Today on the site we’ve got the first of an interview set between authors of two of this year’s most fun YAs, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in LA) and Ship It! As the former just came out a couple of days ago, this month’s got Ship It author Britta Lundin taking on the role of interviewer so Amy Spalding can share about her lesbian fat girl ode to burgers, art, and fun in LA!
First, here’s the deal with The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in LA):
Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.
Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?
But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?
Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?
And now, take it away, Britta!
Britta Lundin: Your books often have queer characters in supporting roles (the parents in The New Guy, the best friend in The Reece Malcolm List), but this is your first book with a queer main character and a queer romance at its heart. What made you want to write this book now?
Amy Spalding: The short version is that when I was working on my fourth book (and second romantic comedy), I thought, while I love writing swoony boys, I am really ready to write a swoony girl. And so my fifth book began to take shape!
The longer story is that, back when I began work, years ago, on The Summer of Jordi Perez, most of the YA books I read about queer characters were pretty sad. There was often ridicule, bullying, a parent throwing someone out of the house or threatening to, saying goodbye to a religion, even getting murdered. Given how hateful our culture still can be to the queer community, I certainly think many of these books are important. But I also thought about what it must be like to be a queer teen growing up today and reading multiple books where a character’s fate was concerning at best, and fatal at worst.
Books don’t only have to be about stark realism; I turn to entertainment for swoons and laughs too. And so I really wanted to write a book where a queer girl could rest assured the worst thing that would happen to the queer main character is she’d maybe say something very embarrassing in front of the girl she’s crushing on.
The great thing is being part of the YA community from before I started writing this book to the present, it’s great to see are more and more queer books that are lighter, that have different kinds of stakes, and that let young queer readers see themselves in all sorts of cool and swoony and exciting situations.
BL: Jordi is honestly (HONESTLY, AMY) one of my favorite book love interests in a long time. Five pages after meeting her, I already felt like I had a crush on her, too. Where did the inspiration for Jordi come from?
AS: This makes me so, so happy to hear. I had so much fun writing Jordi!
For any love interest I write, I definitely need to think they’re swoony too, or I can’t really fully relate to my main character. Plus it’s just fun to invent a swoony person and then figure out how they fit into your story. So, firstly, I just got to basically design someone crushworthy. One of the best parts of this job?
But in writing Jordi, I also wanted to make her someone who was like an of course! to Abby but also a completely unexpected wildcard. On one hand, they care about so many of the same things: art, beauty, creative career aspirations. On the other, Jordi is someone Abby doesn’t fully understand, either. She’s filled her world with people who say everything, whereas Jordi’s someone who keeps things a bit more under wraps. For Abby, who I relate to because I also blurt out way too much, crushing on someone who seems to have so much going on under the surface, is terrifying. So there’s also that aspect to writing love interests – they need to challenge something within the main character. It can’t be too easy!
Also, they always, always must have great hair.
BL: What was the hardest scene to write or the biggest writing challenge in the book?
AS: It was so hard starting this book. I must have written ten different openings, and I was just never really into it. I couldn’t figure out how I could be so psyched to tell this story, and yet so meh about the pages I was actually finishing. I sort of had all the elements there but they weren’t connecting, and I worried I’d never be happy with it. But I still remember VERY CLEARLY that one night I was making dinner, and I had the thought that Abby believed in romance and big stories and yet had decided that none of it was for her, and suddenly that was it. I took a break from the kitchen and wrote the opening, which has actually changed very little since that night. And somehow that was what it took for the rest of the book to come together. But it was months getting to that point.
BL: What makes you excited for LGBTQ books in 2018?
AS: The variety of stories being told! There are so many queer books coming out (har har) in 2018, and they are about so many different kinds of characters! They are in serious books, funny books, spy books, fantasy books, on and on. There is no reason any genre should lack queer characters – queer people are everywhere! And I’m so glad that books, more and more, are reflecting this.
BL: You only get one outfit to wear for the rest of your life — WHAT IS IT?
AS: Oh my god this is TORTURE. But it would likely be my cat dress from Retrolicious – it has realistic cat heads all over it, including one that looks just like my cat The Doctor. I’d wear it with my jean jacket that has so many enamel pins on it that it weighs more than your standard jean jacket, and my oxblood Dr. Martens wingtips. I would also probably wear one of my Tatty Devine necklaces, likely the one that looks like Saturn.
BL: Your book makes me want to eat hamburgers ALL DANG DAY. Where is your favorite place to eat a burger in ALL OF AMERICA?
AS: Is it super basic to say Umami? Because I love Umami so much. Their cheesy tots make me believe in magic and love. I love their Hatch and Manly burgers too, plus they carry the Impossible Burger which is like the best veggie burger out there.
I am also a big fan of Fusion Burgers in Highland Park, which also has some very exciting burgers and sides, as well as very tiny bottles of Diet Coke that are exciting to me!
For fast food, I do adore In-N-Out, even if it is a Southern California cliché. What can I say? Sometimes clichés are true for a reason.
BL: What are you working on next? (If you can tell us!)
AS: My next book is The Last Year of James and Kat. It’s not out until Spring 2020, which is very far away! The book is told in two POVs in alternating timelines of the bestfriendship between two girls, James and Kat, and what happens when senior year brings changes. (This sounds very serious but I promise there are plenty of rom-com moments too! I can also promise it is a queer book as well!)
Britta Lundin is a TV writer, novelist, and comic book writer. She currently writes on the show Riverdale on the CW. Her young adult novel Ship It comes out May 2018 from Freeform Books. A longtime fanfiction reader and writer, she can track her life milestones by what she was shipping at the time. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives with her wife and their lime tree in Los Angeles.