I am so excited to share my author interview with Melissa de la Cruz and Margaret Stohl!! Melissa and Margaret are co-authors of Jo & Laurie, a romantic Little Women retelling on sale today.
1. What books have shaped or influenced your writing?
Mel: I was a huge Stephen King reader as a teen and I love his writing guide / memoir On Writing – I still find it super useful. Also Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I would say Diana Wynne Jones is also a huge influence, I love how she tells stories.
Margie: I also loved Diana Wynne Jones, and I was the head of the Susan Cooper fan club as a kid, her Dark Is Rising sequence is foundational for me. But I spent years working towards a PhD in 19th-century American Lit, so I would say Alcott and Dickinson were both big for me.
2. Jo & Laurie is a retelling of Little Women. What aspects of writing a retelling do you enjoy? What aspects do you find challenging?
Mel: I love referencing the original story and putting a clever twist on it. I loved writing the “Heartache” chapter because that was the chapter in the original that broke MY heart – when Jo refuses Laurie in the original book. Margie cracked the “tone” of the book – she made our book sound like Little Women but not in a weird way, I was really excited to be back in that world with the characters back to life.
Margie: I loved writing the sisters together. I love how funny they are, and in some ways, how modern. The harder part is reconciling the original with the cultural shifts that have happened in the past 150 years. It’s a constant juggling act between what feels “authentic” and what is relatable.
3. What are unique aspects of writing historical fiction that you enjoy?
Mel: I like describing all the clothing and the society – how they used to dress and party. That’s always fun. Our world is so casual now. I love all the rules of society and what to wear and when.
Margie: I love connecting the story I’m working on with the larger culture of a period. Like how we were able to send Jo March to go hear Charles Dickens speak, because we knew that his two trips to America during Alcott’s time were like massive rock concerts for New York City. Puzzling out those moments is so, so fun as a writer.
4. Tell us about your creative process when writing collaboratively!
Mel: For this book I wrote the outline and Margie wrote the sample – she nailed the tone. She wrote the first half and I wrote the second half and then we traded and I literally do not remember who wrote what sentence anymore.
Margie: A large part of our process involves scrapping like sisters and then making up instantly. I adore Mel and respect her as a writer – and I know that goes both ways – or this would never work.
5. Have you seen the Little Women movie (2019)? If so, what are your thoughts about this adaptation?
Mel: LOVED IT! But Jo should have married Laurie!! 🙂
Margie: Greta Gerwig did a great job, and Saoirse Ronan is the most incredible Jo. We actually wrote our manuscript before ever seeing the movie, and it was amazing that both our book and the film really lean on Alcott’s career to develop Jo’s journey as a writer. We were so on the same track, in that respect. But yeah, as Mel said, we had some unfinished business to take care of between Jo and Laurie – and so we did!
1869, Concord, Massachusetts: After the publication of her first novel, Jo March is shocked to discover her book of scribbles has become a bestseller, and her publisher and fans demand a sequel. While pressured into coming up with a story, she goes to New York with her dear friend Laurie for a week of inspiration—museums, operas, and even a once-in-a-lifetime reading by Charles Dickens himself!
But Laurie has romance on his mind, and despite her growing feelings, Jo’s desire to remain independent leads her to turn down his heartfelt marriage proposal and sends the poor boy off to college heartbroken. When Laurie returns to Concord with a sophisticated new girlfriend, will Jo finally communicate her true heart’s desire or lose the love of her life forever?
Margaret Stohl is a #1 New York Times bestselling nerd, world-builder, video game creator, comic book writer and festival founder.
As an award-winning young adult author, she has been published in fifty countries and thirty-two languages and has sold more than ten million books worldwide. Beautiful Creatures debuted as the Amazon #1 Teen book of the year; seven of Margaret’s books have reached bestseller lists around the world.
She has published fifteen novels and graphic novels, as well as contributed to several games and countless comics since her debut. Her last book, Cats Vs Robots: This is War, was a family affair, illustrated by her child, the artist Kay Peterson, and co-written with her husband, Lewis Peterson. It also starred three of her family’s five cats.
Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publisher’s Weekly and #1 IndieBound bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages. Her more than thirty books have also topped the USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists and have been published in over twenty countries.
In addition to her literary work, Melissa is the co-founder of YALLWEST, and the co-director of YALLFEST, two of the largest teen book festivals in the country. She is also on the Advisory Board of Facing History, which reaches five million school children nationwide with a curriculum devoted to teaching empathy and social justice.
She grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Columbia University, she majored in art history and English.
Melissa de la Cruz lives in West Hollywood, California with her husband and daughter.
Psst!!! My 3-year blogiversary giveaway is still happening!! I am giving away $40USD and $20USD on BookDepository to 2 lucky winners (available internationally.) Click here (or the happy fishy below) to check out my giveaway post.
Photo by Ryan Searle on Unsplash
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