[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora got the chance to chat with authors AR Capetta and Alexandra Leigh Young and ask them a few questions each. Up first, AR Capetta!]
AR Capetta: Maybe because of the story itself, but this keeps wanting to be written as a list of ingredients. The inspirations include:
1 lifetime of baking
1 dozen of my favorite romcoms
A pinch of magic (I put magic in nearly everything; it is my favorite flavor)
A zesting of professional kitchen experience
A pound of love for Austin, TX—the best food city I’ve lived in!
So much queer and trans love
Syd, the protagonist of The Heartbreak Bakery, was formed out of very specific pieces of my personality, my experience, my heart, and my fashion sense—though I equally relate to Vin! He’s one of the bakery owners, and I think I both purposefully and accidentally infused his life with a lot of my own.
When I sat down to write Syd, I knew that this was a story about love and heartbreak. About how finding the right person can put your past relationships into context—and open up new and delicious potential.
I think people have always been drawn to powerful protagonists—we’re just starting to get a much wider scope from publishing of who is considered to fall into this category. And that push is coming from so many people doing this work, making this change. We’re all part of a much bigger story.
I hope that people consider Syd (who is agender and bi) to be unique, but I also hope that people see all the ways that Syd is, well…not that unique! Syd is an ambitious, stubborn, not-always-in-touch-with-all-the-feelings person who is learning and falling in love and messing up the kitchen literally all of the time.
My tenth (!) and latest book is The Heartbreak Bakery, a romcom with a dash of magic, in which agender cupcake Syd deals with a shattering first breakup by whipping up brownies—that then breaks up everyone who eats them. Including the owners of The Proud Muffin, the bakery where Syd works. In order to save many love stories and the bakery, Syd teams up with adorable transmasc bike messenger Harley to deliver magical baked goods to lovelorn all over Austin. And in the process, Harley opens up Syd’s heart and life unexpected ways.
I have some things that I can’t talk about yet—but for the next big direction, I want to lean toward the magical and fantastical elements that come up in all of my stories.
I can tell you the last book I fell in love with: The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood. It’s a big, imaginative high fantasy with the most delightful love story embedded in its pages.
Yes. Joy. Is that advice? I think so, especially with the myth that books need to be written from pain. Joy is just as compelling. Finding it, keeping it…what it means to you…this emotion feels essential to romantic storytelling. And it’s just as important to look for it in your writing process! Not every day will be pure joy, but if you can get a sense for what gives you that feeling in your own creative life, never underestimate or discount it.
Alexandra Leigh Young: In 2016, I produced an episode about K-pop and the first paparazzi company in South Korea for Radiolab, a podcast produced by WNYC. I spent two years reporting on the story in Seoul and NYC, and after months of lurking on K-pop gossip sites and interviewing sources, I had the makings of a great YA novel in my head!
Alice, the protagonist, struggles with feeling like a fish out of water while training at an elite K-pop Academy. She feels insecure about the things she doesn’t know how to do, and she struggles when she falters at the one thing she does know how to do. I’ve experienced these exact feelings in almost every job I’ve ever had. It’s scary to have to perform when you feel totally lost, and I often find myself praying that my co-workers don’t think I’m a total imposter.
I think the powers that be—whether that be publishers, or media companies, or Hollywood—are realizing that unique voices can be relatable and teach universal truths, even if they don’t fall neatly into a character type or genre.
Idol Gossip is the story of a Chinese-American girl who is discovered by a talent scout from Top10 Entertainment, one of the biggest K-pop companies in South Korea. Alice has to navigate the culture clashes, egos, and extreme training practices of K-pop to lead her group onstage before a stadium of 50,000 chanting fans. Along the way, a certain influential blogger and a group of anti-fans make achieving her dream nearly impossible.
You can expect some delicious gossip; star-studded plot twists, and a bevy of K-pop references for both insiders and readers who are new to the genre.
Hopefully, some kind of book tour in September when my book comes out (pandemic willing)! Meantime, I am working on a new manuscript about a girl who goes on tour with a famous band.
I find myself returning to Rainbow Rowell again and again as I write. She is a master at finding clever ways to represent the internal lives of her characters. I often crack open Fangirl or Eleanor & Park for inspiration as I try to bring my own characters to life.
Write about what you know and care about. It doesn’t matter how niche your interests are, or if you’re worried that you might not find an audience for your story. If you can convey how much you care about a subject and why, your readers will care about it too.
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