Laura Sibson: The Art of Breaking Things
Yay June! A beautiful time of year for weather and for books! Dive into these brand new novels and get your summer started right!
The Art of Breaking Things
by Laura Sibson
Seventeen-year-old Skye has her sights set on one thing: getting the heck out of Dodge. Art school is her ticket out and she’s already been accepted to her first choice, MICA. All she has to do is survive her senior year, not get too drunk at parties, and be there for her little sister, Emma. Sure, she’s usually battling a hangover when she drives to pick Emma up, but she has everything under control. Until he returns.
When her mom’s ex-boyfriend slithers his way back into her family, it’s all Skye can do to keep the walls of her world from crumbling. Her family has no idea Skye has been guarding a dark secret about her past–about him–and she never thought she would have to face him again. She knows she has to get away from him at all costs. But how can she abandon Emma? Skye’s heart is torn between escaping the man who hurt her years ago and protecting her loved ones from the monster in their midst. Running away from her fears isn’t an option. To save her sister–and herself–she’ll have to break all the rules.
June 18th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hi, Sofiya! Thanks for hosting me as part of the Novel19s debut author series! So, about me: For a long time, I worked as a career counselor in colleges and universities around Philadelphia. I loved connecting students to potential jobs and internships. Helping them identify fulfilling experiences guided me toward following my own dream of writing a novel. I started writing about ten years ago and have never stopped. Though I’ve completed two previous novels, The Art of Breaking Things is the first to be published. It’s also the most personal. These days I am writing full time and volunteering at a local middle school. I love being in nature. Taking long walks in the woods with my dog almost always helps me unlock issues in my story.
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
It surprises people to learn that my book took a really long time to sell really fast. I started querying The Art of Breaking Things in March 2016. After lots of full requests but no offers of representation, I stopped querying in November of that year. (There was a lot going on in November 2016. Just sayin’) In late August 2017, a friend encouraged me to try again. I queried a handful of agents. Two asked for fulls. One, Brianne Johnson of Writers House, read it in a week and offered representation in early September. After a couple of rounds of edits, she sent it out on submission around Halloween. The book went to auction in early December and I accepted an offer from Viking!
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
There are so many amazing writers and lovely human beings in our debut group – you chief among them! But I’d like to give a shout-out to Alex Villasante who has become not only a debut partner, but also a friend. Her incredible book The Grief Keeper is out June 11 and has been highlighted as a Barnes & Noble debut pick this summer and an Indie pick as well! Alex and I are cooking up a couple of events together this summer. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, you can come see us at Head House Books on Thursday, June 27 at 7 pm!
Who is your favorite character?
Skye, the main character, is my favorite. To me, she encapsulates so much of the ambiguity of being a teen girl in the world today. She’s unapologetically sexual, she’s confused about her past, she adores and protects her little sister, she feels misunderstood by her mother and she’s excited and nervous about her future. One of my goals with this book was to put the party girl in the main character role. That character is often a secondary character or sidekick who serves as a contrast to the “good” main character. I wanted to put her in the limelight and listen to what she had to say.
What's a cool thing about your book that isn't in the blurb?
I’m not sure if it’s cool exactly, but there is a lot of chemistry between the main character Skye and her best guy friend Ben. Cue the cold shower! While the romance plotline is not the main point of the story, showing Skye’s struggles with her attraction to her friend and allowing the reader to see her interact with a boy who sees her as more than a hook-up felt important to the story. (Also, those scenes were just fun to write!)
What advice would you give to a new writer?
My advice isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s important. Read a ton. Keep writing. Never stop writing. Collect writing friends who will support your efforts, who will read your work and provide real feedback. Don’t self-reject. In other words, don’t stop querying or writing in reaction to discouraging responses. The industry is subjective. Be careful of translating someone else’s opinion into your truth.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
For me, a new character presents themselves by talking to me – usually in conversation (or argument, as the case may be) with another character. Using Scrivener, I write scenes as they come until I get to about 50 pages. During that time, I’m also free-writing in a notebook to better understand the main character’s background, internal and external desire lines and potential antagonists. Elements of John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story help me to consider the roles of the different characters in the book. When the scenes start coming at a slower pace, I go back and read what I have so far with an eye toward crystallizing the overall plot and adding details to the characters. After a draft is complete, I do a chapter-by-chapter analysis and then use butcher block paper to track the concrete plot points in the story as well as the emotional trajectory of each character so that in the next revision I can fine-tune all of the elements. My beta readers will show me where my characters need more develop or where they are reading as differently than I intend. Then it’s back to revision again!
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
One of my favorite aspects of Twitter is the ability to connect with fellow authors no matter where they exist in the world. Linda Washington lives outside of Chicago, but we email almost every day and she’s always my first reader. I feel especially lucky that several authors call Philadelphia home and I get to write regularly with a few of them! Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison, both instrumental in the existence of this book, attended VCFA with me and we see one another almost weekly. We beta read for one another, offering support and concrete feedback to help one another create the best stories that we can write. Lisa Graff, who I met through Laurie, is my most constant writing partner. We meet at least once a week and while we mostly hold one another accountable, we also talk through story issues. All of these authors have been through the process of publishing already, so they’ve been incredible sources of information and guidance as I tread this path for the first time. It’s fun, too, to walk the debut path with Nicole Valentine (who also lives near Philly) and A.K. Small, who lives in Pittsburgh, but was in a writing group with me at one time.
Share a playlist!
I love music and I always listen to a playlist while drafting. Music is also a big aspect of The Art of Breaking Things. Ben, Skye’s closest guy friend, is a musician and they connect over their shared love of music – in addition to their art. I’ll share part of a playlist that I listened to while drafting. (The entire list is way too long to post here.) These songs either put me in the mood to write from Skye’s POV or they reflect something going on in the story.
Thanks for interviewing, Laura! Her great book is out on 6/18/19! Go check it out!