Sunday Brunch: A Chat with Authors Deb Caletti and Cameron Lund

[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora got the chance to chat with authors Deb Caletti and Cameron Lund and ask them a few questions each. Up first, Deb Caletti!]

Aurora: What inspired One Great Lie?

Deb Caletti: One Great Lie is about Charlotte, a young, aspiring writer who wins a spot in a summer writing program in Venice, led by the esteemed and charismatic author, Luca Bruni. While there, she also gets the chance to delve into a long-troubling question about the true author of a very famous poem. The novel was inspired by the whole art-versus-artist debate that resurfaced during the MeToo movement. All of my books come from a need to understand my life and the world around me, and One Great Lie gave me the chance to examine my own feelings and the larger issues around female creativity and the history of powerful men that was very much on my mind then. The book is part mystery, part love story, but wholly and deeply feminist.  

Which character do you relate to the most in this book and why?

I’m guessing every writer says this, but you have to relate to – and empathize with – every character, I think, in order to create someone who feels real. So, I can identify with Charlotte’s anxiety, fears, and dreams, and to Avni’s fierce determination, and even to a few of Luca Bruni’s moments of ego and insecurity. But, in One Great Lie, I feel most connected to the characters who I didn’t even know were going to be in the book, who found their way in only after one bit of astonishing research led to more and more of it: the feminist writers of five hundred years ago. I had absolutely no idea that women (many of them teens), were writing and publishing bold and controversial feminist works way back in the 1500s. It was an awful and shocking realization, that we are still writing about the same subjects they were back then, and struggling with the same power dynamics, too. But I also found those women incredibly inspiring. I related to them, definitely. They are standing at the beginning of a long history of female writers, and it feels like a great honor to step in line behind them. 

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt lost in entirely new ways this year. And I need books more than ever because of it. I need powerful and unique characters to speak to me. To give me hope. To remind me that human beings are resilient. I need them to say true stuff that resonates. 

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from it.

One Great Lie is a crossover young adult novel about Charlotte, who travels to Venice for a summerlong writing program, led by the brilliant and charismatic author, Luca Bruni. While there – with the help of Dante, an adorable conservation student – she also hopes to uncover some hidden and troubling truths about her Venetian ancestor, the poet Isabella Di Angelo, who might be the real author of a very famous poem. The events of that summer will force Charlotte to confront the long, dark history of powerful men—and the determination of creative girls. The book is full of romance and mystery, but it’s also a fiercely feminist book. Expect an atmospheric read, too, set in the lush, surreal, and sinking city of Venice. 

What’s next for you in the bookish world?

I’m working on a new YA book for 2022. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s about identity, and how social media and all of the fear messages we are constantly getting make it so hard to feel that we’re generally safe and capable people. It’s a book that strives to offer the things I myself need right now from books: hope and humor and truth-telling.

Who is your current favorite writer? Why? 

Ah! An impossible question for any reader to answer, because… So many! Some favorites: Sigred Nunez, Jenny Offill, Helen Macdonald, Rebecca Solnit, Ottessa Moshfegh, Lily King. I love to read both fiction and non-fiction that helps me understand myself and my world better, books that brings those delicious reading moments of, “Yes, exactly.” Where a writer just gets you, or verbalizes your own experiences in enlightening or particularly beautiful ways. 

Any writing advice for aspiring writers? 

I always suggest that aspiring writers leave a lot of the noise behind – all the “you have to and “you must” pieces of writing advice they’re pummeled with – and remember instead that their own honest voice is their true power.  

Up next, author Cameron Lund!
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Cameron Lund: I love plays like The Importance of Being Earnest, and so many of Shakespeare’s comedies where all the characters are in the wrong romantic relationships and it’s full of mix ups and misunderstandings. These stories work especially well as modern teen adaptations, and so I wanted to write an original story that could fit alongside movies like Ten Things I Hate About You and She’s The Man. This book features some of my favorite tropes (fake dating and enemies to lovers), which was especially fun to write.  I also wanted to write about characters that were unlikeable—characters who have a lot of growing to do. The “Fakers” in the title relates to the fake dating between Penny and Kai, but it also represents all the different ways the characters aren’t real to one another. They’re all putting up a front and need to learn how to let people in.

What character in the novel do you most relate to and why?

Penny is a version of all the worst parts of who I was in high school. I didn’t always handle my problems in the best way, I made mistakes, and I let my insecurities lead me. I was always so worried about what everyone else thought of me that I had trouble letting go and fully being myself. I wanted to write a character like this who eventually learns how to love herself. Penny’s character arc is the driving force of this book. She’s imperfect and I love her for her imperfections. 

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

We see ourselves reflected back to us in characters. Through their stories we can learn about the ways we might need to improve. And it can be comforting to see an aspect of yourself in a character on the page. It can make a reader feel less alone to see representation of who they are.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what readers can expect from it?

Heartbreakers and Fakers is about a girl named Penny who wakes up on the lawn the morning after her boyfriend Jordan’s party to discover she’s kissed her best friend Olivia’s boyfriend (and worst enemy) Kai the night before. When Olivia and Jordan rightfully get together, Penny and Kai decide to pretend they’re together too in order to cover up their wounded pride. Penny is an anti-hero. She starts off the book by making a lot of mistakes and doesn’t handle them maturely. But throughout the story she grows and learns to become a better person. There’s a lot of mess in this book—a lot of characters who seem mean because they’re putting up a front, but are delicate underneath it all. I love high concept plots full of angst, so that’s a fitting description for this book too. 

What’s next for you in the bookish world?

I’m in an exploratory phase right now! I have a few different projects that I’m dabbling in but I’m trying to figure out what my next book will be. It’s exciting to be able to start something new again. 

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

I’m back on the Leigh Bardugo hype train right now after the release of the Shadow & Bone show–currently rereading all of her books and her worldbuilding is so much fun! Mackenzi Lee, Becky Albertalli, and V.E Schwab are all auto-buy authors for me, too. Elana K Arnold writes such beautiful prose. It’s hard to choose!

Any writing advice for aspiring writers? 

The hardest part is finishing! Your book doesn’t have to be perfect the first time; it just has to be done. In fact, no book comes out exactly right on the first try—even the most brilliant writers have to edit and draft and rewrite. So many people never even finish their first book, so if you get it done and it’s not up to your standards yet—you’re still so far ahead of the curve. You got this!

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Aurora Dominguez

Aurora Dominguez is a high school English teacher, college professor and journalist in South Florida. Her work has appeared in The Miami Herald, Where Magazine and J-14 Magazine, all places where she worked as a writer and editor before going from the newsroom to the classroom. Her favorite days are "Caturdays," which she spends with a good book, her husband, Sebastian, and her cat, Luna. Her motto when it comes to reading: "No book left behind!"

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Aurora Dominguez

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