Sunday Brunch: A Chat with Authors Pintip Dunn and Laura Silverman

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[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora got the opportunity to interview authors Laura Silverman and Pintip Dunn and ask them five(ish) questions each. Up first, Laura Silverman!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Laura Silverman: I always worked a part-time job in high school, and so did most of my friends. My agent said he wished there were more novels out there with teens working part-time jobs, and I immediately thought that would be a really fun story to write. I love workplace romcoms, so the idea of writing a YA one was right up my alley! 

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

Oh, Shoshanna. I love her so much. She’s probably the most “controversial” character I’ve ever written. As soon as her voice popped into my head, I knew some people were going to dislike her – they’d think she was too annoying or too much or too emotional. And she certainly has a big personality and impulse control issues, but she has a giant heart and ultimately wants the best for everyone. She feels emotions very strongly, and so do I. Sometimes that can be messy, but it’s also wonderful, and I wouldn’t change that about myself or her. I love that she learns to grow and mature over the book but never loses her eager golden retriever enthusiastic heart. 

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

I know that personally I’m always more drawn into a book by the character as opposed to the plot. I think often the more unique a character is, the more relatable they actually are. They touch all of these tiny facets of our personalities we don’t see on the page as often. 

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

I recently finished reading The Vanishing Half and One to WatchThe Vanishing Half is an incredible multi-generational story about a Black family. And One to Watch is a romcom that’s a really fun play on The Bachelorette.  

What’s next for you in the bookish world?

I have two more books coming out in 2021. Up All Night is a YA collection of short stories I’ve edited about all of the things that can happen between midnight and sunrise — contributors include many incredible authors like Karen M. McManus and Tiffany D. Jackson. My next novel, Those Summer Nights, is another workplace YA romcom. Reeling from a soccer injury that ended her Olympic dreams, Hannah Klein gets a job at Bonanza, the megaplex entertainment center where everyone works, including her ex best friend, her younger brother, and her younger brother’s suddenly attractive best friend.

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

Impossible question!  

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

Write what you love! I know you’ve all heard this advice a million times, but it’s so true. The book you enjoy writing will also be a book someone enjoys reading. And writing is certainly hard, very hard, but it should be fun too!

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

Pintip Dunn: I’ve had so many conversations with other Thai Americans and Asian Americans, whose parents seemed to change their minds in an instant about their children not dating and settling down. One moment, the parents wanted their children to focus on their studies, and the next, all the parents asked about were relationship statuses and grandbabies. That magic moment might happen during college or grad school or a first job, but all these instances were characterized by an abrupt and sudden switch. 

I thought it would be fun to turn this phenomenon on its head. What if the parents realized that their stringent rules about dating backfired? What if they had to completely backtrack and require their youngest to date in high school, for relationship practice? What if they had no experience dating in America and had to rely on classic rom coms to draw inspiration for the fake dates?

Presto. Dating Makes Perfect was born.

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

I most relate to Winnie, since I occupied her mind and her heart so thoroughly in writing this book. On the one hand, she’s a lot like me. She’s a little awkward and clumsy, and she’s obsessed with food. She yearns to be the perfect Thai daughter but finds herself lacking. These were all things that characterized my childhood.  

At the same time, however, she’s the opposite of me, as I am the oldest sister in my family, while she is the youngest. Winnie’s feelings of never being able to live up to her beautiful and talented older sisters come directly from my own sister, Lana. Lana is twelve years younger than me. From that distant perspective, of course she saw me — and continues to see me — as the older sister who can do no wrong, no matter how much I’ve tried to explain that I’m as much a mess as anyone else!

The relationship between Winnie and her sisters was inspired directly by my own relationship with Lana. Strong family bonds are at the core of all my books, and Dating Makes Perfect is no exception. 

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

So many voices have been excluded from or not featured in the past publication of books, and people are hungry for these new perspectives. To be sure, these perspectives have always existed. But they haven’t always been valued or embraced. They haven’t always been ranked highly (by publishers) when evaluating a reader’s hierarchy of interests and tastes. The world we live in is made up of many voices, each as valid and worthy as the next, and I think publishing is finally catching up to this reality. 

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

I just finished I’ll Be the One, by Lyla Lee. Skye Shin is a plus-sized Korean-American singer and dancer who auditions for a K-pop competition — and makes it, in spite of the beauty standards of the judges and the general K-pop industry. The fat-phobic comments from one of the judges and Skye’s mom are truly awful, but this book is brimming with body positivity. Skye is fierce and lovable, making it easy to root for her. Oh, and there’s also a cute romance with super swoony Henry Cho. Overall, I’ll Be the One spoke to me in a very real and genuine way. 

What’s next for you in the bookish world?

I’m playing around with a couple projects, vastly different from each other. Both challenge me in a new, exciting way – which is always what I seek – and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing what happens. I also have a co-authored project in the works that I’m very excited about.   

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

Tough question. I have my long-time favorites — Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer, Gillian Flynn — whose books have made a big impact on my writing career. As for current favorite, I’ve been reading so many phenomenal books lately that it’s difficult to pick just one. But in the interest of answering the question: Elizabeth Acevedo. Her latest book, Clap When You Land, simply blew me away. I read it because Kirkus Reviews gave it “a standing ovation,” and you know what? I have to agree. It is that powerful. The amount of emotion Acevedo packs into a sparse amount of words is both staggering and inspiring. That’s how an author becomes one of my favorites — when their words touch my soul and push me to become a better writer. 

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

Know who you are. Understand, at a very deep level, why you want to write. Over the years, before and after I was published, I wasted so much time doubting myself. “Am I good enough?” was a constant refrain. “Should I put my time and energy into something else?” was another favorite. And then one day, I realized that writing wasn’t something I did. It is who I am. My passion for writing is just as much a part of me as my Thai heritage; it is as central to my identity as being a mother. I can no sooner change my burning desire to write than I can change the color of my skin. This revelation put many of my doubts to rest.

Publishing is a rough, rough road, riddled with nasty bumps of insecurity and ugly potholes of rejection. I’ve been able to travel it only because of a very steady sense of who I am and why I write. 

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