Love and Other Alien Experiences: the book trailer

Guys! My book is coming out very soon (November 10th, to be exact). And I now have a book trailer.

I don’t usually like book trailers, to be honest. They almost never capture the vibe of the book. What’s more, they never make me want to read a book, and if a trailer doesn’t do that, then what’s the point?

But when I saw the trailer for Robyn Schneider’s Extraordinary Means, I thought Oh. That’s what a book trailer can do. It was beautiful and it looked like a real movie. It used a real song. It actually made me feel what the book would be like, and most importantly…it made me want to read the book.

Luckily, I know a filmmaker. His name is Alex Winfrey, and if you’re wondering why our names look similar, it’s because he’s MY BROTHER. That’s right, I totally took advantage of my family connection to get a sweet book trailer. Alex is one of the most talented people I know (here is one of his latest short films, Why I Run. It also stars my other brother, Chase, and it always makes me laugh.), but just as importantly, he’s really easy to work with and he always understands the kind of stuff I want to create, which I know because I’ve also forced him to design my wedding invitations, take my engagement photos, and take my author photo. I knew that if I described what I wanted, he’d be able to make something even better than anything I could imagine.

And what I wanted was just something that captured the vibe of the book. Something that felt exciting and hopeful and ready to explode. I wanted something that explained a little bit about the book, but that mostly made you feel what the book was about. I wanted running and music and magic.

And Alex did that, and then some. He worked so hard on creating my perfect book trailer. Our friend Emily played the main character, Mallory, and some of Alex’s hunky college friends played the hunky brothers. Those are pictures of my parents (and video footage of my dad!). Alex MADE THE MUSIC HIMSELF, a fact that blows my mind.

It’s a surreal feeling to see scenes you’ve written come to life. I’m just so, so happy with this book trailer and I hope you guys like it too.

If you want to know more about Love and Other Alien Experiences, you can check out the website. There are preorder links at the bottom if you’re so inclined!

My Favorite Brother-Sister Friendships in TV & Books

freaks and geeks lindsay sam
I love reading about sisters. Little Women? Pride & Prejudice? I love it all. But the thing is, brother and sisters don’t show up a lot in fiction. Which is a shame, because as a big sister to two brothers, I always want to read more and see more about brothers and sisters. I’m very close with my brothers, and I feel comfortable talking to them about pretty much anything I’d discuss with a sister. Also, I watch things from Gilmore Girls to the Kardashians to that Michael Douglas Liberace biopic with them. Whenever people say something to the effect of, “Well, having brothers is just different than having sisters,” I think, Is it? I don’t think so. You can have a super close and important relationship with your brothers, provided your brothers are cool dudes who you actually want to be friends with. And in that vein, Lincoln in Love and Other Alien Experiences is pretty heavily based on both of my brothers. Just like Mallory always wants to protect Lincoln, I worry about my brothers, like, 95% of every day. It’s just my way.

So, in that spirit, here are a few of my fave brother/sister friendships in books and television. Do you have any other favorites? Let me know!

Maggie & Zach in Playing House
Playing House - Season 1
Would I dress up in a costume so I could observe my brothers on a date? Maybe. Okay, yes. I would absolutely do that. I love that Maggie is so concerned about protecting Zach that she sometimes does crazy things. Personally, I like to remind my brothers “Buzzed driving is drunk driving!” whenever they leave the house, even if they aren’t going somewhere with alcohol because YOU NEVER KNOW. I have also said the sentence, “Next time you’re at a party, just imagine my disapproving face in your head.” They’re lucky to have me. And while I would not necessarily want my brothers to become trained as doulas so they could assist during the birth of my child, I would certainly find their presences comforting.

Amber and Drew on Parenthood

Poor Drew. So, so many tears.

Poor Drew. So, so many tears.

Oh, Amber. Oh, Drew. I tear up just thinking about them and their relationship. When Drew gets so worried about helping Amber out with her Big Life Change (no spoilers, even though this show already ended) that he starts taking a bunch of boring Econ classes? Yeah, I get it. They have one of the only seriously close brother-sister friendships I’ve seen on TV. Remember that time they went to their family dinner while stoned? They have real inside jokes, real emotional conversations, and they can bond over how weird the rest of their family is. Same.

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
into the wild nerd yonder
There are SO many YA books about sisters, but very few with a strong brother/sister relationship. This one is one of my faves because it’s funny, believable, and it’s nice to see a brother and sister being for-real friends. I also sympathize with Jessie’s fear about her brother going off to college because both of my brothers are going to spread their metaphorical wings and fly somewhere other than Ohio, thus ruining my perfect Parenthood plan for us to all live in the same city and fight constantly.

Lindsay and Sam on Freaks and Geeks

I saved the best for last, because Lindsay and Sam perfectly capture the sort of contentious relationship that occurs when both brother and sister are still in school. Like, you know Lindsay and Sam are going to grow up to be BFFs, but for now their bonding moments are limited to eye rolls when their dad says something ridiculous at dinner (“You know where he is now? He’s DEAD!”) or when Lindsay gives Sam girl advice. This is the brother-sister friendship that gives me the biggest range of feelings–nostalgia, happiness, regret, you name it.

