There are books that make your day, and there are books that make your life. For many, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda — and the movie it inspired, Love Simon — was definitely the latter.
Becky Albertalli’s novel tackled the transformative issues of love and acceptance with the utmost care, which is why today is a big day for me. Becky’s new novel, Leah on the Offbeat, hits bookstores today (April 24). Leah follows Leah Burke, Simon’s BFF, giving her a chance to tell her story as she grapples with changing friendships, first love and senior year angst.
I caught up with Becky to ask her why she didn’t think a Simon follow-up was a sure thing, how the ending surprised even her and will there be a third book.
Aurora: Did you always know you were going to write from Leah’s POV?
Becky: I actually wasn’t sure I’d have the opportunity to revisit Simon’s friend group! So much of that depended on whether people connected with Simon enough that my publisher would consider letting me write a sequel. I did always know that Leah’s POV was the one I’d want to write from, if given the opportunity. I felt like her story was the most unfinished at the end of Simon vs. I really wanted to give her a love story.
Aurora: What was it like to revisit Simon and friends in their senior year?
Becky: It was incredibly fun, and also very emotional. By the time I was nearing the end of my writing process, I was already starting to miss these characters – so I leaned into that feeling and tried to use it to capture the things they might be feeling approaching graduation. It just felt like such a gift to be able to play around in that world again, especially from a different point of view. I got to meet Leah from the inside and meet Simon from the outside – and I had the opportunity to get to know some of the side characters way better. Garrett, in particular, had very little page time in Simon, but he was such a joy to write in Leah.
Aurora: Did anything surprise you in the writing of the book?
Becky: Absolutely. Without giving too much away, the final version of Leah on the Offbeat is very, very different from the book I always thought I might write. Honestly, Leah picked her own love interest.
Aurora: The book is dedicated to “For the readers who knew something was up, even when I didn’t” – can you speak to the story behind that?
Becky: I actually can’t – it will reveal too much! But I think the readers in question will have a pretty strong hunch of what I mean, and it will make sense to everyone after they read the book.
Aurora: As an author, how do you find your inspiration whenever you suffer from “writer’s block”?
Becky: I wish I had a foolproof solution for this! So far, nothing has worked consistently for every book, but I do try to use things like music and Pinterest boards to get me excited again about projects that feel like they’re stalling out. I also sometimes write out little pieces of dialogue, even if I don’t intend to use them in the book. Dialogue is what comes most naturally to me, and sometimes it sparks something for me in unexpected ways.
Aurora: Which character in the novel do you feel you can most relate to and why?
Becky: This is probably a really predictable answer, but in Simon vs., I most related to Simon; but in Leah on the Offbeat, even with the same cast of characters, I related most to Leah. I think part of that just comes from the fact that I pour a lot of myself into my POV characters. But with Leah in particular, her perfectionism, guardedness, and defensive use of humor are all things I’m very familiar with.
Aurora: In three words, what phrase do you think fans of Simon and his crew will say while reading this novel?
Becky: “She went there.”
Aurora: Any advice to aspiring authors?
Becky: I always recommend writing fanfiction! It’s the best writing education I could have possibly gotten. In particular, it helps you practice capturing characters’ voices in a way that you’ll be able to apply later to your own original characters.
Aurora: Do you plan to revisit these characters again?
Becky: Probably not. Since Leah and the gang graduate shortly after the events of the book, it feels like the natural ending point for the series.