Wanted to introduce you to another Playlist Fiction teammate of mine. The other Laura! Laura Smith is a natural-born leader. You can tell the moment you meet her that she loves life and she’s a take charge type of gal. We are both raising four kiddos. and we both love teen girls and long to tell them the truth—You’re beautiful. You’re loved. And You are so worth loving!
In Laura Smith’s Status Update Series, she introduces readers to four college girls who are off to find their place in this world, define themselves, and navigate through life’s nitty and gritty. That space between teen and almost adult is a time when so many defining moments can and often happen in a girl’s life. Find out more about Laura and the heart behind her stories in this fun little interview below!!
Raj: Laura Smith, when did you know you wanted to write for teen girls? Do you ever think, “I wish someone had told me this when I was teen” when you craft your stories?
Laura: I always wanted to write. And I thought I wanted to write fantasy, because that’s the stuff I devoured as a kid. I was a huge Narnia, Middle Earth, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who kind of girl. But God showed me he really had a different plan for my writing. When a woman I was friends with exposed her eating disorder to me, I had the wind knocked out of me. I’d had a close friend in high school with a severe eating disorder and another close friend in college who struggled greatly with an obsessive eating disorder. To see this appear again with a close adult friend was too much. I’m not good at confrontation, and I never felt like I handled their problems as well as I should. So, I started writing about a girl going through an eating disorder. I found myself pouring so much into this story, and my first young adult novel, Skinny, was born. Yes, yes, yes, I wish there would have been books like the ones I write when I was a teen. Books that say Christian girls have problems too, and they don’t always handle them correctly, but if we can trust in God, things will get better, you can heal.
Raj: You’ve managed to create a series that follows not one, not two, but FOUR young women, following their dreams, heartaches, love and friendships. Did you write each story separately in full or jump around, depending on whose head and heart you wanted to be in a given day? Which girl is your favorite? Why? *And you can’t say all of them! Come on! Everyone has a favorite!! (maybe)
Laura: I actually start at the beginning and plow right through the plot, skipping around from girl to girl. At the start of each chapter I have to say, okay, this is Palmer, how would she handle this? What would she say? What would her reactions be? But throughout any given day, I might have an idea for a particular girl, for how Hannah would handle a public restroom or an outfit that would be so perfect for Claire to wear. I jot down those ideas (on my phone, napkins, sticky notes, whatever’s handy) and they type them in at the top of my manuscript. Then when Claire needs a skirt, or Hannah’s at a restaurant I can insert the little details that makes their characters more dimensional. I also pay a great deal of attention when editing to make sure a specific character’s voice rings true. I usually don’t get all of the nuances in the initial writing, but it evolves as I go.
There are little pieces of me in all of the girls. People who know me well, would spot a hint of this in Kat and a shade of that in Palmer. But, I think if I had to pick just one, Claire is my favorite. She’s so vulnerable, yet surprisingly resilient. And we’re all vulnerable. So, I love watching her fragile soul pull through some truly challenging spots.
Raj: You write about tough issues: date rape, loss, eating disorders (in former books) and more. Which authors/stories inspired and encouraged you in these teen challenges when you were in high school and college, if any? Who did you turn to when you were going through tough times as a teen?
Laura: In high school I was addicted to classics. I plowed through everything by J.D. Salinger and S.E. Hinton wrote for my YA fixes, but those books all had male protagonists. In college I read everything people suggested to me from Anne Rice to Ayn Rand. I wasn’t exposed to anything like what I write, but I devoured everything I could possibly read. During my tough teen years I turned to Christ to get me through. So, although there isn’t a lot of literature that inspired my type of stories, my love of books created a writer in my heart. And, although I didn’t draw on favorite authors as inspiration for my style of young adult fiction, I constantly draw on my teen and college years–the things I went through, my friends went through, and that college women I know now are experiencing.