What brother-sister friendships am I forgetting? Let me know! And if you want to read about another brother-sister friendship that involves lots of the things I mentioned above (bonding over crazy parents, emotional conversations, etc.), you can preorder my book, LOVE AND OTHER ALIEN EXPERIENCES. It costs just SLIGHTLY more than a Little Caesar’s Hot-n-Ready pizza.

My Writing Philosophy, AKA Meg Cabot is My Hero

Have you read the Princess Diaries books? If not, please go read them. I’ll wait.

Okay, so you’re set now? Great. Then you get why I’ve always loved them so much. I mean, it’s pretty easy to understand. For one thing, they’re funny. Like, actually laugh-out-loud funny, filled with weird side characters and hilarious situations and a voice-y narrator who instantly feels like she’s your real best friend. And just as importantly, they’re romantic. Michael Moscovitz is near the top of my list of Ideal YA Book Boyfriends (and I’ve read a lot of YA, you guys). The most recent PD book, Royal Wedding, was just as funny and romantic and goofy and sweet as every other book in the series. Meg Cabot is the queen of the YA (and adult!) romcom.

But, if I can keep fangirling over Meg Cabot for a little while longer, she also gave me something even more important than wonderful books: a writing philosophy.

So here’s the thing. I have a lot of friends who are extremely educated. They have multiple degrees and letters after their names. They have big, important jobs where they make actual money and save actual lives. They talk about doing things at work that I can’t even imagine. It’s all enough to sometimes make me feel a little bit inadequate, with my little bachelor’s degree and my job that basically involves sitting at a computer and listening to a weird Youtube mix called STUDY MUSIC BRAIN POWER because it helps me zone out and write fighting scenes, or kissing scenes, or fighting and kissing scenes.

Because that’s what I write! Kissing books! Okay, so I’ve only written the one, but the likelihood that I’ll ever write a book that doesn’t prominently feature a climactic first kiss is pretty slim. That’s what I like, but I’ve spent a long time feeling like it’s not enough. I was lucky to study creative writing with professors who were surprisingly open to genre fiction (that’s not always the case!), but creative writing programs are almost exclusively focused on literary fiction. That means, basically, that you’re gonna end up with a room full of 21 year olds writing about divorce and aging. When I was in school, I just sort of assumed I’d write stories like Lorrie Moore or Charles Baxter or George Saunders. That was partly because I love their stories–there’s no one funnier than Lorrie Moore, or more emotional than Charles Baxter, or better at making me sob while laughing than George Saunders. But it was also because I thought that’s what I was supposed to write. After all, I was “studying” the Best American Short Stories compilation, not paperbacks from the romance section of Barnes and Noble.

Although I love literary fiction as much as the next girl, commercial fiction has always taken up the biggest piece of my heart. Commercial YA, specifically. I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I actually read one of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books hidden behind in a textbook. Contemporary YA, the kind that’s funny and involves a whole lot of kissing, is my jam. It’s just what I like!

But even though I like it, there was a part of me that felt like it wasn’t enough. I’m certainly not saving lives with it, like my friends do at their jobs. And writing isn’t exactly a great career to pick if you’re set on making reliable bank. And then there’s the whole thing about how I like to write funny things that involve kissing, not the next Great American Novel. Like, Jonathan Franzen would actually hate everything I’ve ever written (as well as everything about me, if I’m being honest).

That’s where Meg Cabot comes in (seriously, thanks for hanging in there for so long). In one of the later Princess Diaries books, when Mia is writing a romance novel and Michael, her boyfriend, is busy inventing this high-tech robotic arm that’s going to be used by doctors during surgery, Mia starts feeling kind of useless. She’s got this genius boyfriend who’s literally saving lives, and she doesn’t feel like her kissing books are as important. Michael tells her something that really stuck with me: While his fancy robot arm is saving someone’s life, that person’s family members are sitting in the waiting room. And those people are sad and scared and freaked out, and they need something to comfort them. Maybe Mia’s books don’t save lives in the literal robot arm sense, but to those people who need something to read to distract themselves from what’s happening and to comfort themselves when they’re scared, those books can be life-saving in a different way.

It’s something that I’ve come back to over and over again in a year that’s been emotional enough that I simply haven’t wanted to read anything “serious” or “depressing.” I’ve been reading a lot of kissing books, a lot of funny books, a lot of straight up romance novels. And you know what? The Nora Roberts Bride Quartet may not have literally saved my life, but it sure did make it better. When I was younger, I used to think that using art as a means of escaping from your life was somehow weak or sad. (I was dumb.) The thing is, life is hard sometimes. Sometimes it’s really hard. And maybe you deal with it by dancing with your friends to some dope Outkast jams at a wedding (ahem, me last week), or maybe you deal with it by helping other people, or maybe you deal with it by picking up a book that has a guaranteed happy ending. That escapism and comfort is important, and meaningful, and honestly, sometimes essential.

