweet and savory delights. Also, we firmly believe that sharing our food is an expression of love. And there is plenty of both in this book!
As for a surprising character, Orion’s sister Flora surprised me the most. She grew so much for me, and I ended up using her in a larger way to push and pull Lila through her own arc. I absolutely love the sweet and trusting friendship that grows between Lila and Flora.
SP: Querying & Agents–What was your journey like before you signed with your agent?
I signed with my agent with my debut about three years after I began writing seriously. I do have one of those trusty drawer books no one will ever see. That book got very close to getting me an agent but I’m glad I put it aside to take all of the tips and tricks I’d learned to draft a new project.
SP: Now that you have launched a book, what is something you’ve learned about the publishing world?
Community is key! I encourage all authors to find their squad and to join other writers on social media or in writing groups. The world of publishing can feel lonely and confusing at times, and it’s so helpful having a support system of like-minded people to share, learn, and grow with. I also recommend finding 1-2 trusted critique partners to work with on a close level.
SP: Now, to lighten things up!
Is Laura a…
Plotter/pantster? I am both! We call it the Plantser. I always write toward defined beat points and a clear ending, but I don’t outline every scene in advance. I leave plenty of room for the book to add its own ideas as I go.
Last book you read?
A re-read ofI’ll Give you the Sunby Jandy Nelson
Current dream vacation spot?
Something always in your fridge?
Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR?
Definitely an opera singer! One of the characters in my 2021 book is a teen opera prodigy and rising star.
Any recent fictional crushes?
Orion from my own book (I had to. The tea/knitwear/motorbike combo gets me every time)
Favorite childhood book?
Anne of Green Gables
SP: Thanks so much Laura, wishing you the best success with The Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow!
You can preorder Laura’s book here.
NOVA, signing off.
*Nova is a PitchWars 2020 Mentor, and the author of upcoming book, Calculated; The Never Vows; and The Watersphere Saga.