Thursday, 28 March 2013

2013 YA UK Debut Interview: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

We all like supporting YA and New Adult debut authors, but this year, rather than just read their books, I'll be highlighting them on my blog too, so you can hear about these wonderful authors.

Today I'm interviewing YA author Emmy Laybourne whose debut YA novel, Monument 14, is being published by Hachette Children's Books in the UK on 4th April. Read on for more:

Monument 14 by Emmy LaybourneMonument 14 by Emmy Laybourne - Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong ...
Fourteen kids stranded inside a superstore. Inside they have everything they could ever need. There's junk food and clothes, computer games and books, drugs and alcohol ... and without adult supervision they can do whatever they want.
Sounds like fun?

But outside the world is being ripped apart by violent storms and chemicals leaking into the atmosphere that, depending on blood type, leave victims paranoid, violent or dead.

The kids must remain inside, forced to create their own community, unsure if they'll ever be able to leave. Can they stop the world they've created inside from self-destructing too?
from Goodreads.

Emmy LaybourneCan you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a novelist and teacher living outside New York city with my husband, two lovely children and a haughty, narcissistic bearded dragon named Goldie. Before I became a novelist, I worked primarily as a comedian and character actress, working in films like Superstar and The In-Laws. I also did some screenwriting and directing.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

I’ve always been fascinated with stories and story structure, but my path to becoming a novelist took quite a while. Right out of college I started training with a comedy improvisation company, Freestyle Repertory Theatre, in Manhattan. I LOVED improvisation, and went on to work with Chicago City Limits, the UCB and the Heartless Floozies. It didn’t take long before I was writing my own plays and comedy material. From there, I started to be cast in film and television. I stopped writing my own material for a time – and I really missed it.

Later, when I was starting a family, I no longer wanted to be out auditioning and on sets all the time. At that time I started focusing on story again. I got a degree in screenwriting from UCLA and then moved to New York and began pitching novels. I know – it’s a pretty roundabout route!

How did you come up with the idea for Monument 14?

I come from a long line of worriers! And there’s always a part of my mind that’s prepping for a disaster. I’m always thinking about what I would need to get my family through a catastrophic event – always scoping out the spaces I’m in for the best hiding spots – always casing stores I’m in for the most valuable survival tools. I think the impulse to write a story about 145 kids trapped in a superstore came from this. And I tell you, I really enjoyed writing about how the kids make the store work for them.

If you could describe Monument 14 in three words, what would they be?

Heck, I’d just rip off the New York Times. They said it best in their review: “Frighteningly real… riveting.” I can’t do better than that.

Why will readers like your main character, Dean?

The narrator of Monument 14, Dean, is neither a hero nor a saint. He has his faults, but he also has a big heart and wants to do the right thing. Fans in the states have written to me that they felt they could really relate to Dean – and that he handled things as they would, more or less.

What research did you have to do for Monument 14? Was there anything you found that surprised you?

The research I’ve done for the MONUMENT 14 series has gotten more far-flung with each book. I’m not giving spoilers, here, I don’t think – but maybe promises of what you’ll find in each book… In MONUMENT 14 I focused on the layouts of superstores, solar power systems, some medicines like steroids and antihistamines. For the second book, SKY ON FIRE, I dug into things like face masks, the effects of smoke on airborne toxins and the hierarchy of the Air Force. I am currently working on the third and final book in the series, SAVAGE DRIFT, and just today I spent about an hour researching the layout of the United States Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases (USAMRIID).

Tell us about how you write; do you write in a particular place? Do you have any music playing? Do you have any must-haves with you while writing?

I do have a strong routine. I arrive to my office and sit down around the same time each day. I put on my M14 playlist (it heavily features Radiohead). I light a candle and get to work.

What was most surprising to you during the writing process?

If I’m doing it right, writing feels a bit like dictation. I’m listening to the character, plugged in to the story, and the scene unfolds under my fingertips. Every once in a while a character will step forward and do something so utterly surprising that I will gasp aloud, or even burst into tears. Then, of course, I laugh at myself for crying – all the while I keep on typing. I’m very glad, at those moments, that I’m not being taped for some kind of YA Author Reality Show, because I know I must look like a crazy person.

How does it feel to know your book will soon be in the hands of readers?

I am so delighted that MONUMENT 14 will be read across the UK. I am looking forward to connecting with a whole new set of readers and hearing what you all think of the book.

Anything else you would like to add?

If you’re interested to see me in my former life as a character actress, please go to and let’s tweet! @EmmyLaybourne

Thank you, Emmy, for such a great interview! I am so excited to read Monument 14, doesn't it sound awesome?! And I think I actually like the idea of the YA Author Reality Show, haha! You can find Emmy on her website, on Twitter and on the Monument 14 Facebook Page.

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