Raj: Everyone, on their journey through the madness of life, searches for ways to define themselves. Pick the character that has the hardest time with this and hint at (don’t want to give away too many spoilers) what roadblocks slow down her journey. What/who helps her overcome them?
Laura: I think Hannah and Palmer tie for having the hardest time defining themselves. Hannah is so busy trying to please everyone else, she struggles to find what brings her the greatest joy. Palmer has always had everything handed to her. She is beautiful and her parents are wealthy. But everyone’s always treated her as eye candy, and she is so much more.
Raj: A fun one! If you could associate something in nature with each of your lead characters (girls and guys or just the ladies if you prefer) what would it be?
Laura: Claire would be a dew drop [Raj here, “Oh oh. You know I am all about dew drops!!]. Hannah is a daisy [Raj again: “Daisies were my wedding flower!”]. Palmer is a sunset. Kat is freshly mown grass.
Raj: In the sequel to It’s Complicated, in It’s Over, the four college friends face new trials, apart and together. Whose story has been the most challenging to write? And most fun? Why?
Laura: The most challenging was Kat’s story in It’s Over. I have a brother who I love very much, and something horrible happens to Kat’s brother. I had to write the story through her eyes and it was painful to go to that place. I also want to keep her balance of grief and anger and faith and fear and love, but that’s a lot to balance.
The most fun parts to write, that’s a hard one, because whenever a scene clicks or a character says just the right word, that’s an absolute rush. But for specific sections of the books, I love the travel scenes. I send Claire to Paris in It’s Complicated and Kat to Barcelona in It’s Over. I get to take them to some of my favorite places in the world, and relive some of my favorite sensory moments.
Raj: BONUS: When I hear a song like “Don’t you worry child,” by Swedish House Mafia on the radio, and all the teens I know love this song, makes me think young adults do think about heaven and faith and big picture ideas. Your characters (many of them) turn to or relate to God and faith in order to work through their struggles. What do you hope to share with teens through your stories, regardless of whether or not they are interested in faith and God?
Laura: I want all of my readers to know that life is tough. Crazy things happen, unexplainable things, painful things, and truthfully we can’t go this life alone. But in the darkest times, if we turn to someone who truly loves us (not necessarily someone who sends us the most texts, but someone who loves us at our best and worst) they can offer the love and support and stability we need to pull ourselves back up and try life again. For me, the One who loves me best is God. He is always there for me. Always. But for those without faith, they still need to turn to someone, whether that’s a parent, friend, aunt, teacher, coach, whoever. It’s always easier when we lay our troubles out to someone wise and caring, someone who loves us. They can give us new insights into how to power through life’s challenges and how to celebrate life’s gifts.
Raj: [Last one, just because I want you to know Laura Smith speaks to teens to share encouraging messages they really need to hear!]
I love that your books and topics open up a dialogue on issues not spoken enough about with teens. When you speak for teen audiences, do you ever get emotional? Do you leave the teens with a question? Is there that one line or point that you hope they won’t forget when they walk away? A message for teen girls you’d like to see printed across a t-shirt!
Laura: I am so ultra emotional. [Raj, here. Me, too. We’ll need to get together, watch some movies, and have a good ol’ cry together!] Yes, my voice often cracks when I speak :). My one liner is “Don’t let anybody stomp on your dreams!” [Raj here-insert huge heart for “love this”] I say it in every talk I give.
Thanks so much, Laura, for stopping by In Search of Waterfalls. Readers will discover some refreshing Waterfalls when they dive into your stories!! Bio of Laura reveals a super-dealio available on It’s Complicated for just a bit longer. Don’t miss it!
Laura L. Smith is the author of the Status Update Series. She has also written the YA Books, Skinny, Hot, and Angry. Her Playlist Fiction titles include It’s Complicated and It’s Over. The first book in the series, It’s Complicated is only 99 cents through Friday, May 17 on Kindle.
And you? Which time zone would you want to return to? High School or college? Just for a day to relive some of those fun memories??