So maybe I’m not operating on anybody, or counseling anybody, or saving any animals’ lives. But I do believe that what I’m doing is making a difference, even if it’s in a less obvious way. I probably would have realized this on my own eventually, but hearing Meg Cabot say it through the words of Michael Moscovitz helped a lot. I remember those words every single time I sit down to write, and I keep them in mind throughout every kiss, every friendship, and every happy ending.

Stuff I’m Reading: A Little Life

a little life

I think everyone goes through reading phases, and this year has been a year of reading light for me. I’ve been dealing with a lot of emotions, and I just don’t want to read anything too heavy, or anything that deals with death, mortality, aging, etc. At the beginning of the year, I truly thought I could read all of Toni Morrison’s books, but it’s September and mama’s clearly not going to get that done. Instead, I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels.

But when I finished my book, I wanted to read something that was as far away from contemporary YA as possible. So I picked up A Little Life, which Alex promised would make me cry. Every review I saw of it on Goodreads said it was amazing, but people also spoke of it like it was a horror movie…like, “Be careful, don’t read it alone, it’s going to make you sob.” I was apprehensive, but I have a long history of reading upsetting things, so I was ready.

Well. Let me tell you guys, I wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen with A Little Life. It was, by far, the most viscerally horrifying book I’ve ever read, but it’s also one of the best. The writing is beautiful, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made its characters feel so real. It seems like such a dumb cliche to say, “I feel like I know the characters,” but I really do feel like I know Jude, Willem, Malcolm, J.B., Harold, and Andy. Over the course of 700+ pages, they became real. The book’s about deep male friendship, which isn’t something that’s often explored honestly in fiction.

If you’ve been seeing a lot of great reviews for A Little Life and you’re thinking of picking it up, maybe do so. But maybe don’t! As much as I loved this book, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. It deals, very explicitly, with hard-to-read-about topics like childhood abuse, self-harm, and suicide. At time, I truly thought I would have to stop reading it. Before this, the most upsetting book I loved was Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State, but A Little Life is about 500% more brutal than that. It’s dark, and it doesn’t really let up. I’m not sure if there’s a lesson in it, or a moral, or even really a lot of hope, other than that we, as readers, get the privilege of reading about and understanding these people’s lives, of seeing the times they’re happy even when dealing with excruciating pain.

I’m going to go back to reading something a little lighter now, but A Little Life reminded me of the value we get when we challenge ourselves to read something upsetting or difficult. It made a deep impression on me and I’m going to be thinking about it for a long time.

But if you’re not up for reading something quite so bleak (because it is bleak, and unrelenting), I have some recommendations for books I’ve read this year that are upsetting but ultimately way, way happier. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie deals with some deep issues but is basically a happy ending sort of book (and it’s also very funny!). 32 Candles, which I recommend to everyone all the damn time, starts out with an abusive childhood and goes to some dark places, but is essentially a hopeful romance for John Hughes fans. And if you just want to go really light, read the latest Princess Diaries book, Royal Wedding. A++, would definitely read again.

PS: If you just want to know more about A Little Life, you can check out this interview with author Hanya Yanagihara on Late Night with Seth Meyers!

The Things That Will Happen When People Find Out You’re Writing a Book

Most people will not care. This is because they’re human beings with lives of their own that don’t revolve around you (weird). This is fine. This is, actually, vastly preferable to some of the other things that will happen, so be cool with it. Just talk about something else. Talk about anything else.

People will ask you what kind of book it is. You’ll say YA and they’ll stare blankly at you, and then you’ll remember that not everyone is involved in publishing and most normal people don’t care about genre distinctions and you’ll say, “Young adult. For teenagers. Teenage girls, mostly,” and they’ll make a noise of understanding while looking like they don’t understand, not even a little, not even at all.

People will tell you that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter on napkins. Nod politely.

“But it’s not about vampires, right?” they’ll say. Has any book been about vampires for the last five years? You don’t think so.

“I want a signed copy!” they’ll say, and that’s very nice, but your book is ebook only and you don’t even want to try to explain that so you just say sure.

People will ask “What’s it about?” and you’ll freeze. You spent months on this, almost a year, and you suddenly can’t remember even a single plot point. You should practice this, in front of a mirror or something. “It’s funny! But it’s also about anxiety. And homecoming. Oh, and The X-Files, and…” you’ll trail off, and they’ll look at you like, “This inarticulate person wrote an entire book?”

“Maybe you’ll be like J.K. Rowling!” Maybe. Maybe you’ll win the lottery. Maybe the world will end tomorrow. Maybe a lot of things will happen.

Some people will be so impressed, it will shock you. There’s no telling who these people will be, but they’ll make you feel like maybe somebody will actually read your book. This is the nicest and also vaguely disconcerting.

People will say, “You should put that in a book!” You never should. It is never something that should be in a book, whatever it is, trust me.

People will say, “That sounds like a fun hobby!” You will die a thousand deaths right there on the spot. Hobbies don’t make money you’ll say in your head but not out loud. Don’t ever say it out loud. Maybe someday you’ll say it out loud.

“What you need to do is write something like J.K. Rowling.” Something that affects our culture immeasurably, influences an entire generation of people, and makes a million dollars? You hadn’t thought of this before.